In taking my leave from dear friend K’s house yesterday, at the end of my overnight visit to Springfield, I found myself having to turn around and knock on the just-closed door, to go back and pick up something I’d forgotten. The act of knocking reminded me of the habit of a character in a TV show I like: knock-knock-knock [Name of Person], knock-knock-knock [Name of Person], knock-knock-knock [Name of Person].
When I mentioned that this show was a guilty pleasure, K seemed surprised…she was nonjudgmental, to be sure, but surprised.
Made me think.
The fact that I’d described this show as a guilty pleasure says something powerful about our ideas about ourselves; the difference between so-called high culture and low. The high places of arts—whether in reading, art, or visual arts–are aspirational. We want them to define us. The low places, not so much.
I have friends who read Fritjof Capra and comic books with equal intellectual comfort. I am wading through the infinite (and sometimes difficult) The Hidden Reality by Brian Greene…yet it is old episodes of, say, Sex and the City that I turn to when I am too tired to think any more.
Now ask which of those pursuits falls under the “guilty pleasures” category.
So here’s the question of the day: Why should any pleasure should be guilty for a writer with aspirations to advanced intelligence? Preference aside (I will not, for example, be making my way to a show in Branson anytime soon), isn’t there food, of sorts, in all those pursuits?
Okay, granted…one may be food for thought. Nourishment for the soul. Granola for the intellect. The other may be the little piece of chocolate we allow ourselves after dinner. We may not be as comfortable with folks whose lives are spent with the “low” versus the “high”…and the fact is that we judge them—probably as much as they judge us in return.
A long-ago roommate once rejected my (then) consuming passion for classical music, saying that it was “elitist and bourgeois”. I stopped playing it around the house because avoidance was easier than fighting. For myself, even today, I know that there are a country full of folks less likely to see my value as a thinking person’s writer because I live in Arkansas, rather than the would when I still lived in NYC.
What I know now is something that probably seems no-brainer obvious: that there is, must be, room in our heads for all sorts of influences. That doesn’t mean that we have to live on a steady diet of sitcoms to force-feed our appetite for laughter. Even when we try to live in a world of higher ideas, the “lower” ones can add colors, notes…even inspiration from most unexpected and unlikely sources.
Just because we love haute cuisine doesn’t mean we can’t also love White Castle. Does it?