Saturday, August 30, 2014

You don't like it? Are you sure?

For a long time, I thought I didn't like Neil Young.  Not Neil Young's music, mind you - Neil Young himself.

To find out how this happened, we have to make a mental trip to the early 1980s in southern Mississippi, back to my tweenage years.  It was a time and place where it was possible to not know things in a way that just isn't possible today.  There was no Wikipedia - no internet at all for that matter - and so it was possible to not know something and then to continue not to know it because the answers weren't available in the data accessible to you.  This aspect of the informational environment I grew up became relevant when my dad let me have an old stereo that he wasn't using anymore, along with a bunch of 8-track tapes that he didn't listen to anymore.  This was my introduction to Paul Simon, Black Sabbath, Jimmy Buffet, Steppenwolf, and a lot of other music from the late 60s and early 70s.

Which is how we get to Neil Young.  My music collection now included tapes from Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.  What I didn't have was context.  I didn't know who Neil Young was.  I didn't know about his history of being in Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills, nor about his friendship with Stills that predated Buffalo Springfield.  Instead, I had an information vacuum.  This was simply unacceptable.  So I created a story to fill that vacuum.  In my version of things, Crosby, Stills, and Nash had been a successful band, doing perfectly fine on their own, when Neil Young came out of nowhere and somehow (I was rather vague on this point) jumped on their coattails and became part of the band.  And I hated him for it.

My story was consistent with the (very limited) information I had, but it was obviously far from the truth.  Once I had the actual information, my opinion of Neil Young drastically changed - I'm currently reading his memoir, Waging Heavy Peace, and loving it.  But all too often it seems that people don't revise - they make their mental stories based on the facts they have available, then defend the story even in the face of contradictory facts.  Remember, folks, your mental stories about the world are just models, and in cases where the model is in conflict with reality, it's the model that's got to change.

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