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Perhaps what I am about to describe has never happened to you. If not, then you are an exceptionally strong person. But I write this as encouragement. It took me a long time to learn my lesson, but once learned, it is one of those things I wish I could share. However, while it might be learned, it can seldom be taught.

Have you ever been embarrassed, shame, or just plain bullied out of enjoying something because of the derogatory opinion of others? Have you ever found yourself apologizing for one aspect or another of your taste.

I write this because this afternoon I was listening to Brad Paisley's version of "In the Garden," and I found myself thinking how much I disliked that song, how maudlin and mawkish the lyrics. And suddenly I realized that those were not my opinions at all, but the opinions of one of those "sophisticated" music critics who are always informing us what is wrong with what we like. While I genuinely don't care for "Beulah Land" or "Battle Hymn of the Republic," I have always liked "In the Garden." I don't know if it is good hymnody or bad hymnody or indifferent hymnody. It speaks to me. I don't find it mawkish and sentimental. I like it. And it took me a long time to shake off an opinion by someone I respected and considered better informed.

We should not be cowed into liking, disliking, or feeling any particular way about anything we encounter. Who are these arbiters of Good Taste--these paragons of understanding and purveyors of opinion? They are, just like us, people. They may have a better notion of what subjectively is considered "better music," that is all it amounts to.

I think back a a bit of ugliness that transpired when Jonathan Franzen demurred at being selected for Oprah's Bookclub because it was so middlebrow. Oh, what a vaunted opinion Mr. Franzen, or any person advancing such an opinion must have of themselves. In order to call anyone else middlebrow, you must perforce be seated on the throne of the highbrow. And where exactly is that situated? Where exactly do these paragons of taste find a place to call their own?

Who cares what anyone else thinks? If it is licit and it is pleasurable, enjoy it. Don't ever apologize when your opinion differs from those you respect. Don't ever feel that your taste is not good enough.

Fortunately, I have outgrown most of my prejudices--recently conquering a life-long aversion to country music, and just this afternoon unearthing an untruth I had taken as my own belief. Sometimes these things just slip in. I don't know how it happens, but it does.

And so to my few readers--never let my opinions, strongly expressed though they may be deprive you of rightful enjoyment of works of literature, music, film, or art. My opinion may differ. I have different information and experience influencing those opinions. There are things to which I simply do not have access--emotionally or intellectually. There are arguments I cannot hear and truths that I cannot bring myself, quite, to fully espouse, even if I recognize their truthfulness. These are the struggles of a lifetime. Do not allow what I say, or what anyone says, to add to your own array of struggles. It would be a shame.

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Amen! I couldn't agree more. People differ in their capacities of enjoyment of so-called "high" art and those who can appreciate shouldn't disparage/spoil it for those who can't. For what it's work I like "In the Garden" too. (And I'm not crazy about "Beulah Land" either.)

My (dear) sister sent me a link to this entry, and I think it was written for me - no? ;-)
Wow! Thank you for writing.
I am most grateful for a sister who thinks of me spirtually and forwards such riches onto me! (as well as your blog url which I had lost in a *crash*)

God Speed!

Well, said, Steven.

It has taken me my whole life so far to get to the point where I like what I like and don't like what I don't. And not feel deficient for liking or not liking. In fact, I think it's really a work in progress--every once in a while, I slip back into that "worry about what others think" mode.

Meeting you was nearly one of those times! Did you know that? I came so close to not coming. How on earth could I talk to someone like I imagined you to be? Someone who was so smart and had such wide ranging interests? Why would YOU want to talk to ME?

That's where it becomes dangerous to be ashamed of who we are and what we like--when it would keep us from reaching out to another person, for fear we're not *enough* somehow.




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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 29, 2005 12:00 AM.

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