我们将错过几乎所有的美好事物——这虽令人难过,却也正是其美妙之处(中英)

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The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything

原文作者: bLinda Holmes原文日期: 2011-04-19

大多数人都曾经经历过或者正在经历着希望读完所有好小说、看完所有好电影、听完所有好听的音乐这一心理历程。所有人终其一生都无法达成这一心愿。而在分母无穷大的基础上,盲目地追求分子的大小又有何意义?...............

世界上绝大多数的书籍、音乐、电影、电视和艺术,你将毕生都不会见识到。它们对你来说,只是一堆数字而已。

就拿书籍来说,假设你每周读两本,有的书比较厚,你得花一个星期,这对一般人来说是比较快的阅读速度了。这样下来,你每年大概可以读100本。假设你现在15岁,以这样的速度读到80岁,你可以读完6,500本书,这听起来非常可观。

继续帮你算算:进一步假设你只致力于阅读过去250年的作品,也就是不读任何1761年以前的作品,这已经覆盖了卷帙浩繁的作品。但是要让自己就此称得上博学,还得要你愿意认为过去几千年的作品都不值一读。

当然,等到你80岁的时候,又多出了65年的新书需要你去读,所以到那时,你得读完315年的书,平均下来,你可以从每年的书当中选出20本来读。(译者注:65年*100本/年=6500本,6500本/315年≈20本/年)你得从幻想小说和非幻想小说当中挑选每年的20本书,包括历史、哲学、散文、日记、科学、宗教、科幻、西部小说、政治理论等等。但愿你不会有太多出游的计划。

虽然你可以径直去阅读集锦,也可以在某些方面足够专业且有见识,但是你不得不忽视掉其他许多方面。(别忘了那些非英语写作的作品!别忘了学习其他所有语言!)

噢,上帝帮帮你的孩子吧,否则他将白白浪费掉你认为最关键的30年,除非他比你更会选择。(译者注:上帝要挑选自己的子民,上帝的子民要挑选书籍。要比上帝更会挑选是不可能的,所以注定是浪费三十年的时间。)1

我们可以用同样的方法来计算电影、音乐,或者更多,例如电视——你根本没机会见识大部分已经存在的作品。从统计学上来讲,到你死的时候,你还是错过了几乎所有东西。

罗吉·艾伯特最近写了一篇关于“博学”的美文,特意指出了一种“博学”的方法,那就是不用阅读已故很久的作家的作品。罗吉担心——好吧,不是担心,只是有一点悲伤——他发觉人们不再读亨利·詹姆斯了,不再读辛克莱尔·刘易斯了,人们对于艾伦·金斯堡的认识耶仅仅局限于他的《嚎叫》。

无疑,事物总会逐渐消逝。但面对越来越方便的渠道为我们提供的越来越多的选择,我仍然忍不住对此有些许怪责。有了Netflix, Aamazon, iTunes,我们无需去布满灰尘的旧书店里搜寻,也无需认识那个在唱盘行工作的家伙,就可以接触到许多你原本错过了的东西。我们只需要选择听就可以了。

过去往往只有有限个切实的选择摆在你面前,这些选择基于书店出售的、当地报纸报道的、你在收音机上听到的,或者学院英语系教授的。有一大堆被选择之物是在消费者的水准之上。(在这里,我并不是指简单的消费主义意义上的“消费者”,而是指某个如饥似渴的人,贪婪地阅读或观看他喜爱的书或电影。)

挑选是你为自己而做的选择。这是将值得你花时间和不值得你花时间的东西分开。例如,“我认为真人秀《与Kardashians同行》简直是浪费我的时间,所以我不会看。”又如,“我读了乔纳森·弗兰奇的最后一本书,睡着了6次,所以我不会再读这本书了。”

另一方面,放弃是指你意识到自己没有那么多时间去浏览完所有你认为值得花时间的东西,但这并不会使你怀疑自己的博学。放弃就是你对自己说:“我敢说我死之前应该读的那1000本书,每一本都非常优秀,但是我不够时间读完它们,它们将成为我未完成的一部分。”

你得承认,博学并不是你的终极目的。在这条路上,并没有一个要到达的目的地,因为一旦你为自己设定了某个目的地,你也许要花一千年的时间去思考怎样到达那里,等你到达了,你又得去赶上这一千年里落下的差距。

最近几年我发现,许多人在关于文化的谈话中表现出更愿意挑选而不是放弃。而且他们喜欢大刀阔斧地进行挑选。毕竟,只要你认为“所有的类型小说都是垃圾”,你就可以省下许多精力不去做精挑细选。一次性就排除掉了这么多,这大大减轻了你放弃的负担。

同样地,你也可以果断地排除掉外国电影、纪录片、古典音乐、幻想小说、肥皂剧、幽默片、西部电影或小说。我发现人们按范畴来进行挑选,大刀阔斧:电视不重要,流行小说不重要,卖座的大片不重要。别提饶舌,这不重要。别提名人,这不重要。顺便提一句,别跟我说什么东西很重要,因为那意味着我错过了某些很重要的东西,而这让我感到……非常不舒服。那是放弃。

我们努力让世界变得更小、更容易操纵,让我们不会为自己错失的东西而太过悲痛。有些人选择不看电视——事实上许多人不看电视,祝他们幸福——他们发现,相比承认自己选择做其他事因而错过了《广告狂人》(放弃),宣称自己不看电视是因为没有好的电视可看(挑选)更容易一些。

人们也从另一个方向进行挑选,他们认为美术馆既枯燥乏味又老套过时,其实是因为学习艺术需要花费大量的时间——并且承认你只是没有优先考虑它,意味着你也许错失了它。(提示:事实上你的确错失了。)

挑选很容易,它暗示着某种很强大的控制力。而放弃就显得有点令人伤感了。在那一刻,你意识到自己与许多东西分离了。在那一刻你明白到,你将错过大多数的音乐、舞蹈、艺术、书籍、电影,无论是已经存在的,还是尚未出现的。就在此时此刻,在世界上某个你看不到的地方,正在进行着某个你会喜欢的表演。

这令人伤感,但同时也很棒,真的。想象一下,如果你见识过或者熟知每一件美好的东西。想象一下,如果你真的接触过所有你“应该见识的”唱片、书籍和电影。想象一下,你已经读完了每个人书单上列着的书,而所有你不曾阅读过的都不值一读。这意味着,自从******以来,整个世界创造的文化价值是那么微不足道,以至于可以被一个人在其有生之年狼吞虎咽地全部吸收。

如果“博学”意味着“不错过任何东西”的话,那么没有人可以做到。如果“博学”意味着“以明智的努力去仔细探索”的话,是的,我们都可以做到。但是我们所见识过的永远只是大海中的一滴水,即使你专注于这一滴水而假装没有看见整片大海,也并不会改变这个事实。

原文如下:

The vast majority of the world's books, music, films, television and art, you will never see. It's just numbers.

Consider books alone. Let's say you read two a week, and sometimes you take on a long one that takes you a whole week. That's quite a brisk pace for the average person. That lets you finish, let's say, 100 books a year. If we assume you start now, and you're 15, and you are willing to continue at this pace until you're 80. That's 6,500 books, which really sounds like a lot.

Let's do you another favor: Let's further assume you limit yourself to books from the last, say, 250 years. Nothing before 1761. This cuts out giant, enormous swaths of literature, of course, but we'll assume you're willing to write off thousands of years of writing in an effort to be reasonably well-read.

Of course, by the time you're 80, there will be 65 more years of new books, so by then, you're dealing with 315 years of books, which allows you to read about 20 books from each year. You'll have to break down your 20 books each year between fiction and nonfiction – you have to cover history, philosophy, essays, diaries, science, religion, science fiction, westerns, political theory ... I hope you weren't planning to go out very much.

You can hit the highlights, and you can specialize enough to become knowledgeable in some things, but most of what's out there, you'll have to ignore. (Don't forget books not written in English! Don't forget to learn all the other languages!)

Oh, and heaven help your kid, who will either have to throw out maybe 30 years of what you deemed most critical or be even more selective than you had to be.

We could do the same calculus with film or music or, increasingly, television – you simply have no chance of seeing even most of what exists. Statistically speaking, you will die having missed almost everything.

Roger Ebert recently wrote a lovely piece about the idea of being "well-read," and specifically about the way writers aren't read as much once they've been dead a long time. He worries – well, not worries, but laments a little – that he senses people don't read Henry James anymore, that they don't read Sinclair Lewis, that their knowledge of Allen Ginsberg is limited to Howl.

It's undoubtedly true; there are things that fade. But I can't help blaming, in part, the fact that we also simply have access to more and more things to choose from more and more easily. Netflix, Amazon, iTunes – you wouldn't have to go and search dusty used bookstores or know the guy who works at a record store in order to hear most of that stuff you're missing. You'd only have to choose to hear it.

You used to have a limited number of reasonably practical choices presented to you, based on what bookstores carried, what your local newspaper reviewed, or what you heard on the radio, or what was taught in college by a particular English department. There was a huge amount of selection that took place above the consumer level. (And here, I don't mean "consumer" in the crass sense of consumerism, but in the sense of one who devours, as you do a book or a film you love.)

Now, everything gets dropped into our laps, and there are really only two responses if you want to feel like you're well-read, or well-versed in music, or whatever the case may be: culling and surrender.

 

Culling is the choosing you do for yourself. It's the sorting of what's worth your time and what's not worth your time. It's saying, "I deem Keeping Up With The Kardashians a poor use of my time, and therefore, I choose not to watch it." It's saying, "I read the last Jonathan Franzen book and fell asleep six times, so I'm not going to read this one."

Surrender, on the other hand, is the realization that you do not have time for everything that would be worth the time you invested in it if you had the time, and that this fact doesn't have to threaten your sense that you are well-read. Surrender is the moment when you say, "I bet every single one of those 1,000 books I'm supposed to read before I die is very, very good, but I cannot read them all, and they will have to go on the list of things I didn't get to."

It is the recognition that well-read is not a destination; there is nowhere to get to, and if you assume there is somewhere to get to, you'd have to live a thousand years to even think about getting there, and by the time you got there, there would be a thousand years to catch up on.

 

What I've observed in recent years is that many people, in cultural conversations, are far more interested in culling than in surrender. And they want to cull as aggressively as they can. After all, you can eliminate a lot of discernment you'd otherwise have to apply to your choices of books if you say, "All genre fiction is trash." You have just massively reduced your effective surrender load, because you've thrown out so much at once.

The same goes for throwing out foreign films, documentaries, classical music, fantasy novels, soap operas, humor, or westerns. I see people culling by category, broadly and aggressively: television is not important, popular fiction is not important, blockbuster movies are not important. Don't talk about rap; it's not important. Don't talk about anyone famous; it isn't important. And by the way, don't tell me it is important, because that would mean I'm ignoring something important, and that's ... uncomfortable. That's surrender.

It's an effort, I think, to make the world smaller and easier to manage, to make the awareness of what we're missing less painful. There are people who choose not to watch television – and plenty of people don't, and good for them – who find it easier to declare that they don't watch television because there is no good television (which is culling) than to say they choose to do other things, but acknowledge that they're missing out on Mad Men (which is surrender).

And people cull in the other direction, too, obviously, dismissing any and all art museums as dull and old-fashioned because actually learning about art is time-consuming — and admitting that you simply don't prioritize it means you might be missing out. (Hint: You are.)

Culling is easy; it implies a huge amount of control and mastery. Surrender, on the other hand, is a little sad. That's the moment you realize you're separated from so much. That's your moment of understanding that you'll miss most of the music and the dancing and the art and the books and the films that there have ever been and ever will be, and right now, there's something being performed somewhere in the world that you're not seeing that you would love.

It's sad, but it's also ... great, really. Imagine if you'd seen everything good, or if you knew about everything good. Imagine if you really got to all the recordings and books and movies you're "supposed to see." Imagine you got through everybody's list, until everything you hadn't read didn't really need reading. That would imply that all the cultural value the world has managed to produce since a glob of primordial ooze first picked up a violin is so tiny and insignificant that a single human being can gobble all of it in one lifetime. That would make us failures, I think.

If "well-read" means "not missing anything," then nobody has a chance. If "well-read" means "making a genuine effort to explore thoughtfully," then yes, we can all be well-read. But what we've seen is always going to be a very small cup dipped out of a very big ocean, and turning your back on the ocean to stare into the cup can't change that. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

 

 

 

 
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