Thursday, November 28, 2019

Preaching and Lecturing

Mommy feeds you strained peaches. But you don't want strained peaches! You flail your arms at the spoon and the jar, knocking them to the floor, while you scream as loudly as you can to let Mommy know how awful she is.

If it had been puréed meatballs, Mommy would be awesome. But while you seemed to love the peaches last night, that was then and now is now.

I've long been puzzled by the use of the terms "preach" and "lecture" outside their normal realms (i.e. "preach" outside of church and "lecture" outside a classroom). They're always used pejoratively. But what's the difference between eager urging and "preaching"? Or between thorough explanation and "lecturing"?

I think I've figured it out. Preaching and lecturing are when you don't want to hear it. Simple as that! As with Mommy and her peaches, it has nothing to do with intention, or even with the action itself. It's entirely about reception. Your reaction - your mere moody whim - retroactively determines what a writer or speaker is doing, defining their very intentions.

Only an aristocrat would be capable of this narcissistic judo flip. And, sure enough, we live in a society of aristocrats.

If you're uninterested in what a person is saying or writing, the reasonable move would be to recognize this as a preference on your end. It doesn't reflect on chocolate makers that I prefer vanilla. We oughtn't scream at Mommy because she failed to guess our silent craving. But in our narcissism, we assume anything incoming is specially directed at us. And if it's not what we like, we swipe at it. Hey, nobody likes to be lectured to/preached at!

Of course, we love to hear impassioned, thorough talk when we agree. But that's parsed differently, reflecting different motives on the speaker/writer. Mommy's awesome when it's meatballs. And the choir never feels preached to; it just enjoys the confirmation bias.

This also solves a second mystery: lately, one can no longer get away with suggesting that "most people" say/do/are any negative thing. It inevitably draws indignant replies from people firmly disproving your observation with the information that they sure don't/aren't. 

For example, I'm fond of repeating that "most singers become singers because they want to be singers, not because they want to sing. That’s why most singers are so awful." This drove one reader, who happens to be a singer, into a pique. Previously a longtime Slog superfan, she stopped reading entirely. In her mind, I'd insulted both her intentions and her talent. It's hard to recognize that the voices in the TV aren't speaking personally to you. But, either way, you're on neither side of the "most" divide. You're everything

1 comment:

Display Name said...

I'm so vain I probably think this post is about me. Happy Thanksgiving Jim! Have you ever tried Imprint beer smoojees? I got the pineapple upside down cake smoogiee. Omfg.

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