Know what I’ve realized? I’m not actually very nice…
I don’t mean I am mean or anything, far from it, I hope. I just don’t think I am very nice. I find this whole interacting with people to be an astonishingly awkward activity. Chatting sends chills up my spine; a cocktail party makes me just want to hide in a very, very dark closet. It’s not that I am shy; I just don’t know if I like very much of anything, to be honest. Dear Sheldon Cooper has my profound sympathies. And do you know why? Because I am in fact nice, or at least hope I am.
Feeling a little confused???
Well, nice has two meanings, ones that in many ways seem to be in perpetual contradiction:
A lot of the time things just aren’t nice: no it will not be a nice day, that is not in any way a nice design, and it has not been nice to meet you, you racist bastard. (Not that you are a racist, but you get the idea.) Again, don’t get me wrong, I really do enjoy my life and feel lucky in so many ways; I’m just not very good at pretending things are nice.
But, I do work really hard to be precise, to be accurate, to carefully examine things and come to reasoned and thoughtful conclusions. I’m just not interesting in things being nice (definition #1); what drives me onward are the next interesting and challenging ideas, the process of figuring out more. To be blunt, I like really smart stuff, and often that stuff isn’t nice.
All this just leads me to feel like a bit of an outsider around here a lot of the time. I love being a part of a supportive community, but it seems to me that genuine support also involves a whole lot of honesty, the frank and open exchange of thoughts and approaches. Giving genuine critical feedback seems to be almost taboo, which feels to me disingenuous, even if it is nice (definition #1). That niceness, then, is only surface deep, almost a pretense of support without the genuine investment in the practice of the others in one’s community.
I know people have tried to set up feedback groups, but from what I understand that didn’t go very well, and to be honest this worries me. I think that Modern Quilting is on a bit of a precipice; it has grown from a few interested people into what may be called a movement, but what is that movement about? Is it purely a style? Is it just a way to rebrand quilting so that it isn’t “granny-like?” (Personally I know a lot of uber-awesome grannies…) Or is it more? Does it represent a conceptual shift in the practice? This need not be a turning away from the quilting tradition; rather it may offer a new set of questions to be worked through.
I don’t know what it is, and really don’t intend to posit a specific answer here and now–just wait for QuiltCon. At the moment, though, I just want to call for a bit more niceness (definition #2), a real dialogue about what Modern Quilting might mean. And, perhaps even more importantly, a real examination of what it means to be nice within the context of this community.
I know many take the notion of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” to heart, but I am not sure we are using the right definition of nice when we say that.