Not eclectic for eclectic's sake

by phil on Sunday May 16, 2010 11:00 PM
personal patterns

I often struggle to define my tastes. This often comes up when I try to answer the question, "What is my passion?" I've quickly seen that I'm very much a generalist, but when I say, "Okay, I'm a generalist," it doesn't ring true, and in fact, it makes my stomach cringe. While I'm a generalist and a dilettante, I don't have anything against mastery.

Sometimes I think I'm eclectic, that I have a taste for novelty or variety, but perpetual novelty or variety for its own sake gives me a headache. Some things I want to be an expert in, some things I only want an intermediate mastery, and some things I want nothing to do with.

Let's take my music tastes. My tastes are neither esoteric nor mainstream. I'm into quality, but not strictly so. The label "eclectic" is tempting, but I don't seek variety for variety's sake. Plus, entire categories are totally absent from my listening, like rap. And yet, I try to maintain an acquaintance with nearly all kinds of music.

Or take my attitude toward technology. I can't be defined as technology-obsessed; I don't need to have every latest toy or gadget. I actually often flirt with Luddite philosophy, and I often believe that technology is feeding our demise. But then again, I'm not a wishy-washy ambivalent who thinks half of technologies are harming us, and half are helping us. Nor do I have some weak attitude like, "It's not the technology that's harmful, it's how you use it."

Same with politics. I'm not a moderate. I often trend liberal, but sometimes you'll see a rash of issues where I'm right-wing conservative.

I want to say, then, that I eschew labels, but I don't do this for the sake of being independent or different. I often like going with the tide to keep up-to-date.

Perhaps the right label is "patchwork." I have patchwork tastes, interests, and opinions. And I mean patchwork in the smallest and largest sense of the word, with nested patches. Sometimes I will have a patch of eclecticism right next to a patch of monoculture.

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