Paradise is overrated

Excuse me, waiter, there is a fly in my utopia — an argument for consuming the bad with the good.

Nature consistently reminds us that diversity is the key to survival. Incest produces undesirable results, the introduction of an invasive species can cause the decline of an entire ecosystem, and if you maintain a diet of strictly cheese, you could very well implode. Scientists have known this for centuries, but what is celebrated in stuffy lab rooms doesnâÄôt always carry over to our stuck-up society. Instead, we trip blindly through our bland realities. We start wars with the Other, we make presumptions about the sanctimony of marriage and we coin capitalism as the Final Solution. I worry about my friends in the suburbs and if theyâÄôre truly offended when I never visit them. ItâÄôs not that I donâÄôt try; itâÄôs just that their directions are representative of nearly every town in the Greater Midwest: âÄúTake a left at McDonaldâÄôs, then a quick right after the Super Target. IâÄôm the second, blue condo on your left. You can tell itâÄôs mine because I wrote my name in chalk on the driveway âÄî just for you. If you pass the Blockbuster, youâÄôve gone too far.âÄù The few times I tried, I ended up in North Dakota and if there is anything more terrifying than uniformity, itâÄôs the absence of existence as a whole. As college students, we hang out with people who are like us, our diets waver between pizza and beer, and we let Facebook, iTunes, Amazon.com and other applications dominate our decision-making. âÄúIf you like this artist, then youâÄôll like âĦ âÄù etc., until [if youâÄôre like my roommate] your entire music collection consists of groveling girl-and-her-guitar break-up ballads. The assumption is being made that by 20-something, weâÄôre now fully-formed adults: We know what we want and we donâÄôt want to waste our time. Bah. Well, I for one prefer the sloth-like sorting process. Experiencing something truly awful is just as valuable as something you know youâÄôll enjoy. For example, I went to a punk show at an abandoned warehouse once with some of my friends. The first band played one of those screaming seizure sets that instantly became a near-death experience for everyone in the room, or so I thought. My friend shouted over the din, âÄúThis is like, licking urine,âÄù and I nodded in agreement. âÄúI know! I could gouge my ears out right now!âÄù I said. He looked at me strangely, and then laughed. âÄúNo, no. The name of the band is Licking Urine. I think theyâÄôre great!âÄù Helpless, I agreed to stay with him. Six PBRs later, I vomited. Worst night ever, but I wouldnâÄôt take it back. This brings me to the deeper question: Do we really want utopia? IâÄôm pretty sure the idea of being a fully-formed adult is a myth, likely instilled by our parents. I donâÄôt think that we ever really know with total conviction where we are going and what we desire and those of us that appear that way are either incredibly skilled at covering up our uncertainties or obviously on some kind of narcotic. In a world defined by hyper-detailed Facebook preferences and Amazon mind-readers, we always get what we want and if we always get what we want, nothing bad ever happens to us. Yet if nothing bad ever happens to us, where do we derive meaning for our lives? Most of us determine our contentment in life by the personal obstacles that we have had to overcome and we discover the depths of our self-worth through our interdependence with others. Without these aspects, life is inert. There is no cycle, no circle, only lines: the kind of lines your teacher used to draw on the chalkboard for you to practice your cursive on, the disgusting sweat lines your boyfriend gets down his back after an intense game of racquetball and then tries to hug you, and even the insufferable lines of Six Flags. Lines. Tell me, when have they ever been good to you? Irish intellectual C.G. Linden believes that life is a spectrum and the goal is to bend and expand. If you are only ever exposed to experiences that you like, your spectrum will remain very small. Yet if you encounter good luck as well as considerable misfortune, your spectrum will be greater and more powerful. On my darker days, I disagree. Unpleasant experiences do not expand your spectrum, they simply shift it down. If youâÄôve been through hell, a warm bed is a life complete. YouâÄôre able to settle for less. Conversely, if youâÄôve only ever known a life of extravagance, itâÄôs unlikely youâÄôll be able to accept coffee without cream (but if IâÄôm your waitress, youâÄôll be accepting it with spit). Regardless, sticking with what you know breeds ignorance. If your opinions are never challenged, only reinforced, you never give yourself an opportunity for introspection. YouâÄôre a one-man propaganda machine; Joseph Goebbels would be proud. What IâÄôm proposing here is an epidemic of xenophilia: the love of the unfamiliar. Globalization might have brought us the entire world at our fingertips, but technology has more or less told us what we can and cannot touch. Filtering our preferences is marketed as an innovative service, but I worry itâÄôs making us into monkeys. The best thing about picking up a newspaper is still the fact that I know there are going to be articles that I donâÄôt want to read. TheyâÄôre there because newspapers know they have to appeal to a broad audience; they donâÄôt have the capacity to print to customized newspapers. Eventually, I will have progressed far enough in the newspaper without having finished my breakfast that I will go back and read these undesirables and my perspective will be better because of it. Life is not linear, so your likes and dislikes shouldnâÄôt be either. Turn off your preferences. Embrace chaos. As nature shows, everythingâÄôs going to be just fine. Ashley Dresser welcomes comments at [email protected]