John Green once said
“nerds like us are allowed to be un-ironically enthusiastic about stuff. Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like, jump-up-and-down-in-your-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff’. Which is not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”
I recently had an experience, one of those odd moments in time that seem insignificant, but always come back to you later. I can say that truthfully because while I say “recently” this experience really wasn’t that recent at all.
I was walking out of a movie theater crowded with people after watching the most recent film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby”. Those who know me well will now commence rolling their eyes, because they’ve heard this story many times before. As my friend Kat and I were walking out the doors, we overheard a conversation between two young men. One said he had enjoyed the movie, and the other said “I guess it was entertaining, but it’s not really worth anything. I mean, ‘The Great Gatsby’ doesn’t really have any literary merit.”
Kat tried to calm me down.
I honestly cannot remember what happened next. I remember the diatribe, but I cannot remember if I actually said it out loud (more like screamed it), or if I just silently soliloquized my response.
I just couldn’t believe the arrogant attitude that this young man had towards F. Scott Fitzgerald, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized he had been raised to react that way. Which is ironically the point of “The Great Gatsby”.
If you’re not familiar with the book, a very short summary (written by myself and entirely un-researched) goes like this: A young man (Nick Carraway) meets Jay Gatsby who is very mysterious and throws extravagant parties catering to the rather hedonistic youth of the time. They become friends and Nick learns that Gatsby is in love with Nick’s cousin Daisy. Gatsby tells of making himself into the man he is in pursuit of Daisy. He earned his fortune, bought a house near her, threw parties hoping she would come etc.
I’ll stop here so I don’t give away the ending. There is so much more to this story, so please read it!
I will say this – in the end, you realize that what makes Jay Gatsby so unique is not his money, or his past, or even his love for Daisy. What makes him unique is his optimism and wonder at the world. There is no disillusionment with Gatsby, he always believes there is more to come, a better future.
He’s naïve, and many scorn him for that, but it is what makes him so valuable a person.
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… and one fine morning— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”.
The young man in the theater didn’t know better than to scorn Fitzgerald for writing such a character. Our culture is much like the one Gatsby lived in. One where being “street smart” is more valuable than being open minded, and where wonder and awe are ridiculed.
I think it’s time that we start respecting purity, and cherishing the unspoiled spirit, rather than tearing it down to exist “realistically”. It’s our world, and our reality, who says we can’t change it?