The Beauty of the Middle

Some days I love the Internet.

Most days I think it is a vacuous wasteland of unutilized potential whose sole purpose is to suck me into an unending void of constant distraction, and distraction from that distraction that finds me sitting pantless for hours on end, while I watch past episodes of ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ with cookie crumbs stuck to my face.

But some days, I love the Internet.

Like last week. Something amazing happened. And what's even better, I almost didn't even notice.

You see I have this video blog called 90 Second Love. On it, I post 90 second videos where I give recommendations, suggestions, and picks for things that I really love right now. It’s over a year old now but it is a constantly evolving and (I hope) improving product.

I waited a while before I started my video blog, not because I was waffling, but because I was trying to create something of value. I didn't want to be just another talking head spouting vitriol. I wanted to create content that people actually could benefit from. Something both information and positive and hopefully entertaining.

On one of the episodes, number 18, which I filmed earlier this year; I spoke about my favorite writer, a gentleman by the name of Tom Chiarella (Key-a-rella). The title of the episode is “How To Become A Man.”

I named it as such because the articles I recommended by him all relate to manhood and masculinity, subjects he writes about with some regularity.

I’ve been a fan of his work for several years now, not just because he writes about topics I enjoy, but also for the uniqueness and ease of his writing; two things that, I think, don’t always walk hand in hand.

For a writing assignment for a class I took a couple of years ago the instructor asked us to write in the voice of our favorite writer. I attempted to write in Mr. Chiarella’s voice, but I couldn’t even figure out how to do it. For somebody whose writing was so seemingly different to me, I had a hell of a time picking out a single aspect to demonstrate said differentness.

Thinking about it, I realized I both aspire to his writing and relate to it. I enjoy not just the words the way he captures sentiment and meaning with words, but also the thought behind what he writes. I enjoy his way of thinking.

The thing that I really enjoy about his writing is his rationality, his honesty.

It’s not that hard to love the extremes. The people who make us laugh harder than anybody else. The subjects so polarizing we can’t help but choose a side. The things so beautiful or painful our emotions are unignorable. Those things are easy to recognize and feel.

I’m not as interested in those things as I am that which lies in the middle. But the middle rarely gets any credit. The middle gets ignored for the fringes. The middle is so much more textured, complicated, and nuanced. It’s a complicated landscape of subtle differences that signify larger meaning. It’s not as easy to make sense of, it’s not as easy to understand, and it’s definitely not as easy to explain.

Frankly, I think the middle is admirable.

Not the middle in which one cannot choose a side and spends their life waffling, never really committing. But the middle in the sense that one sees both sides and understands that A is right in some regards, and so is B, but neither is completely right and neither is completely wrong. That one can form an opinion without tearing down either.

To me that is rationality.

And it seems rare.

As my 12th grade social studies teacher taught me, "It's not always black or white man, sometimes it's the greeeey."

He wasn't a hippie but he was impersonating the one who had shared that knowledge with him.

So it was for all of the reasons that I collected a couple of my favorite articles and spoke about them in episode 18 of 90 Second Love.

While I check the subscribers to my channel regularly (it's kind of an addiction) I don't regularly check for comments on the videos, because, well, because there usually aren’t any.

So after being away in Italy for two weeks, I came home and was browsing through my channel when I saw one new comment. It was sandwiched in between "contact requests" and other spammy things, but the name of the author was unmistakable.

Tom Chiarella.

What I felt was about as close to a spontaneous mental orgasm that one could experience.

I clicked and read his comment.

Then I read it again.

And a third time.

How did he find the video? He must have had some sort of Google alert. Right? How else could he have seen this video that not even 100 other people on the Internet have seen?

I couldn't hardly believe it (but I did). The structure and prose of his comment was so simple and elegant. It was his. I was in such shock I couldn't even remember what it was that I had said in the video. I re-watched it.

And while it was only 20 or so weeks earlier, the video wasn't my best work. Frankly I thought it moved a little slow. But it was honest, and it was earnest. And it got my point across.

Amongst my excitement I found myself finding the whole things quite funny that this ended up happening on YouTube. A place where the most extreme voices (and faces) can be heard (and seen) much louder than anywhere else. It is a place where the extreme opinion wins out. The loudest voice reigns supreme. And excess means success.

Those are the very characteristics I have grown to detest as a content creator, curator, and consumer.

And while my video wasn’t bad, it certainly wasn't great. It simply dwelled thoroughly in the middle.

And that seems incredibly appropriate.