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A solid 3.5

| Tuesday, April 22, 2014

WEB_Banner_Solid35Emily Hoffmann | The Observer

In life, there are a lot of things that are pretty good. Paintings in a museum that you like but won’t really remember, because they’re just pretty good. Meals that you gulp down, not stopping to remark “Mmm” or “Wow, that’s tasty” because their pretty-goodness simply doesn’t warrant it. People that you cheerfully greet at the dining hall but would never think to text because they’re just pretty-good friends.

As a critic, I naturally associate adjectives of quality — bad, average, good, amazing — with ratings out of five. The pretty-good is a solid 3.5/5: a rather respectable, yet wholly unremarkable, rating. For all my life, I’ve thought that of course, obviously, the 3.5s of life are not as good as the 4.5s or the 5s. It’s simple math after all.

It’s a lie.

The 3.5s in life are criminally underrated. They slip by, unnoticed as highlights and low points of life dominate our memories. Gorgeous vacations and nights dominated by relationship problems create a false backbone of life; pleasant weekend afternoons and nights out foster tight relationships and communities under our noses. They’re stress-free and familiar — a comforting staple in our often-hectic timelines. We need our 3.5 days just as much as our painful 1s and glorious 5s.

The importance of pretty-good days is pretty straightforward, even obvious. They form the carefree “good times” we find ourselves reminiscing about later in life. However, the concept of the 3.5s importance stretches into perhaps the most unlikely category of all: art.

It’s true that critics spend a lot of times traversing a sea of music in search for the next modern classic, trying to skip to a favorite song on the universal iPod. On a social level, trying to find the best song for a given situation or the perfect track to put on a mixtape is an exhilarating, high-stakes process. 

However, the idea of playing or finding quality music can make a situation needlessly stressful. Will everyone appreciate the artistic value of what you’re trying to display? Will your friends connect with the music as deeply as you do, or will they just chat away unaware of a message you’re trying to send? Or if you’re on your own, you can find yourself torn between trying to fully appreciate a loved record and simply sitting back and enjoying life.

That’s when the 3.5 nudges your arm. It’s no big shot, just a pretty-good record you’re in the mood to listen to. It floats inoffensively in the background, filling the air with friendly melodies and soft rhythms. It doesn’t interrupt or plead for attention or exert any sense of self-importance. It’s background music, but it’s your background music. It’s just a pretty good record, a 3.5 album for the vast amount of 3.5 moments in our lives.

As an artist and a critic, I spend a lot of time worrying if I’m truly taking advantage of opportunities and moments. Am I playing the best music, wearing the best clothes, having the best day? We spend so much time trying to achieve the absolute most that we miss the ordinary greatness of our merely above-average experiences. It’s healthy to sit back and relax – sometimes life is simply a 3.5. 

And that’s still pretty good.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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