Learning to mind my own business | Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | Jul 09, 2014

It would not surprise me at all – and this is hyperbole; it would surprise me a lot – if an art lover and collector, one who could identify brush strokes and comment eloquently on chiaroscuro, had a secret place.

A locked drawer. Maybe even a locked door, behind which was a small room. A secret, special place that was only accessible to our art aficionado.

And in this place was a painting of dogs playing poker.

I did a quick search on the Internet just now for the phrase “dogs playing poker,” although I’m sure everyone knows what I mean. But I’ll tell you what: In the space of perhaps 8 seconds, I saw maybe two dozen different images on this theme, and I couldn’t even come close to producing such work.

Some of the detail is amazing. And more than a couple were actually funny.

Not that I have any business discussing art appreciation. I had a pretty basic education in the humanities, but if memory serves, that was a pretty early class. Sometimes I missed a lot of those.

So while I can stare at Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” for a long time, seeing different elements and imagining different lives, I can also look for a long time at the bulldog with a couple of aces sticking out of his socks, and also wonder.

What makes some dogs cheat at poker? Does he cheat at other games? Where did he get the socks?

Some friends of mine are currently traveling in Italy, and recently posed in front of Michelangelo’s “David” in Florence. It’s a fun picture, and not just because the angle of the photograph places their heads directly underneath the statue in such a way as to amuse your average 8 year old very much, and I have an inner 8 year old.

But I know the difference between that glorious work of art and a cheap figurine that sits on my fireplace mantle, and still I can appreciate the craftsmanship and care that went into the work (if that figurine included a couple of hidden aces, it would be awesome).

I’m not talking about having an educated eye, ear or palate as much as the variety of things that entertain, amuse and intrigue us, and whether or not some of that we keep private, in secret rooms.

Just kidding. Nothing is private anymore. Unless you’re someone who either doesn’t use a computer or only sticks to headlines, solitaire and the occasional email forward, you can’t help but notice that taste in everything is shared compulsively these days, usually without the slightest commentary that this might be a guilty pleasure, or something not for everyone.

And so we judge. At least I do. I don’t feel good about it, but I do.

When actor Paul Walker died in that car accident last fall, I saw many homages to his work from friends of mine. It was a tragedy, of course, a young man with a booming career, a life cut short on a highway, but I had no idea who he was or what he’d done.

I’d vaguely heard of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, although I couldn’t imagine that those films would be of interest to anyone outside of young men who like to watch fast cars do amazing things. That turned out not to be the case.

I got the keys to some secret rooms, then. But I get them all the time. I know what people like in music, in art, in movies. I know the dog people and the cat people. I know a couple of people who seem to have this weird fascination with giraffes.

And don’t get me started on the knitters. Those people are a little scary.

I know too much, I decided. I have too many keys, and access to too many rooms I really shouldn’t be in.

Recently, it was discovered that the smart people who bring Facebook to a billion and a half people around the world conducted an experiment in psychology. They tweaked some algorithms, apparently to find out if reading predominantly sad posts made people sad, and vice-versa.

This produced something of an uproar, although it felt benign to me, or at least expected.

Facebook is a company that expects to make money, and our eyes are what they’re selling. It’s the price we pay for not paying a price.

It’s just that recently I noticed some mild irritation creeping into my moods, and eventually I decided it was because my brain was getting filled up with too many lives. Too many cat pictures, too many grandchildren pictures, too many trips to Italy and London and Istanbul and other places I’m not going anytime soon.

Too much trivia, and way too many opinions.

So I’ve backed off. I don’t know if reading sad things makes me sad. Reading too many things is the problem. I’ve tweaked my own algorithms, then, and I feel better already.

Of course, I’m a professional public sharer; I’ve been doing it in this space for 13 years. This has crossed my mind a time or two, also.

Mostly, though, I’ve decided that some things I don’t need to know. What you had for dinner. What celebrity you think dances the best. Your opinion about the economy.

And maybe somewhere out there, people are knitting pictures of giraffes playing poker. I say go for it. I just don’t want to know.

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