I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films – these things matter. – Rob Gordon/Fleming , High Fidelity
Once upon a time, a young gent offered to teach me music. I was grateful for it, for I thought I would be learning some music theory, and perhaps, an instrument. Turns out, his offer to teach me music had nothing to do with the technical aspect of it, but that of taste. Especially, and this is where I still burn with anger as I recollect it, taste in heavy metal. Now, I have nothing against metal music. Or for it. I am not interested, and I cannot count the number of people I have disappointed, people with whom I would otherwise have decent-to-great conversations about music. I am not qualified enough to even rant about metal music in a public space, but it is something I have been averse to, and don’t see any signs of my aversion changing for now. But, in my experience, certain metal fans seem to carry the same sense of condescension that is more traditionally attributed to classical music lovers. What makes me feel uncomfortable in this circle of things-I-don’t-know-and-don’t-care-for is that I am okay with the patronizing ire of classical music lovers but not metal music lovers. Is that some sort of condescension on my part? Does all this really boil down to simply a matter of taste, and if so, why does my taste or lack of taste in something provoke reactions that have nothing to do with me as a person? Or are our tastes who we are as people?
Who you are is pretty easy to define. It differs from person to person and what they think of it. It also differs from what you think of yourself in a given moment. But, usually, they are a series of abstract nouns that are finite, and what we, in turn, think of them can also be somewhat deduced. Think of these abstractions about a person – loving, kind, loyal, funny, punctual, lazy etc, as the keys on a piano. Therefore, everyone is a piece of music. Mathematically, a finite number of musical ( or personality ) pieces are possible, but since that number is so vast, creativity still has a chance to survive, and musicians ( or individual people ) still thrive in all their mystery.. But, there is nothing finite or determinate about taste. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with saying that one matters over the other for how we feel about a person, but it is often their tastes that eclipse what they are as people. How many times have you heard that couples have broken up, friends have stopped being friends, even families have lost topics for dinner-table conversations because someone takes it personally if one doesn’t like something that the other does?
It is too reductive to accept or dismiss a person in terms of their taste. Taste is always something personal but, you often find people to share that taste with, with the unspoken agreement that your bond should not venture outside of it. Social media has made that very easy, so that if I like/love a band and want to share my thoughts/feelings about it, I am safe in doing so. And though this kind of grouping and sharing has always existed in some form or the other, it also reflects something else. While you family and close friends are all people who have learnt to live with who you are more than what you like, you do need to feel a connection with people who are more interested in what you like ( which they like too ) than what you are like. Of course, your tastes can get formed irrespective of whether people in your life introduce you to it. I bet you liked more things through random discoveries on platforms like YouTube than your friends’ suggestions.
It is very flattering when people in your life can recommend something you may like, and it turns out to be true. If not, you have a problem. You make it worse if you express your dislike for something that they passionately love, for then it quickly boils down to what you are, and not what you like. Maybe, the distinction between the two aren’t so clear after all.
But despite these Blurred Lines ( an oldie from 2013 that I dislike as a concept but can’t help liking as music ), what is true is that we are all immensely protective of what we like. We’re even lonely in it. And we can never find people who like all the things that we do, because tastes are ever-evolving and individual. And maybe, we should start appreciating that in others and try and be open to what they like, so that we might slowly find out what they are like.