Pin It
Favorite

You Can't Keep Up. Hooray! 

You have a choice: either drown in the flood of culture, or just let go.

click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY: CHRIS DREYER
  • Illustration by: Chris Dreyer

I am a blip. So are you. And everyone you know and everyone they know — all blips in the wide spectrum of time and space.

I was reminded of this — my infinitesimal nature — last week, unexpectedly, when I came across Linda Holmes’ excellent, plainly written NPR.com piece “The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We’re Going to Miss Almost Everything.”

Holmes lays bare a reality that would make any librarian or cinephile shift uncomfortably in his seat: Never, no matter how hard you try, will you — or can you — keep up with culture. No matter how cultured you think you might be — you’re not.

It’s in the math: She argues that if you read one book per week from the time you’re 15 years old until you are in your 80s, you could never possibly read all of the great books. Because by the time you’re 80, there will be hundreds — even thousands — of new works that you haven’t read yet, either.

Great art keeps coming — and you can never, ever catch up.

There are hundreds of thousands of books, albums, films, shows, plays, ballets and painters out there. Some people — she calls them cullers — simply figure out which ones of those things are worth their time. She gives an example: A culler might say, “I deem Keeping Up With The Kardashians a poor use of my time, and therefore, I choose not to watch it.” That easily eliminates vast swaths of culture from a culler’s cultural radars. Reality TV? Out. Rap? Out. Documentaries, Westerns, heavy metal: out, out, out.

On the other side, there are those who surrender — people who acknowledge that there is no way for them to ever read all the books they’d need to in order to be considered “well-read.” Those people don’t throw up their hands. They just accept that they’ll never get to all those books that they “should” read.

And I am flying a white flag in a sea of cullers. It’s not that I’m giving up altogether. But really, don’t you think it’s kind of hard — even pointless — to always stay in step with culture?

Even if you knew what book you wanted in a bookstore, there’s the choice to get it digitally on a Kindle or iPad — and if you go that route, then there’s the ability to get thousands more books at any time. Then what do you choose?

Or music? I used to save my lifeguard money in high school to drop at the nearby record store, carefully choosing to buy the albums of just a few artists whose singles had grabbed me on the radio.

And now — with iTunes and Bandcamp and Soundcloud and Reverb Nation — it’s almost impossible to winnow down my list to just a few things I want to purchase. I’m drowning in the music of bands I want to support. But I can’t seem to find time to listen to all of them.

I’m suffocating in culture. And I can’t be alone. And so I found solace in Holmes’ revelation that we can never keep up with the pace of culture. It’s kind of liberating. It makes me feel like I can put down that book I hate, go outside and learn from what’s around me. Or stop trying to seek out my new favorite band and let it — somehow — come to me. Or stop worrying about what I haven’t read and just pick up the book I want.

Doing this might make you want to stop investing all of your time in one thing — be it 20th-century British literature or punk rock or silent movies or theater — and try a little bit of everything that’s out there. Because there’s so much to discover, so many things to sample … After all, we are just blips. We don’t have a lot of time to waste on things we don’t love. And that, to me, as Holmes’ title suggests, is so sad and so beautiful.

  • Pin It

Speaking of Last Word, technology

  • Ride Ben Burr
  • Ride Ben Burr

    A railroad line turned bike trail is finally nearing completion
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Opportunity Gnaws
  • Opportunity Gnaws

    Z Nation didn't just bring zombies to Spokane — it's proved that the city can support a vibrant film industry
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Ode to (Desert) Joy
  • Ode to (Desert) Joy

    Why you should slow down — or better yet, stop — in the "drive-by" stretch of Washington
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • More »

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • Finding Solid Footing
  • Finding Solid Footing

    Local radio personality Molly Allen has written a new play about ending and mending relationships
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • TV | Amazon Comedy
  • TV | Amazon Comedy

    The online-shopping giant is an unlikely home for serious laughs
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • For Your Consideration
  • For Your Consideration

    Ozzie's radio show, fantasizing football and Rainier's new brew
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Oktoberfest at The River

Oktoberfest at The River @ Spokane Convention Center

Sat., Sept. 24, 12 p.m.-12 a.m. and Sun., Sept. 25, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Leah Sottile

  • Imaginary Friends
  • Imaginary Friends

    The very real role that fantasy plays in our everyday lives
    • Aug 13, 2014
  • Expert Advice
  • Expert Advice

    Dab? Vape? Indica? Sativa? A few tips for beginners
    • Jul 9, 2014
  • Gone Solo, Not Soft
  • Gone Solo, Not Soft

    After three decades of Melvins records, Buzz Osborne makes an awesome album by himself
    • Jun 18, 2014
  • More »

Most Commented On

Readers also liked…

  • Blind Faith
  • Blind Faith

    In a vacant lot by the railroad tracks, an unlikely friendship is found
    • Jan 7, 2016
  • Four Short Years
  • Four Short Years

    Kevin Pangos started his career at Gonzaga shooting the lights out. He hopes to end it by leading a team to greatness
    • Mar 18, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation