My friend Jon has mentioned a few times how most blog post and comments come from people who are critical and what to complain about something. Our criticism can be about art, politics, life, social issues, religion, current events, entertainment or any other trivial pursuit category.
And it seems to me that in modern times our society highly values being critical. And of course, almost my definition, we can't be critical unless we say some things are negative.
Schools encourage us to write papers that use critical sources, and as non-professionals we are expected to examine the criticism of professional and say what is good and bad about it.
We take music appreciation and art appreciation. Yet it seems that the primary goal of these courses is to make us see unrefined quality in the contemporary and popular music and art. These classes in turn are filled with disappreciation.
We read movie and music reviews, sometimes to find something new that we like, but often to validate our own lack-of-interest and critical perspective.
And there is a point where criticism is one way to have higher thought, but on the other hand it's carry over into society makes us people who over-evaluate and find minute criticisms in people. We are often a Seinfeld generation where we character type people by their uniqueness. "He's a close-talker," or "She has really large nose, I don't think I could date her."
And we create archetypes for normality, and compare everyone and their failings to that. It becomes socially divisive as some people choose Target over Walmart or a local coffee shop over Starbucks as people try to avoid being "that type of person."
And then there's things like myspace and social networks were people openly evaluate their relationships deciding who should be in there "Top 8" or be mentioned in the list of 100 ridiculous questions.
Hear me out, criticism is healthy, evaluation is healthy, but I think it must be balanced with something. I think that something is beauty. That we might be able to see something and say that's beautiful, and not just because it's a mountain peering over a lake, a proportionate supermodel or tiny baby.
No, we need to look at eachother, and the way we interact and the general tic-tock of life and find beauty in it.
In the 1950 film Harvey, James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd says:
Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. And you may quote me.
I want to be smart, and I know a lot of smart people. But if being smart means being critical at every turn, then I don't know if I want to live my life. If I believe God is the starter of everything, the maker of everything, then I should search for God and the beauty that I can uncover all around me.
If there must be a tradeoff, I would rather learn to be pleasant than smart -- searching for beauty over criticism.
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