I love ideas, and I have an enormous appetite for new information. For example, when I brush my teeth, I read, so that I don’t miss the opportunity to consume data during those otherwise boring two minutes (yes, I brush for two minutes, exactly). If I haven’t planned ahead, I may end up reading the fine print on a bottle of hair gel, but I take the words, in all the same. Of note, my brand includes a form of urea, which I feared may explain the yellow hue of the gel. Oops; sorry about the tangent.
The problem with continually being on the lookout for new ideas means that I don’t often make pronouncements or declarations. Typically, when I have “made up my mind” about something, I soon after come across some new piece of information, some new idea, that makes me think I was mistaken, or, if not mistaken, at least incomplete. My declaration requires clarification.
If you are a regular reader, you know this blog is premised on my personal motto: be who you are, like what you like, and do cool stuff. A motto is a declaration, and I didn’t make that one lightly. I thought about it for a long time before deciding to share it publicly. I didn’t see any major flaws in it, but last night, I got some new information, and it caused me to ponder my motto. I still believe in it, but I want to offer a few clarifications.
My motto is intended to empower the mundane. For those who think their life is a bit too ordinary, I want you take pleasure and pride in the small things that make you the person you are, to wallow in it and appreciate the little gifts you give and receive. I now realize it is, by extension, a motto for the marginalized, for those who are excluded or persecuted. You have value. Tremendous value.
Liking what you like is an affirmation intended to make you feel o.k. with enjoying something that may not be widely accepted or understood. In my case, I was thinking about my love of extreme metal music. For example, over the last couple days, I’ve been listening to music by a band called Cattle Decapitation, which I’ve written about before. It’s not for everybody. It’s not even for a lot of people. It’s difficult, challenging music, and I would wager that most of my readers would not enjoy it. At all. Despite that, I declare that it’s o.k. to like Cattle Decapitation. It’s even o.k. to like Justin Bieber, if you are so inclined. He’s not my cup of coffee, but, if you love his music, listen to it and be happy. I stand by that declaration.
Doing cool stuff is the part that got me thinking. Over the last two years of blogging, I have considered offering a definition of “cool” but decided to leave it as “to each her own cool.” After last night, though, I offer the following clarifications:
Hate, mysogyny, and racism are not cool.
Being hateful, mysogynistic, or racist is not cool.
Doing hateful, mysogynistic, or racist things is not cool.
Love, helpfulness, generosity, caring, and acceptance are cool.
Loving, helping, giving to, caring for, and accepting someone is cool.
Learning something about someone you don’t understand, and appreciating that learning is cool. Very cool.
That said, I encourage you to, at least, appreciate who others are, allow them to like what they like, and do cool stuff. Together, if possible. I’ll give you an easy one to get you started: listen to Cattle Decapitation’s song “Manufactured Extinct” for just 90 seconds. It’s on YouTube. It starts with a big, lumbering drum beat and guitar tone. It builds slowly with lead vocalist Travis Ryan’s opening vocal, deep down under the other instruments, like a dull roar. Like it or not, it’s an impressive vocal feat. Then the song crashes into a wall of noise. I love it, but I’m not asking you to like it. It’s o.k. if you laugh at the musical absurdity. It is crazy and it is extreme, I know. I just want you to hear it and say to yourself, “Todd loves this stuff, and he’s a decent, mild-mannered guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly (although I do have responsibility for killing spiders in my house), so maybe it’s not so terrible.
If you can get through that, I’m sure you can appreciate the beautiful, wonderful, crazy, extreme diversity all around us. Take it in. You don’t have to like it, but you really don’t have to hate it. You definitely don’t have to demean or destroy it.
When I started writing this post, I recalled that as a younger man, I had a different motto, one that I still believe in and declare to be true: we’re all in this…together, so we might as well appreciate each other. That’s pretty cool.
I love you, but you can do better than Justin Bieber. Just sayin’.