Binge Watching for the Better

Or how a Cameron Frye type discovered complexity and craft by binge watching Top Gear

Oh Cameron, you just haven’t seen anything good today, have you?

Even through all of his negativity though, he remains oddly endearing, doesn’t he? I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s because we’ve all been him at some point in our lives. Hell, I’ve been him a lot. Right now, for example, I’m Cameron; lying in bed, alone, in grey sheets, with some type of congestive viral thing.

Now I don’t know about you, but for me, being alone with my thoughts is an awful lot like the spending time with the dog from UP. So when I’m Cameron, alone, laying in bed, making excuses — squirrel!

Ferris Bueller was like the 1980s version of Tom Sawyer. Squirrel! I love the aesthetics of those Remembrance Day poppy pins. Squirrel! Simon Cowell dresses exactly how I’d imagine a Brit trying to dress like an American in Scottsdale, Arizona would dress like. Squirrel!

And the next thing I know, I’m binge watching Top Gear, watching episode after episode of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May wax philosophical on the automotive industry. But after running out of episodes, I’ve come out of my car show coma and I’m left wondering what the hell happened. Am I devolving? Was the film Idiocracy an oddly accurate prediction of my future? Am I going to move onto harder auto drugs like watching Formula One, or NASCAR, or worse, (audible gasp!) join an off roading club?

Look, sometimes you need to go too far to realize where the line is. So now that I’ve successfully over analyzed my personal motives and unrightfully belittled the personal interests of various car enthusiasts I can move onto discovery.

I’m realizing that it’s about more than just cars — isn’t it? A few episodes into Top Gear and I was hit with a cluster of culture, history, science and humor. I haven’t simply been watching cars that I’ll never own, driving speeds I’ll never drive, in places I’ll never visit. I’ve been thoughtfully, and at times poetically, invited to understand the human condition to connect through the idea of ingenuity. With Clarkson, Hammond and May at the wheel, I’ve been driving through the world of complexity. And no matter your opinion of their personal outspokenness or lack of political correctness, they take an undeniably different view and speak passionately about their goals. Details along the way aren’t details to them; they’re what make up the goals themselves.

Herein lies the discovery. We tend to look at the details, or our experiences on the way to our goals, as an inconvenience. Whether it’s dining at Chez Quis or driving a badass car, we just want to achieve the goal. We’re Cameron, viewing our goal as our purpose, our defining moment, if you will, and we’re too scared to do the hard work to achieve it.

I feel absolutely ridiculous typing this out, but Top Gear is my Ferris Bueller. It’s made me see something good today: the complexity of the space between things as important and vital to personal wellbeing. The space between here and there is the cream filling — the fucking good stuff. It’s what adds depth and substance. It’s the backstory of your favorite character. It’s the list of ingredients that come together to make your mom’s mac n’ cheese. It’s the curvature of the leg of Helvetica’s capital R. It’s the opening credits to Twin Peaks. It’s Jeremy Clarkson rolling a Reliant Robin over and over again. It’s not the Reliant itself that’s meaningful; realistically who cares about a shitty, British, three wheeled car from the 70s? Rather it’s the complexity of the narrative details that creates purpose.

The complexity of the journey to our goals is what gives us purpose and definition, not the goals themselves. It’s not the delicious creamy sweetness of a Werther’s Original candy that lasts a lifetime, its the time spent at your grandfathers side that makes receiving a piece so damn special.

But complexity isn’t enough to convince a Cameron to involve themselves with enjoyment. What shows like Top Gear add to complexity to make them convincing, is craft. Craft is focusing your enjoyment on how you do something, with the spirit of exploring it for the sake of itself. Craft is intrinsic; it’s well being, it’s sincerity, it’s individualism. It’s optimal experience — something Cameron has never embraced until his day off with Ferris. Through the mingling of complexity and craft we witness not only purpose, but the enjoyment of purpose itself. When Cameron watches Ferris, when we watch these shows, we’re witnessing what craft feels like. We’re seeing glimpses of optimal experience.

Now, we don’t really know what Cameron’s ultimate fate was, but we do know that he got out of bed and became inspired; he evolved, for the better, before our eyes. Let’s be that Cameron. Not woefully hypochondriac Cameron, but the Cameron after he’s gotten out of bed, after he’s taken the day off and watched his friends. Be the Cameron that’s amazed, intrigued, and empowered. Let’s have the courage to seek out complexity and craft. Let’s evolve. Let’s binge watch for the better.

And on that bombshell, goodnight!

— The Unlikely Optimist

Thanks for reading! If this tickled your fancy, check out Notice Yourself and Don’t Should On Yourself.