When All of Life is a Contest
Some people have always viewed life as a race for the ultimate prize - power, money, prestige, and fame - but I feel like my generation has brought competition to a whole new level. Christian Lander's Stuff White People Like brilliantly captures the insecurity and one-upsmanship that characterizes urban life in today's modern world. Some of them simply hit too close to home (the Graduate School post is genius, and I am definitely guilty of the New York Times syndrome). The thread that runs through his keen observations is the way in which people use simple pleasures in life to make themselves feel more important or special. I'm a big believer in the idea that my generation was praised too much while growing up, leading us on a never-ending quest for affirmation, rather than information - a search for positive reenforcement by taking every moment possible to point out how your experiences are some how less authentic or meaningful than their own. Here's an example:
I was sharing my excitement with a friend yesterday about scoring New Order tickets for their upcoming show in Oakland. His response, "Did you hear that Peter Hook isn't touring with them this time?" I had heard that the legendary bass player and co-founder was sitting this one out, but it wasn't particularly meaningful to me. "Too bad you couldn't have seen them when I did in 2001 with the original lineup." Really? Is that where we're at today? Three original members, minus one bass player, equals less of an authentic experience. I shouldn't even bother going at this point. He wins, I lose. Contest over.
The truth is that I'm more interested in dancing, having fun, and weeping like a little kid in the dark while listening to "True Faith" and "Regret." I'm over the contest that life has become. I want to actually enjoy myself, not worry about someone else thinking I did. Some how choosing to enjoy the less authentic experience, however, proves that you don't really get what life is about, which is proving to other people how much you know. Another example came the other day when I told someone how I went to Chipotle for lunch. They said, "Chipotle? Why would you eat there when there are so many authentic taquerias in Redwood City?" Maybe because I was in the area, it tasted good, and it was cheap? I didn't realize how important it was to justify every action in life by maximizing the amount of culture included. It's like when someone makes you feel guilty for watching TV or not going outside enough.
Wine and whisk(e)y are not immune from such competition. There's nothing worse than when a single malt or Bourbon puts batch numbers on their bottles because it sparks an instant desire to collect the "good" ones and discard the "bad" ones. What fun is booze if you can't hold that fact over the head of others? "Oh, you got batch 26? That's cool, I guess. I got batch 10 and 11, which are considered two of the best." It's not enough that you got the whisky. You still aren't on the same level as other enthusiasts unless you dig deeper. As much as I like to talk about booze, this isn't a conversation I'm willing to have anymore. I simply don't care. It makes me want to bury my head in the sand. I generally look at my job as a way to spread information about cool new booze. I want to help people discover something new and exciting, something they may not have tried before. Authenticity can make booze very interesting, as in Oaxacan mezcal distilled in traditional clay pots versus larger production methods. It doesn't make it inherently better, however.
To me, there are no winners and losers with alcohol. Booze is there to help make life more enjoyable, not present you with a new challenge to master, adding to the already giant chips on our shoulders. You got a great bottle? That's fantastic. Drink it. However, please don't tell how me it's different and, therefore, better than my bottle. You win. I concede. I'm not competing anymore.