Thursday, March 29, 2018

Pets: A Weird Heat Companion

Have you ever stopped to think how odd it is for humans to let animals walk around our houses unchecked? While we're away at work or school, a furry animal is left to its own devices to wander from room to room, interacting with anything according to its whims. It is strange. Basically, the only thing that separates my cat from a raccoon crossing the street is the window between them.

The thing about pets, though, is there is an accompanying emotion around them which everyone who has ever had a pet of their own immediately and universally understands. Pretend I detest aardvarks. If you have a pet aardvark, I may not appreciate the animal itself, but I can appreciate the love you have for it at the very least. For me, this is evident with certain dogs. I’m a cat person, so I’m not a fan of huge dogs who jump all over me with the apparent intent of forcing me to the ground. But I can understand its owner the person feels the same way as I do about any cat I’ve ever had.

We have unbreakable positive connections with our pets. The bond goes much deeper than being cute and furry. Sure, there may be a disagreement about what time to wake up or when to go outside. Then, all of the annoyances melt away with one “curl up next to you on the couch” moment. I have heard of people taking grieving days after losing a pet. This does not even strike me as weird. It would strike me as more strange to lose a pet and not have this reaction. It is part of the process of having a pet, and anyone who has ever made that connection probably agrees.

We can sort of point at anything and call it a pet. Dogs and cats are often called pets. Lizards and spiders can be called pets. A single rock has been called a pet. However unconventional the type, though, there is an implied mutual relationship: giving care and receiving comfort. While a pet rock might be easy to care for, I would expect someone to be at least mildly troubled if they lost it. The comfort returned from a loved pet is nearly unspeakable. They are warmth and happiness embodied.

I have had overlapping cats for almost all of my life. Each had distinct personalities, but there were constant similarities as well. As any pet owner knows: we take them to the doctor, buy their food, clean their actual toilets, and pay their room and board. What do they offer in return? Financially not much; we’re still mostly in charge. And yet, I hesitate to use the phrase “pet owner.” The relationship is different than owner and property. I do not have a right over my cat’s life. I take care of him, and he provides comfort in return. That extreme comfort is a reward any pet owner can understand.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Disappointment: A Weird Heat Companion

No one likes to be disappointed. It's an unpleasant feeling. No one sets out to do something with the intention of being disappointed. Why would anyone purposely seek out that feeling? Likewise, no one wants to be a disappointment. "I'm not mad, I'm disappointed" is an instantly recognizable, infamously devastating comment. It is an all-around lousy feeling. But disappointment is also essential to art.

I believe the prospect of disappointment is what fuels our appreciation for art. It's like making a bet. By partaking in any art-form, we are risking disappointment for the chance at enjoyment. That uncertainty is all a part of the experience. It’s great when it pays off, but an enjoyable experience is made even more so by a lead up of disappointments. It’s a rush. If every piece of art met our expectations, wouldn’t we eventually get bored?

This holds true for both consumers and creators. Art always begins as a perfect vision in the artist’s head, and almost always becomes a disappointment after its creation. It is rare to find an artist completely satisfied with the completion of a project. However great the finished product is, the artist is typically left with a twinge of disappointment. This striving to attain the internal vision, and thus avoid disappointment, forces artists to keep improving and creating. Here again, disappointment drives art.

At the same time, a creator is constantly negotiating with the disappointment of their audience. The disappointment of fans, and avoidance thereof, pushes artists to continue innovating, almost as much as the creator’s own personal judgement. It is a regular cycle. At every turn, disappointment is an essential cog to the creative process.

Disappointment is often intertwined with nostalgia, where something you remember is simply not as great as it once seemed. We tend to associate art with a certain time period of our lives: a cherished TV show from a childhood, an overplayed song from high school, a thoughtful book in college. Sometimes when we return to one of these, it may bring back memories of old but position them within our current situation. We look back fondly on those memories, but then question our interests if the object is no longer as good as we remember it. This has more to do with personal memories than the quality of the surveyed item. We tend to conflate the good memories of the time with the possibly average artistic worth of the thing itself.

The opposite of a disappointment is, of course, a surprise. Contrary to disappointment, everyone loves a surprise. To mitigate the risk of disappointment, we tend to lower expectations, to the point where a pleasant surprise is more likely. But disappointment often pushes art to new heights. It is a ceaseless push and pull between surprise and disappointment. The art is worth the risk.