We are defined by the things in our lives. Do not confuse “defined” with “owned by” – this is not a rumble about materialism or the depravity of consumerism. Whether we knowingly signed the contract with the things in our lives or not, they are how we are portrayed to the rest of the world as we connect the alphanumeric dots of our day-to-day lives. Whether you, in particular, are concerned with your thing-defined identity is irrelevant because the world is watching and, unfortunately for us all, you are the minority.
This notion struck me during a recent trip car shopping – at a Subaru dealership specifically. Subaru. Sensible. Affordable. I don’t have the patience to come up with the rest of the positive –ables I’m supposed to think about the Subaru brand. We test drove the Forester. Comfortable enough. A perfectly reasonable mode of transportation between points A and B. You know – a car. I didn’t think it would leave me on the side of the road. I’ve had a Jeep; therefore, verily, I am familiar with that variety of automobile. I walked out of the dealership convinced I was not going to own a Subaru.
For the same reason I don’t buy any of those Captain & Tennille Greatest Hits records, readily available in any used record store. I’m just not a guy that owns Captain & Tennille any more than I’m a guy that drives a Subaru or even a Honda or any other car that often pairs nicely with the aforementioned qualities. Disclaimer: It should be known that I’m quite fond of many Subaru and Honda owners. And these people, my friends that own Subaru and Honda vehicles, are indeed real goddamn Subaru and Honda people. They have dogs. On occasion they partake in outdoorsy activities beyond city parks. They believe in the utility of ample cargo room. They have these sensible attributes. I do not.
If I were to drive a Subaru I’d automatically take on some of these perceived characteristics. False advertising. Either I’d be living some kind of lie or eventually I’d be forced to conform. First the dog, then some kind of rugged sensibility and/or fiscal responsibility. Our musical affinities are also shaped by similar projections in the world – not just to what we listen, but how we listen. Do we manage most of our libraries digitally? An iPod dock in the kitchen, perhaps. Maybe you’re still relying on that old CD changer stack system with the tandem speakers. Or maybe you’ve set up that record station again. You’re finding new favorite bands that have released albums on vinyl and buying them on Amazon for the free shipping. Like the Subaru some of these methods are more sensible than others. Does it make sense to want to dust old records or get out of your seat every 25 minutes to flip a vinyl record that collects dust and cost twice as much as the same .mp3 download? You could just press Shuffle on that iPod. No dusting. No fuss. Wouldn’t that be better use of your time and money?
Perhaps. Probably. Most definitely, even. But that’s also why I’ll be driving a Volvo or a Volkswagen. And why I like cats. Because I don’t think I’m ready to be sensible any more than the world, consisting of friends, acquaintances and fellow traffic-light idlers, is ready to see me as sensible. I’m also all those other things – both positive and especially negative – that go along with being a Euro-car driving hipster with a stack of unpublished and unfinished manuscripts and a record collection that refuses to buy a Captain & Tennille record for $1 even though he secretly finds “Muskrat Love” kinda catchy (read: insidious, nefarious, poisonous, HazMat-ious).