“If somebody knows quite a lot about the theater and plays and literature, it takes you quite a while to find out whether they’re really stupid or not.” (J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, 1945).
Have you read The Catcher in the Rye written by J.D. Salinger ? If you had, I am glad you did. And if you haven’t, I’ll be glad to recommend it to you. Some find the narrator of the book, Holden Caulfield, depressing and annoying, others love the book to death. I am the latter. The Catcher in The Rye is the one book that I’ve read over and over again. I read different kind of books but everytime I have to list my most favorite, my number one, I will say The Catcher in the Rye. Each time I read it, I feel different about the book. Sometimes I love Holden, sometimes I am annoyed by his irritation towards the world but almost all the time I can correlate with his irritation towards phoniness of society.
Holden used the word phony a lot. By a lot, I literally mean a hell lot out of it. What does phony means though ? Well according to a dictionary phony means fraudulent, fake, impostor, not genuine. Being a phony means being a fraud, being not genuine, whether to yourself or to others. What does it have to do with mediocrity then ?
There are 4.299 billion people in Asia, 610 million people in South East Asia, 246.9 million people in Indonesia, and 9.608 million people in Jakarta. Now I would be lying if it does not depressed me once in a while. The fact that there are 4.298 billion individual out there trying to be the most unique and different from the rest of others in fear of being a mediocre.
I forgot if I ever write about being afraid to be a mediocre but however, honestly, one of the biggest fear I have (the one that I am aware of) is to be a mediocre. To become common and bland and to go on living a meaningless, idling, dull urban life filled with phony (yes, phony) conversations about the most up to date gossips of someone who doesn’t even care about our opinion or the latest trends that we have to follow in order to fit in the society. It is only natural for me then to repress my fear by trying to be as unique as I can in order to distinguish myself from others. But then I look around, I notice that I might not be the only one struggling with being unique. Everyone wants to be different. Or at least, everyone wants to stand out which then makes it to -> not being mediocre = being mediocre.
I am one of those lucky people who get a decent education. I went through all twelve years of school and then being admitted at a great college. Being surrounded by an educated person for almost all my life of course I want to be look upon as an intellectual as well. For me, that is my way of not being a mediocre. I create a character or a persona of myself by reading books, watching movies, listen to music. I am different to others, I thought, at least I only similar to those who have a clustered interest like myself, I thought. I am not a mediocre, not a phony, I thought.
But am I? And then here comes another one of my biggest fear, being a fraud. Yes, a fraud whether to myself or to society. David Foster Wallace once said that “Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.” I am worshipping my intellect, it is what I have to stand out in billion of unique people in the world.
A lot of time I ponder and think whether I read the book that I am reading because of I genuinely think it’s a good book or just to differentiate myself from others. I am creating a persona that I am an intellect and that is why I read this book. I ponder again and again, I am thinking whether I watch these movies just because I am genuinely interested or do I just want to show off to the world that I am watching these kind of movies and therefore I am unique and way cooler than the rest of you with a mediocre and common taste of movies?
A lot of time now I am thinking whether I am just a fraud, a phony that Holden loathes. A phony that I myself loathe. At first I get irritated a lot of time by the fact that a hundreds and hundreds of people out there trying so much to be different and telling people how they read that books, watch that movies, how they have a certain interest that no one else have. I watched all those people and it annoyed the hell out of me. I almost feel like shouting what Holden shouted to his Pencey schoolmates “SLEEP TIGHT, YA MORONS!”. I look at this people in disgust and disbelief, I feel like they are trying to label themselves with something that might looks cool, intellectual, or whatever it is that is not mediocre. But is it genuine? is it who you are? Is it who we are?
And then I thought to myself
“Aren’t I one of them.”
“I am a mediocre and a phony.”