I upgraded my phone yesterday and I think I started to understand a little bit of the gearlust that seems to grip so many people. I was the last person I know to get a cell phone, and I still hate them 90% of the time. I don't usually take mine out of the house, but the calling plans are just more economical for my situation and travelling abroad has made a mobile phone a necessity. So I went from my last gen,, monochromatic, no-alarm-having flip phone to some newfangled thing that can sound like 50 cent when it rings and plays games in color in case I want to induce carpal tunnel early.
Still, within one hour of charging up this phone, I was already putting "Motorola V188 Hacks" into Google to see what else I could do with it without paying my service carrier for the luxury of using Jessica Alba's ass as my wallpaper. I started to see the possibilities, and I was frustrated by the lack of access to them. The phone has a usb connection, but that's only used for data and fax calls? It can store pictures and custom ringtones but you have to pay for them? Hogshit!
Then I started to see how other people get stuck in these cycles of needing the newest, hottest, freshest gadget every four months because you can suddenly watch basketball highlights on your GPS wristwatch laundry folding sex toy. I don't embrace that mindset myself, but I began to at least understand it and to understand what drives an industry like that which is built not necessarily on gaining new customers, but on selling the same customers more virtually useless features every few months.
Of course the a-ha moment with cell phone culture begat a larger a-ha moment, or rather served as a good example of an idea that's been brewing lately. It's part of what's wrapped up in this new album, but will be a concept even more integral to the next one. At one point, I think that I was willing to stop at the point where I simply accepted that other people thought differently about things than I did. Some people like reality tv, and I couldn't for the life of me understand why, but I accepted it. Some people see music like Magicicada as aimless noise and I didn't even pretend to understand where they were coming from, but I accepted that they just had a different outlook. Some people believe in their heart that George Bush is a great president and that the war in Iraq is necessary, and I never claimed to understand that, but I accepted that some people thought that way and that it didn't make them drooling idiots.
But it's not enough anymore to simply accept that other people see things differently. Ultimately, accepting the different viewpoints is still a way of keeping other people at a distance. I can accept that people don't see things the way that I do, but in doing so they become 'those people' who think 'that way,' and that's a dangerous headspace to be in. Instead of accepting that people think differently, I'm trying now to understand what people think, and even further, to understand why they think that way. It dawned on me that I'll never be able to convince someone that Bush is a fool, or that tivoing episodes of some Paris Hilton show is not a worthwhile use of time unless I understand why they do and think those things. And maybe they'll convince me that I'm wrong--that the movies I like are artless garbage and that the music I like could be made by five year olds with a kitchen full of pots and pans, but at least I'll be trying to work through that with other people rather than putting up a wall to 'those ideas.'
The trouble with this admittedly hippie-esque point I'm making is that it has to work both ways. It makes no sense for me to try and understand what makes a republican tick if he isn't willing to see why I'm a socialist. It's a wasted effort to try and understand the allure of NFL football if the people who'd rather watch 7th week AFC matchups than read a book don't want to see my perspective too. So maybe at the end of it all, it's still just a struggle to compartmentalize everything and everyone into 'same as me' and 'different than me' in a drastically simple survivlaist kind of binary, but at least I'm starting to see the value in making an effort.