PZ Myers recently ran a post about generations, or rather on how the generational differences cited are largely marketing babble and not terribly true to life. I don’t disagree with this post in any real particular; after all, insofar as generational cohorts exist at all as we know them, they’re an emergent property of World War II – the Baby Boom being the huge birth rate spike following the war, and other generations being largely defined in relation to them. But while the generations themselves are not terribly real, the zeitgeists they are associated with (despite also having more than a little of marketing machinery in them) are.
Because time inevitably keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future, I am now an old. I’m from the messy area on the charts where various pundits and pontificators don’t necessarily agree what grand generation I should be sorted into, Gen X or Millennial. One of the main defining characteristics of Generation X, described as early as in the book that popularized the term, is a jadedness and world-weariness (formerly) in excess of their years; this is the generation whence came grunge music and ‘Empire Records’ and Kevin Smith’s movies, and also the popular notion of ironically loving things. It’s the generation of believing the world is such a bleak place that anything wholesome is perforce naïve. Millennials, conversely, re-popularized unironic joy, and loving a Thing because it’s the Thing not because it makes some kind of insightful (or worse ironic) comment.
This is, in a nutshell, why I reject Generation X and align myself firmly with the Millennials: because feeling like you have to not love things is complete and utter bullshit. The world is bleak. Hell, I’m inclined to think it’s ending (for us, because of us). That’s not a reason to deny joy, that’s a reason to chase it!
I object to the notion of “guilty pleasure”, something you are embarrassed to like. Screw that, like the thing. Like it, and if you like it enough, talk about it, join a community for it, dress up as it, do it. Geekery has gone mainstream, and one of the big drivers of that is the cultural ascendance of unabashed love for hobbies or media or games or what-have-you. And me, I was a geek from birth, long before it was cool.
This isn’t about nerd things, though (convention-goer image notwithstanding). It’s about joy. It’s about letting anything in the world that can bring you pleasure and lift you up be the thing that brings you pleasure and lifts you up, no matter if that thing is Star Wars or My Little Pony or blacksmithing or photography or professional cricket or writing silly poems or anything**. It’s about knowing this is not only okay but desirable: it is the furniture in your mind that sparks joy!
Most of this, other than to the most jaded of readers, is not likely to controversial. There’s another part to it, though: it doesn’t work if you hate, too.
It barely matters what. Hate the new Star Wars? Hate them brown people over there? Not dislike, mind you; hate. Hate is not simply contempt or disdain; hate is love inverted, obsessive and occupying the same parts of one’s brain. If you are busy hating something, there’s not really much time or space in there for love. You wind up gravitating to groups that share your hatred and bond over it, which creates more of an obsession, and hate is not a connection that forms a long or strong bond. It’s a distraction, a constant interference in trying to do other things. It can feel validating sometimes (seductive, the Dark Side is), but it is ultimately hollow.
If you let yourself become full of hate, you will inevitably become bitter and twisted, more and more obsessed, and… ultimately… alone.
So… don’t do that. Seek joy. Seek love. Seek anything that fills the cracks in your life and buoys it up; all the better if it helps you build connections with people. Some folks feel subconsciously like they need permission to do that, like it’s somehow wrong. Consider this post permission granted.
Find what you love. Do what you love! And above all love what you love!
** to be clear, anything that doesn’t hurt other people. “An it harm none, do what ye will“