Why We Need To Be Less Grumpy

I have never been mistaken for one of the Shiny Happy People. My 10th grade US History teacher told me that I was unusually cynical for a 15 year old; more than two decades later, she might make the same observation about me now.

 The author, age 16.

I write music that is either sad or angry. I like movies that are slow and tragic. The best short story I've ever written was about a boy on his way to a friend's funeral. And all of this is important preamble because if I am the one telling you that you need to stop bumming people out, then it's getting serious!

The great internet polemic means that every point must be met with a counterpoint. The more boisterous the point, the more vigorous the counterpoint. If I like a movie, someone else will shoot the movie down as if propelled by some subconscious urge to provide the counterpoint. If I like a particular breakfast taco, someone else will fight that taco to the death because there's another taco somewhere else that's more worthy. Let's not even consider discussions about politics and the news; they are an impenetrable wasteland online. I've come to the conclusion that I just don't care listen to people judge everything anymore.

The author, unhappy at an early age.

You see, I've been having Star Wars dreams again. This hasn't happened since the time of the Prequel Trilogy. I don't read Star Wars news or poke around on Star Wars message boards or anything. I did in 1998, but I don't anymore. Now, for reasons that are only unlockable by a trained specialist, when I sleep deeply I begin to play the next Star Wars movie out in my head. When I wake up from one of these dreams, I hold on to a sense of wonder that's unlike most of the experiences I have with contemporary movies. As the details of the dream fade, I quickly move on and go about my day, but in those waking moments, I am truly excited about something. It's a rush! Unfortunately, that excitement is very easy for people to pick on.

A happier time.

And I get why Star Wars isn't your bag, I really do. I just don't see the value in pointing out how dumb people are for liking it.

You have every right to roll your eyes at the return of Twin Peaks, but who gains from your indifference?

I also get why you don't like watching soccer. Fine. Snide jabs at things in a tweet or a Facebook update don't add anything to my life. They only make you look petty for spending the energy to piss on someone else's parade.

You know, some folks really enjoy Dominos Pizza. I can't understand why, but who am I to even try and take that away from them? Jurassic World? Reality TV? Mixed Martial Arts? Look, I don't get the appeal of most things, but if you want to enjoy that stuff, go for it!

The same pattern repeats over and over. Whether it's a Vice article making fun of how people dress or a listicle about the perils of other listicles, or screeds about the multitude of ways in which 'hipsters' are ruining everything, we seem borderline obsessed with pointing out what we don't like.

Sometimes people react to this in the only way that they can--by posting a video of a baby koala cuddling a baby lizard. That's something that no one can possibly disparage. But the very fact that we get to the point where we have to shield ourselves from the indignant bile of the jaded generation with cute animal videos should be a huge warning sign.

The world is full of bitterness. There's enough pain and disappointment and tragedy and loss to go around, and I'm reminded of that every day. Some nights, it's a struggle to go to sleep with enough hope and energy that the future holds the joy to balance all of this out. Why make it worse because you don't like something that someone else likes?

It's important to let people enjoy things, whether or not we understand how or why they enjoy them. Sure, there are exceptions. We need to call out fascism and hate speech. We can provoke a real conversation if we apply a thoughtful, critical analysis to the gender politics of a movie or the inherent classism of a pop song, but simply downvoting things doesn't serve that purpose. It's becoming more and more clear to me that we need a reason to spew anything negative into the universe because the collective cynical dark matter that we've already amassed can easily become overwhelming.

We really need to be less grumpy, all of us. I know it's hard, but it'll be worth it. I find that the old maxim "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" speaks to me in profound ways now. I just can't take it anymore. Let's all be a little nicer to each other, appreciate our differences, and make a little extra effort to seed the world with hope that that's something around the corner worth waking up for. If we could all wake up, just once in a while, excited by our own Star Wars dreams, it just seems like this whole mad trip would be a little more bearable.

And I'm out.