An Aesthetic

“Do you have any hobbies?”

This was, and still is, my most feared question in any kind of formal interview or informal introduction. It usually leads on to questions about sports, music, or the arts in general. But I’ve never been interested in any of that stuff – and now I think I know why.

Supporting a sports team is about emotional engagement. Terry Pratchett captured the power of ‘the Shove’ (crowd of supporters) very effectively in his football-centered fantasy novel, Unseen Academicals. But when your ‘feeling centre’ is usually off-duty, it’s hard to get passionate about a particular team.

The visual arts are mainly about emotional communication. But I am not receptive to the emotional message of a piece of sculpture, a painting, or a ballet. If there is a language that can be learned, I can study that – and I can meditate on an icon with the help of a guidebook on the conventions of Christian iconography. But that’s a question of analysis by my ‘thinking centre’.

Music? I ‘get’ that minor chords feel sad and major chords feel happy. But beyond that, the emotional language of music is lost on me. Yes, I can recognise cinematic conventions so that the music can warn me that a dastardly act is about to be committed, but music shorn of words or images cannot communicate its emotional story to me. If there are words, they need to be intelligible. I do enjoy singing traditional hymns and modern worship songs, but those that have emotional weight for me do so because of a context in which I first heard them. I don’t often put on background music, but when I do, it will probably be Rich Mullins or the Maltfriscans.

Film and Theatre? If it’s the kind of movie where the climax has a hero risking life and limb to ‘do the right thing’, I will probably shed a tear or two at that moment. My feeling centre does wake up when my thinking centre alerts it to high-stakes righteousness. Similarly in novels… I remember reading The Hobbit during school break time and crying at the point where Thorin dies. A prefect came along and asked who had been bullying me… he wouldn’t believe I was crying for the emotions in a novel!

Poetry? I appreciate form over emotion, so give my poetry that rhymes and scans, and ideally has a funny message. Dr Seuss or Edward Lear? Yes please. Blank verse? Eurgh.

In short, I don’t support any football team, nor do I have a favourite pop musician or classical album. I do like reading novels and watching movies. I will pay to see the latest action-adventure in the cinema, especially if it’s the latest instalment from Marvel, but will probably wait for the Rom-Coms until I am having a quiet evening in front of the small screen. Am I boring?

Amazingly, it seems socially unacceptable to not respond to the world of sports or art at all. I could name an artist or team a million miles from your own tastes, and you would have a sense of who I am, but dare I suggest I’m not into any of that? I will be certain to be pigeon-holed as weird. Oops! Wrong planet!

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