Life is full of guilty pleasures, things you assume nobody else loves but you (carrots and taramasalata, Storage Wars, UFC). Less attention is paid to our guiltily displeasures – the things everyone else seems to love except you (acai bowls, Jimmy Kimmel, films that assiduously avoid suspense or entertainment, and fetishise ugliness). So we are all prisoners of our own biases then?
When the Facebook news saga broke back in March, it reminded me that humans are biased by design, with the revelation that some of the social media site’s journalistic decisions are made by people, not algorithms. Often we like the idea of something while disliking its reality. I love snow globes but I’m not into snowstorms. Monkeys, for instance, don’t give a banana about aesthetics. They don’t respond to visual harmony or even like one kind of music more than another – actually they prefer silence. However, they are aroused by color.
None of this is meant to sound contrarian. On the contrary. If I try and enjoy golf and don’t succeed, it’s entirely my failing. A lack of ardor for things has come to be seen as some sort of character defect but I think that’s bullshit. For the sub-atomic physicist – says Brewer’s Dictionary of Twentieth Century Phrase and Fable – displeasure is a flavor of quark. (FYI: quark rhymes with pork.) If in doubt where to go with ‘the story’, simply hold a shot static. And If you get stuck for a laugh or a word, just embrace the silence like Gus Van Sant’s Last Days, in which Michael Pitt mumbles into some woods, builds a fire and goes swimming, or A Silence Between Two Thoughts, an Iranian execution drama – just as much fun as it sounds. Given the choice I’ll accept JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) over FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) every time.