Perspective

weirdos - Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

Yesterday, I got a link from Grant Brisbee on Twitter. I guess it was originally uncovered at xkcd but Brisbee's the one who brought it to my attention. This is the link. It's a link to the Wikipedia Talk page for Star Trek into Darkness. Before yesterday I didn't know what a Wikipedia Talk page was, and I didn't know that such things existed, but they do exist, and this particular one very much so. It took me a few minutes to understand what was going on, and then my brain poured out the holes in my head.

Thousands of words. Thousands upon thousands of words. Tens of thousands of words. Tens of thousands of words about whether or not the "i" in "into" ought to be capitalized. They never even really got to a conclusion. From near the top of the page:

The previous contributors to this discussion have reached a compromise for the time being, and several wish to leave the conversation be for now.

One's instinctive response is, unfailingly, "holy shit." As in, holy shit, how could people possibly...holy shit, just. It would be enough if there were an argument. But there's not just an argument -- there's a massive, passionate argument, about a single letter's capitalization (or lack thereof) in a movie title. If one side got its way, there would be no difference. If the other side got its way, there would be no difference. There's no meaningful difference to be gained. All of this is quite something and quite nothing, and one might shake one's head, sorrowful over what's perceived to be considerable amounts of wasted energy and time.

I couldn't believe any of this, but then something occurred to me. They are us. Or, we are them. There's no difference between us. They are, presumably, fans of Star Trek, and they had a debate about something that has to do with Star Trek. Or maybe they're grammarians. Either way, they debated something vaguely pertinent to their interests. Clearly, they cared about the matter, or else the debate wouldn't have gone on as it did. It looks ridiculous from the outside, hence the page's being featured within xkcd, but arguments often look ridiculous from the outside. The people involved figure other people won't or don't understand.

We're fans of a baseball team. We've spent time this offseason thinking about the trade of Trayvon Robinson for Robert Andino. We've analyzed Michael Morse vs. Casper Wells, and we argue over whether or not Justin Smoak should begin the year in triple-A, since he still has that option. This is something we're involved in, so it's something we care about, but how might that involvement look to someone else? Especially someone else who isn't a sports fan. I'm given to believe that such people do exist, although they're easy to forget about.

It's absurd to think about an argument over a capital letter, since it's just a god damned letter, but this is something some people care about that ultimately doesn't matter. Ultimately, sports don't really matter, at least any more than Star Trek matters, and Robert Andino most definitely doesn't matter. Not to the way people live their lives, not in the long run. It's all a pastime, and while there's a sense of community that comes from talking about sports, I imagine there's also a sense of community that comes from talking about whether or not a letter in a title ought to be capitalized. Those people were interacting over a common interest. We're all more like them than unlike them.

If they're odd, we're odd. If we're normal, they're normal. For the sake of another comparison, what's the difference between debating a capital letter and debating a team logo or uniform? The "i" won't change anything about the entertainment value of the movie. A logo won't meaningfully change anything about the entertainment value of a sports team. How is Uni-Watch a thing? People like to share and debate. Their chosen interests determine the things they will share and debate about.

There's another, related lesson here. I remember I met somebody who was really into birding. The first thing I thought was "what a weird interest that is." Later that night I went home and read about volcanoes for a couple hours. There's no such thing as a weird interest. All interests are weird, so no interests are weird. Other people's interests are just different from yours, a lot of the time. Don't judge people by what they're interested in. You might not have a whole lot in common, but an interest is an interest and better to have passion about something than passion about nothing. You know what's really interesting? Other people's unfamiliar interests. Don't judge. Do whatever the opposite of judging is. You'll be better off.

And don't take sports too seriously. I forgot that part when I published. Don't do it. Just enjoy yourself however you can.

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