Photos in the dark

«What to do in your free time?  Note that people who are contempt with life have something in common about their leisure activities: they do something they’re good at, and do it in front of people who can appreciate it. If you are an artist, you probably have a lot of friends on facebook who support you every time you post your art. If you like sports, then you participate in a team sport and enjoy your teamwork. Or you can join a competitive sport. If you ever join a marathon, you meet all these supporters you don’t even know along the way, and after the finish line. Even for a gym running track, you can bring a friend and boast about how many miles and inclination and speed you have on display. Same is true for less worthy activities, like getting drunk. You are much more likely to get drunk if everybody around you encourages you to, as compared to when they don’t care. So positive reinforcement that you get of your quality time should better be there. You’d better spend time with someone who respects you, than strive to earn that respect where there is none.»

The above little sketch attempts to explain why some people always look happy, and other always have a grin on their face. Those others probably found themselves in situation “That awkward moment when you’re asian, but you don’t have any special talent”. In other words, you’re not good at anything. You try to join clubs, do various sports, dances and go the bars, but the positive reinforcement is nowhere to be found. The bars have been broadely discussed on this american blog, I have to add that sometimes the people you’re with are not the people you want to get drunk with, and then the positive reinforcement is not there and you don’t come back to the same bar the next week. So very quickly you end up in a situation where the best thing you can do around that area is to sit in front of your computer. You probably heard people complaining “There is nothing to do in this town” etc., they are likely to be in this situation as well.

Have you noticed how all the dance classes and similar activities in US are very careful to never criticize you directly, instead they will say “try doing this instead” or “some of you (without pointing) have this mistake”? And of course, there’s a lot of encouragement going on every minute. Compared to that, the instructors back in Russia were way more strict and direct. But somehow, even with all the nice words being said, many people still don’t feel like continuing to learn a dance. So what’s left if you had given up on almost everything listed above?

What follows is my story, which is in many ways ridiculous. First, I found that cartoons/comics are safe in a sense that they give you a positive reinforcement, but don’t make you feel inadequate because you’re not good at anything. I think most of the adults who play computer games, read comic strips, webcomics and blogs with funny pictures are actually avoiding some more introspective activities, that would make them sad. I’ve recently found out about popularity of Calvin and Hobbes comics, you may note that they are mostly about returning to childhood – the “safe” topic for many of us. To explain what would be “unsafe”, I’ll just say most of the american top TV shows are, as the main characters are usually much better (more handsome/ more well spoken) than you, and you can’t help comparing yourself to them. For some reason, this doesn’t happen as much for inherently nonrealistic cartoon characters. Someone in the review said “everybody wants to be a kid like Calvin”, but there’s hardly any negativity in this feeling.

Then, with all the bad things said about US, it also has free food events, which are like the exaggeration of free sampler that you can encounter in the food shops around the world. Finding one such event, and being sufficiently hungry to devastate the table is a positive reinforcement of a stronger, primitive type. If one watched an anime Ben-to, there’s nothing to add really. As my friend said, “This show doesn’t have the right to be that good.”

If you think on a global scale, bringing people positive reinforcement is certainly not a goal of science and technology. It’s the goal of arts. So even if you are not an artist, there are artists in this world whose work will trigger your response, make you express yourself, and give you positive reinforcement in the end. You can go to a garage rock concert, if you feel like loud music that makes your ears blocked for a few minutes after you exit. Shouting and shaking your head inside, and then get a sticker of the band at the shop, or a signed copy of their album. This is kind of a positive reinforcement, isn’t it?

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You can go to a modern art performance, and get your feet soaked in paint, or interact with other crazy props they have. After the performance, if it was sufficiently provoking, you can ask question about something you didn’t understand to pretty much anyone around you. Well, actually some people are busy between themselves, but them aside.

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Other than that, just finding an event with a good music in the background, and taking your sweet time to listen to some of the songs, maybe dance if it’s a club music and you don’t mind dancing for yourself. This may be hard, but it’s also fulfilling regardless. You can talk to drunk people instead, they may randomly want to introduce you to somebody.

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