Several years ago I had attended a reading at the small college where I taught. The authors were faculty members, two poets and a fiction writer, in the college’s MFA program, and the reading had been remarkable. My friends and I were moved and excited by the excellence of the work we had just heard.
I rushed up to a faculty colleague as we walked out of the reading, asking him “Isn’t it amazing how many ways there are to be good?”
He looked at me coolly and said, “I come to these readings because it is expected of me,” and he kept on walking.
I think this was the first time I was distinctly aware of being treated as if I were a large, friendly dog with muddy paws who had just assaulted a person in formal dress. I began to notice more such incidents, often among my academic colleagues.
Thanks to a cousin, I’d become interested in NASCAR, even attending a few races at Bristol Motor Speedway. The reaction I got when I mentioned that there were a few NASCAR drivers I followed was often, “Why in the world would you do that?” A remark like this was often accompanied by a bemused side-long glance.
In fact, anything that I’ve been bouncing-up-and-down excited about may be suspect. Another colleague in the English Department heard me explaining that although for many years I hadn’t cared for classical vocal music, I’d finally come to appreciate opera — oddly enough by way of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.
“Oh, you’re just telling yourself that.” And in answer to my complete mystification, he said, “You determined that you should be seen as liking opera — because that’s acceptable — and then created a rationale to justify it.”
Are there people so unsure of their true enthusiasms that they must invent reasons? Aren’t people, especially well educate people, curious about events or sports or entertainments that draw so many fans? I am not personally involved in fantasy football, but, apart from the betting, I can see the genius of it. After you have constructed your team, you have an investment in every game “your players” participate in, a dog in every hunt.
I confess I am a dilettante and some enthusiasms don’t last long. I was over zines pretty quickly. But why not be curious about things? This fall I’ve been studying up on the bountiful apple crop. I heard an orchard specialist say that apple trees are in it for the long haul. Unlike more fragile plants, apple trees can afford to go whole hog one season (as they certainly did this year) and know that even if the next couple years are sparse, they’ll be ready for a big yield again in a few years. The expert made the point that orchard owners might wish for a more measured attitude on the part of the trees, one that would assure a predictable crop each year. And, yes, he was attributing an attitude to the trees.
So, because I like getting excited about things, I am declaring myself the founding member of the Order of the Muddy Paw, an organization for those not daunted by the looks of disdain as they spread their enthusiasms around the room.
Care to join?