Bruce Springsteen sucks.
Yeah, you heard me.
I know the hits. I’ve seen the concerts on Palladia. I know he’s from New Jersey.
But, I don’t get it. We don’t connect. Bruce Springsteen has nothing to do with me. I’ve always felt this way.
Imagine my skepticism, then, when I came across this article by Josh Wolk, entitled, “Bruce Springsteen, Life Giver to the Middle-Aged”. Like me, Wolk sees a Springsteen concert as a chance to roll one’s eyes and make biting, cynical comments. Like me, he’s an ardent non-fan.
Until the show begins:
I had tagged along to this concert with friends with the goal of writing a snickering little article. I recently uncovered my notes from that evening and can trace a conversion that night through the tenor of my scrawls.
They start out with snarky little shorthand jabs at the guys proudly wearing their authentic now-way-too-small shirts bought during the Born in the U.S.A. tour (“practically translucent stretched over torsos gone portlier since the shirts were first purchased”), and the fact that the white crowd made Limp Bizkit’s fans look like a rainbow coalition. And yet, over the course of my three hours of notes, my scrawls quickly turned from self-satisfied digs at those around me into a take on Springsteen’s performance that vaults directly from begrudging respect to adulation. Now I am 42, and eagerly attend his shows with nary a whiff of smugness or sarcasm; I leave my air quotes at the door. I saw his ongoing tour twice this month and blended right into the sea of bobbing gray hair: These are my people.
Rest assured, this article hasn’t turned me into a raging fan of The Boss, but it teaches a valuable lesson all the same:
Just because you don’t get it, doesn’t mean it’s worthless.
We forget this all the time. For example…
I don’t do rap music. I think it’s devoid of depth and musical talent. I think it’s speaking with rhythm. I think it’s talking over a drum machine. And I proudly cannot be convinced otherwise.
I’m entitled to this opinion, of course. But why do I harbor such negativity?
For me, a negative opinion usually grows out of frustration:
How can you POSSIBLY enjoy this horrible, valueless thing?!
How could you possibly WANT to waste your time with this when there are so many more incredible, artistic, valuable things out there?!
I can think of plenty more examples. You want to know what I think of your hobby?
Prepare to be offended.
I don’t love sports. I have no desire to sit in front of a TV for four hours watching grown men get paid billions of dollars to play with a ball. I can’t afford to attach my happiness to whether or not the red team wins. I don’t care about your bracket. Just pass the chicken wings.
I don’t know anything about fashion. They’re just clothes. I don’t need to spend money on things just because the stylish elite deem them worthy. You’re no more valuable than I am. I’ll be fine in my comfy, white socks, and I’m free to run for my life in my jeans. Enjoy your pocket square.
I ignore politics. It’s all made-up theater. If there was one right answer, we would have found it already. Liberals will never agree with conservatives. Conservatives will never agree with liberals. Keep arguing about your silly manmade problems. Keep feeling important as our infinitesimal speck of a planet hurtles through the universe at 67,000 miles per hour. Enjoy. We’ll be fine. Look: the sun is out. Go take a walk.
Why do I feel this way?
What do I have to gain from believing that my opinion is fact and others’ are fiction?
These opinions grow out of a fear of being wrong, and out of our identities’ attachment to our ideas.
Andrew Marvin is not the kind of person who cares about sports.
Andrew Marvin is not the kind of person who listens to the garbage on the radio.
Andrew Marvin is not the kind of person who sees value in drugs and alcohol.
Consciously or subconsciously, these statements create a feeling of superiority. I define myself by what I am not. “I do not do these things, and therefore I am better than those who do.”
Of course, there’s no logic in this way of thinking.
To dislike something is — not always, but often — to not understand it, as Wolk’s Springsteen experience demonstrates.
It’s not rap music’s fault that I don’t like it. That’s on me.
I don’t like rap music because I lack the knowledge required to understand its value. This is what it means to “get” something. A rap fan would be more than happy to talk about his favorite track for an hour and explain exactly how and why it’s great. He gets it. On the other hand, I would be just as happy to explain in excruciating detail why you need to listen to Hemispheres.
You can’t appreciate — let alone enjoy — something if your mind is already closed to it.
If you open your mind to receiving new knowledge, you might just change your opinion.
You might enjoy a sporting event.
You might learn something about fashion.
You might secretly love a song on the radio.
Still, I may never like rap music. I may not only lack the understanding, but also the capacity to understand. I may never get it. And that’s OK.
It’s OK so long as I let go of the notion that my opinion is right and others’ are wrong. It doesn’t matter. There is no “right” and “wrong” — only what works for you.
Ask yourself, “What do I gain from believing this person’s opinion is wrong?” If the answer is nothing more than self-affirmation, let go.
It’s OK to have an opinion. Just don’t let that opinion turn into an excuse for judging others unfairly.
As for Springsteen, I still don’t get it. But, reading Wolk’s article reminds me that there are millions of people who do, and those millions of people’s lives are a little bit better because of that music. I can relate to that. I get that.
I can keep my opinion to myself, and let others enjoy theirs in peace.
People do not like to be told what to think. We are only receptive to new ideas when we want new ideas. We can only be helped when we want to be helped.
Until then, be content with you, and be content with others, knowing that they are content with themselves.