An Evening With A Critic; A Matter of Choice, Mediocrity, and Passion (Alternate Title: TheByteWeek Issue 6)

I recently spent an evening having dinner with a movie critic attending the Toronto International Film Festival and I can safely say that in comparison to my time spent with certain other mentionable individuals, I thoroughly enjoyed myself with The Critic far more. Though I suppose the interesting part of the evening wasn’t so much The Critic, and nor was it the backdrop of the TIFF in Yorkville as much as the circumstances as to which The Critic arrived at his vocation. After earning more degrees than any one individual would ever make use of, in addition to working as a financial controller for various publications, The Critic decided one day that he’d like to stop doing all of that (thanks to various forms of industrial prodding) and that, instead, he would like to watch and review movies on a regular basis.

After speaking with him for a surmountable amount of time, I came to two observations. First of all, he is the living embodiment of the Cosmo Kramer character and, second of all, he had actually done something that he wanted to do instead of plodding along life- which immediately reminded me of an article written by Jeremy Clarkson, “I’ll be right there, Sir Ranulph- must conquer the sofa first,” written for Sunday 24 May 2009.

The article is part of Clarkson’s weekly columns for the Sunday Times where, using witty banter, depreciative humour, and a very powerful sarcastic tone that targets everyone from political leaders to Martha Stewart, he gives his opinions on day to day topics like sports, pets, cars, his job, your job, the weather, economics, and, hilariously enough, Martha Stewart. During the aforementioned piece, Clarkson discusses the drive of Sir Ranuplh Fiennes while he was climbing Mount Everest. Fiennes’s strategy to reach the peak of the geographic behemoth was to merely imagine that it didn’t exist. Fiennes reasoned that he was willing to continue climbing forever, never stopping to consider that there might a top and Clarkson reasons that the British explorer completed his journey (that most of us only dream and fantasize about doing) by doing what we all do on a daily basis. Specifically, Fiennes “Plodded” his way to the top of Mount Everest in the same way that we all plod along life; never trying to do something crazy or insane because it would be far easier to do something less difficult or, in Fiennes’s case, never imagining doing something crazy or insane at all.

It’s interesting to note that, for the longest time, I have been meaning to write an article about the topic of living our lives through others or, rather, why it’s far easier to have someone else live our lives for us, but I didn’t because I didn’t have the right series of words to string along into interestingly developed sentences. It’s actually due to speaking to The Critic that I’ve come to the conclusion that I must discuss this topic now, or else I’ll have accomplished absolutely nothing in my time writing this blog (regardless of course, of everything else that I’ve gained). The truth of the matter is that I admire The Critic for the exact reason that I admire anyone who decides to do something different because, like everyone else on this planet, I have a fear of never doing something that I want to do. Though, even that’s unfair to say because my fear isn’t so much wallowing in mediocrity as it is never trying to get out of the mediocre hole that I built through a series of safe and risk-free choices.

The concept of doing something extremely out of the ordinary, or going against routine is far more admirable, to me, than overcoming various obstacles to achieve a major goal. My admiration does lie within the child, born in an economically desolate neighbourhood, who spends hours perfecting their craft to achieve placement in Harvard, but I’d admire them more if they decide that, after spending years on Wall Street trading stocks (and earning several tidy sums), they’d rather sell wine as part of a small monopoly of wine suppliers in Vietnam. I’d admire it even more if, after spending years in the Vietnamese wine industry, they would decide to try their hand at judging international pie-eating contests, or the like.

I suppose the message that I’m trying to convey is that I (once again, like everyone else on this planet) am afraid of making a choice and never getting a chance to take it back; which is exactly what The Critic has done. He made a choice and decided that, after however many years at one specific trade, he’d like to try his hand at something else and, because he wanted to, he chose again; rolling the dice once more, so to speak and getting to start at and pass Go.

I must state, again, that my greatest fear- even more so than genuine mediocrity or failure- is never doing something that would even allow me to reach such a result. It’s far worse, in my opinion, to spend time doing something that I dislike, but that leads to a certain level of financial freedom, instead of something that I love, but that leads to a lower sense of financial prosperity. However, I am once again diverging away from the point because, while The Critic might have made his choice regarding vocations (which does ultimately lead to the question of his income and so forth), my point doesn’t lie within the economical side of the topic, but rather, the causal.

The end of Clarkson’s article poses a question for the reader, “We can’t do everything. But don’t you wish that sometimes you could find the time from doing the drudge of the humdrum…to do something?” Well, Mr. Clarkson, to answer your question directly? Yes. Yes I do. Almost every single day and, while my youth, stubborn denial of the so-called “Facts of life” and overall childishness might be why, I can guarantee that anyone reading this article that, when it comes down to choosing between the safe and logical option or the, so-called, risk-free option, we choose the risk-free ones far more than we should. Well, I say everyone but the fact remains that giving up a position as a financial controller to review movies is not a logical and risk-free step to take.

I suppose that, in terms of doing crazy and illogical things, it might just be a phase that people go through to rid themselves of the rigmarole of the average life but, quite frankly, isn’t that the point of living in a 1st world nation? Actually, scratch that, isn’t that the point of having a level of personal freedom? Yes, we might all have jobs or an education to tend to, or families to care for, or a universe that needs saving, but does that mean we have to spend our lives in a constant state of fear and apprehension because we’re absolutely terrified that stepping out of the “Safe and ordinary” bubble might end up with the entire world exploding or, worse, ending up with us actually getting up off the couch and accomplishing something more? Pardon my petulance, but frankly that seems like a rather boring life to lead, especially if one lives in a country where “Choice and free will” are global reasons for why a person might want to live there.

Though, nn a final note, I must mention that when I say “Accomplishing something more,” I am certainly not attacking the people who are actually helping save lives (or anything of the sort); becoming a doctor, for example is a very kind, generous, and human thing to do, but becoming a doctor just for the money, or the power or, even worse, because there’s nothing else to do is vulgar, pointless and cruel. Not to your patients, obviously, but to the people who actually want to be doctors, because it’s their passion, or because they want to help others for reasons other than “Making money” and certainly not because they feel that they’ll have an easier life in the future if they can lay back and rest on a couch bought my medical money. Though, I suppose that’s the final point that The Critic helped me realize (on a side note, I can guarantee that my fears of self inflicted mediocrity or failure haven’t been resolved after talking to him, only slightly alleviated); do what you will, but do it because you’re passionate about it. Otherwise, really, what’s the point?

As always, this has been your Admin; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

  1. Lifes not all beer and skittles

    • I’m not sure if this was a genuine comment or not, but just in case it is, I’m going to answer seriously. Yes, life’s not all beer and skittles. In fact, if you wanted to be really truthful, life is difficult; so incredibly difficult, and also just a little bit patronizing, that, when given an option between this or that, we go for the option that we think will make our life “Easier.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but at the same time, the “Easier” option isn’t necessarily the option that we’d take if we weren’t put into a tough position and it isn’t the choice we truly want to make. I’m using generalizations, yes, but back to your original point; life is not all beer and skittles, but if you can do something about it and if you can make a choice that really makes you happy, then I say, if you can make that choice, make it. Otherwise, continue on fulfilling your responsibilities and hope that, in the future, some neurotic scientist will event a machine that converts clouds into food and life will have a possibility of being quantified by beer and skittles.

      Your response is your choice Veste Moncler; your response is your choice.

      -EK

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