Cultural Osmosis

Look at it one way, and I am interested in everything. Look at it another way, and I am a sponge. Look at it again, and perhaps I’m just a coward.

Because here is the thing: I don’t have confidence in my discernment between what, as culture, entertainment, pastime, beauty, oh-heck-I-can’t-find-the-word-I-mean, is worthwhile, and good, and interesting, and what is not. The thing is, it’s just likes and dislikes. I was talking about this on Fi’s blog, on this post here, just the other day. It’s only recently that I’ve started to be able to volunteer that I like this band or that artist, or knitting or poi or climbing or walking or poetry or whatever, without first testing the water, seeing if that’s ‘OK’ because of something the person or people I’m talking to has already said. And even now I’m scared of being judged, of saying to people whose opinions I care for, I Like Going To Life Drawing Classes or You Should Read Ted Hughes (it’s true, you should). So that’s one issue: I’m terrified of being ‘wrong’ about the things I like.

And the other problem is this, and I think it’s the more entrenched issue, and I don’t know whether or not it is a problem or what: if I like or respect a person, they’re a good friend or I fancy the pants off them or I just hold them in high esteem, I am then hugely influenced in what I am interested in by what they are interested in too. As I said in the comment I wrote which made me think about all of this, ‘Oh, you’re an intelligent, morally upstanding and attractive young man, perhaps I even fancy you, this must mean you have better taste in music/books/films than me’. I mean, what. It doesn’t have to mean that at all. So I pick up and get hugely enthused about other peoples’ interests and hobbies but due to a combination of paragraphs one and two there is very little cultural exchange in any of my friendships. I won’t have the balls to swap your Byrd for my Woolf, your skydiving for my parcours, your gritty realist inner-city drama for my Lark Rise to Candleford, or even suggest those things. You, dear new person, might never see me do fire poi or strip the willow or nervously eye a scree slope, consider it gravely, and decide to walk sedately down the mountain in case I cripple my knees, after all. Basically I walk into your life and I am interested in you and all the things you do so I greedily gobble it all up and have nothing to show you in return, and that’s not good enough. All I can say in my favour is that I don’t get interested in things I don’t find interesting. So perhaps, for example, I’ve spent the last year listening to folk and occasionally drawing naked men (yah really), but that doesn’t mean I don’t still do poi or knit or read (thanks C, incidentally, the Christmas literary tour is going very well). Next year, who knows, I shall probably have even more interests. Mongolian throat-singing or embroidery or caving. No, wait, never caving. Terrifying. I like caves when I know I will definitely be able to breathe and preferably have enough space to do star jumps and don’t have to swim along in the dark underneath who knows how many tonnes of rock. It’s fun being a magpie, I think too many people I know get stuck with the interests they’ve settled with, but I think it’s about time I started coming out of the closet and shoving interesting new things down peoples throats. Oh don’t look at me like that you know what I meant when I wrote it.

In all fairness perhaps I’m not like this at all. This is another one of those things where I can’t see myself clearly enough from far enough away to be able to tell. So…readers-who-know-me-in-real-life. Answers, please?



Filed under Art, Beginnings, Books, Fashion, Life, Society

4 responses to “Cultural Osmosis

  1. I’m glad that the Christmas tour is going well 🙂


  2. Photolosopher

    I think that everyone suffers from this a bit – being unsure if professing an enthusiasm for this or that will inadvertently result in the person that you’re talking to viewing you as some kind of moronic philistine – but I don’t think that anyone should ever apologise for their cultural tastes, or feel that they should have to. It’s not really an area in which there are clear objective boundaries between “this is good/right”, and “this is bad/wrong”. Variety in tastes, as in everything else, is healthy, whilst elitism is most definitely unhealthy. You have as much a right to your own likes and dislikes as the next person, however impossibly cultured and suave they may seem. If they judge you for those tastes, then pity them for their close-mindedness rather than letting them make you feel guilty. Besides, having an “I-like-this-and-I-don’t-give-a-damn-how-uncool-it-is” attitude is, in itself, deeply cool. :p xxx

    • Jenny

      See, as an Actual True Fact, I believe this. Drumming it into my actual everyday real life behaviour is rather harder. I should take anthony’s example – he’s constantly saying, ‘read this, read that, have you seen this/ heard any of that/know anything about this/done that’, distributing books and ideas and enthusiasms faster than I can make the decision to skip yoga in favour of sleep (which is about as speedy as anything in my life gets…!) xxx

  3. Well, yes, there is no right or wrong answer, but. And it’s a bit but. There are some things that people tend to get snobbish about, and music, cinema and literature I think are the big three. (And yarn. I’m a huge yarn snob. Doesn’t sit well with also being on a budget.) You can be as open-minded as you like about other people’s religions, politics, any of the big important life changing things but I think there’s a tendency among people who know a lot about the arts, particularly, to be fairly dismissive of some other people’s tastes. I know I’m very guilty of this. I will judge you for listening to X-factor pop, or reading Jackie Collins. Doesn’t make me right, or wrong, I’m not as bad as some people but judging people on their taste in things, rightly or wrongly, is acceptable, and that’s where I think some of the paranoia comes from. Of course, if you can say, ‘I like this and I don’t care how cool/otherwise it’ that’s fantastic. But there are still boundaries as far as people admit to that, even if cheese, and things your gran liked, are popular these days. (Personally I’m glad they are, I have far more knitting resources at my fingertips as of the last year than ever before and it’s onwards and upwards!)

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