5.31.2012

Awfully Brave From The Sidelines...

If you know an NFL fan, you also undoubtedly know one of the truest observations of modern society: Everyone's a better quarterback on Monday morning. Every play from the big game on Sunday can be analyzed. Critiques can be made. "They should have..." this and "I would have..." that.

You'll notice, most of these guys never played the game. And they most certainly never played professionally. They've never had to make split-second decisions that are less decision than they are reaction. They've never been physically winded and spent and had to go yet another play. They've never wallowed in the mud fighting to move the ball a yard just to keep from losing.

And their opinions should be treated as such. No matter how many statistics someone can quote or games they've seen or sports radio talk shows they listen to, the old saying stands: Everyone's got a plan until they get hit.

I was reminded of this yesterday, when my "manifesto" about posers and Fashion Geeks was posted on CNN GeekOut. The intent was to explain the difference between actually being a geek -- immersing yourself in things that bring you joy to the extent that it can be considered a passion -- and Fashion Geeks, the people who buy iPhones and pretend they're gadget experts, or who wear comic book or sci-fi shirts and attend conventions because it's trendy right now.

The reactions, by and large, were positive. But of course, there had to be those who simply opt to lob insults and be contrarian just to take pot shots.

"Dude, you're not a geek. You're a hipster."

"Good to see that CNN is now posting rants better suited to Facebook, the home of narcissism."

"Oh great. Geekery has hipsters now."

Etcetera.

In fact, I'm reminded of it every time anything I write is posted on CNN, Huffington Post, Fark, Reddit, and so on. No matter what I write, there's going to be passionate reactions to it from detractors, know-it-alls and contrarians. 

I don't mind. I really don't. Commentary fall into two categories for me: people with good points and something else, I don't even give a shit enough to give it a name anymore. 

The simple fact is this: when you put yourself out there, you are out there. It doesn't matter how -- writing, painting, drawing, playing an instrument, singing, speaking in public. Whatever medium you choose, when you step out into the open and expose yourself, you're the focus. And there are going to be people who decide to make you a target.

A target for what? Venting their colons. Sorting out their deep-laden parental issues. Simply attacking to attack... Who knows. It makes them feel powerful to hide amongst crowds and look for people out there to fling poo at, treating them like targets of opportunity. They want to hear themselves speak. They feel like attacking someone putting their work out in the world adds some sort of validity to whatever it is that comes out of their mouths.

But you'll NEVER find them making the first move.

React, react, react... But they'll never ACT. They'll never create. They'll simply spend their days having opinions on the creations of others. They will forever be on the lookout for things to hurl stones at, never once stepping out into the open and exposing themselves to the same.

You'll notice, the more helpful and polite the critiques, counter-points and other feedback you get from people, the more likely it is they're a creator. It's not just because they're trying to be nice. It's because they actually have something worth saying, usually derived from experiences in creating things themselves. They don't blithely dish out punishment (well, most don't -- there are definitely some who create who also decide, out of jealousy or malice, to tear down the work of others. Those are a special sort of misanthrope I like to call "Assholes" and you should NEVER listen to them).

I am continually reminded of (and inspired by) my favorite quote, by a legendary programmer known as Why The Lucky Stiff:
"When you don't create things, You become defined by your tastes rather than ability. Your tastes only narrow & exclude people. So create."
I'll pay attention when they put themselves out there and take a stance first, instead of simply reacting to the stances of others. I'll watch when they write and perform a piece of music. I'll read articles they write or study paintings they make or otherwise give them the focus of my attention when they do something other than wait for their turn to speak.

I'll listen to the critiques of those with experience long before I listen to the judgements of those with nothing more than opinions.