Desert, spaceship, alternate universe
I have an unconditional love for one cultural stereotype: The Dork. I'm not referring to your classic Dungeons and Dragons dweeb. The term Dork has become shorthand for a subculture that at this point is really a supraculture, which is to say that a dork is he who shamelessly nibbles, gorges and binges on anything remotely cultural: food, literature, music, TV, graphic novels, films and fine art. So, I'll use the distinction lovingly. The Dork's modus operandi is sharing and exploring, so his food for thought is often served family- or buffet- style. Yet, the Dork often remains confined to his dungeon. Sadly, the rest of Colby suffers from a deficiency of Dorkiness.
The Dork’s arch-nemesis, the Hipster—he who enjoys culture for the sake of its obscurity and irony—is not omnipresent at Colby, but his influence is pervasive. The Hipsters have been emblematic of America's recent aversion to sincerity in art and art's consumption. Years ago, an authenticity-eclipse occurred before any of us could throw on our irony-shielders. We are dwellers in a dim land, a land devoid of a certain realness. Colby, microcosm that it is, has been cast into this eerie shadow.
Under this prolonged shadow, our artsy ecosystem seems to have fallen into disarray. We live in a desert of sorts. I don't mean to call individuals at Colby dull or unimaginative. I speak to the culture, it being that legion of invisible, lurking forces that exerts itself on our decisions. Yes, people share music, movies, TV, books (not so much). Yet this sharing lacks the exuberance to match our four years of self-exploration. At a school where people complain about diversity, we narrow our exposure to the diverse, bolder voices of literature, music and film. We foolishly accept the stagnation of a culture that thanklessly reuses the past.
Left with nothing sincere or genuine to call our own, we turn to the rations provided us by the creativity of past generations. The act of recycling old art—music, let's say—isn't necessarily an evil act. Our generation's ability to lift things from the dead makes us proud necromancers of past cultures. To hear DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album for the first time was a bewildering and awe-inspiring moment. It helped usher in an era of reimagined, reappropriated culture. Our generation's best art reflects the fact that inspiration often entails theft. In the words of filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, “Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.”
It's when we mindlessly indulge in recycling that our art becomes empty. A mash-up, for example, in its simple act of matching rhythms to other rhythms, may make a point about the power to remix, but that isn't always enough. Some mash-ups are like a five-course meal. Other mash-ups are like a five-course meal left out to rot and then thrown into a blender.
Infinite access has given us a finite imagination, but there's room for hope. We have all the tools necessary to meaningfully explore culture. We all operate our own spaceship-time-machines, devices which can navigate the twisted space-time fabric of culture using a flux capacitor (“it’s what makes time travel possible!”) called the Internet. I can't tell you how many black-holes I've navigated through as a result of my cultural wanderlust. A whirlwind, guided tour of my travels could leave you puking, or scattered into a million molecules, somewhere between Once Upon a Time in the West, Battlestar Galactica, and Joni Mitchell. The pitfall is that I've done most of this exploring in isolation. My conundrum is this: the stuff that gets shared is often no good, and the good stuff doesn't often get shared. I know people enjoy good culture, or at least profess to on their Facebooks, but they have a marked timidity about sharing it.
We need to recognize the times in which we accept something merely because it's been hyped. The truest sign of a hipster is the tendency to internalize a suggestion based either upon its popularity or obscurity; the former whim flags a faux hipster and the latter flags a faux person. We must stymie these impulses. Here's a simple exercise, a way to kill your inner hipster. No hipster identifies as a hipster. So, “I want to be a hipster.” Recognize your needy self, the part of you that wants to like things because they embody that invisible notion of cool, and then cut it out of you. I want to be a hipster. I want to be a hipster. I want to be a hipster. It's hipster seppuku.
With the hipster in me dead, I can let my dork flourish. I have the confidence to beat the arid wasteland of the unimaginative. I can hop in my spaceship-time-machine, and zap-flippity-boogity-woo I am in an alternate universe where I don't hide my real tastes or defer to the opinions of others.
Or maybe this is all just the ruinous work of my over-active imagination. I hope that's persuasive.