Wednesday, September 17, 2014

If you don't get it, you don't get it! The Subtle Art of Appreciation.

What is your greatest pleasure? Name it. Own it. A good novel? A walk in the park? A great meal? Having a family? Football? Ice cream? The beach? Golf? Gardening? Work? Art? Movies? Opera? Cats? Dogs?

Of course, my theory is that the more things you like the happier you are, and conversely, if you don't like anything the chances are that you are a miserable SOB. But that is another story.

This story is about a different aspect of the act of appreciation. It is about the subtle but startling realization that if you don't get something, the way not everyone "gets" cats, then well, you don't get to enjoy the pleasures having or knowing a cat can bring. If you don't like chocolate, then you miss out on all the happiness that chocolate can give you. And so on.

People make a mess of subjectivity. A complete mess. Yes, we are free to like what we like, or should be. It would be nice. Yes, apparently Tosca isn't for everyone. But most people take this privilege and turn it into a weapon. What they like becomes good, and what they don't like becomes bad. They objectify the subjective. It gives them power. The power to validate, and invalidate. What they care about is important, and what they don't care about is of no importance whatsoever.

And apparently invalidating things can be almost more fun than validating them. A practice often but perhaps incorrectly associated with adolescence. Yes, I have a friend who is at this point in his life an old man, but there is something of the 13 year old girl about him in the way that he petulantly dismisses things with a wave of his hand that more than anything probably just threaten him.

So here is the rub. All the fun you think that you are getting by dismissing things out of hand, for whatever reason; the opposite is true. You are cutting off your nose to spite your face. Indeed, this act of spite is the very act that deprives you of the pleasure of something. Anything.

I always like to say to someone when they tell me how much that they dislike something, "how nice, you really have something to look forward to," that once they truly discover and "get" that thing that they think they hate, they have endless pleasure in store for them, waiting for them, smiling in anticipation for them.

You see, appreciation is in fact its own reward! For example, when I was a young man I held a belief that was not my own, that Westerns were puerile, not worthy of my time. Even though I loved the movie Shane, that was the exception. I didn't "get" Westerns.

Then one afternoon, maybe I had the flu, maybe I didn't, I found myself watching a Gary Cooper Western on a little black and white TV in my bedroom on my family's farm in Virginia.

All of a sudden I got Westerns. Man in nature. Man versus nature. Man versus society. Man in space. The hero. The loner. The self-reliant. The free spirit. Man face to face with the universe. Man face to face with God!

Yes! All of a sudden I got Westerns, and then, I had all those Westerns to look forward to waiting for me. John Ford Westerns! John Wayne Westerns. Spaghetti Westerns! All of it!

I learned so much that day. Not just what a sympathetic actor Gary Cooper was. I learned that every prejudice I had wasn't just my loss, but that each one held a new promise. When you get something, you actually get it! Thank you Gary Cooper.

Addison Parks, Spring Hill

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