I will probably never be in a mosh pit. In fact it is kind of unlikely that I will ever experience live music outside of the classical genre. My life long sensory processing disorder makes the concert atmosphere sound both unappealing and inadvisable so I’m not even that upset about it. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t get curious about why others enjoy these kinds of wild, high energy situations. But I had yet to find someone who was able to explain the appeal in a way that made sense within the context of how I experience the world. Hank Green seems to be the one who had the magic recipe though because in a four minute YoutTube video he was able to explain why he liked mosh pits in a way that both celebrated the physical experience of being in one but also the context of these experiences. Whether or not he intended it as such, I think this video is an ideal example of how to speak about experiences that are inherently inaccessible in a way that fosters understanding and connection.
A quick note: This is of course written from my own personal experience of neurodiversity. There are people whose experiences and feelings around these same questions of accessibility will be very different and equally valid. I want to make it clear that I don’t think having the types of conversations that Hank Green’s video creates somehow releases society from its obligation to work to make events more accessible to more people. I just want to address how content like Hank’s can engage people with vastly different perspectives on an experience and find a place of understanding.
I think there is sometimes a tendency to downplay the enjoyment of events, situations or experiences that are inaccessible to some group – we end up feeling guilty about our enjoyment because there are barriers to others enjoying that same thing and often it is hard to imagine what it would be like to not experience that thing. I find this frustrating sometimes when I am on the receiving end of this downplaying (that isn’t to say I don’t sometimes end up doing it myself) because although I sometimes wish I could have those experiences I am often just genuinely trying to understand the appeal of that thing because to me it just seems…. Unpleasant. This is what I loved about Hank’s video, he at no point discounted his love of the chaos, the people, the occasional moments of danger, and as a viewer I was able to get a sense of his joy surrounding those moments.
The video moves beyond that basking in the physicality of the experience quite quickly but it is the strong basis upon which Hank builds the part of the video that makes the idea of the mosh pit suddenly make much more sense to me. He talks about how the rules of the mosh pit are a demonstration of how culture is made, how a person holds a leadership position in a moment, and how good community leaders guide groups without having to necessarily dictate rules. Even though he is still ostensibly talking about mosh pits it is through the lens of building community and connection. Regardless of why I, or anyone else, might be unable to experience the connection of a mosh pit the other things Hank talks about are desirable.
Its not that I watched this video and suddenly wish that I could experience a mosh pit or live music more generally – I still think the chaos and people and noise would be deeply unpleasant – but I can at the very least understand why Hank loves those experiences, why they have value to him. He doesn’t just love being bounced around with a bunch of people, he loves the community that builds itself around those experiences and that is something that I can connect with. By the time Hank is dancing around his office by himself (because this is Pizzamas, what do you expect) I feel like I have been able to share a little bit of the joy in an experience that I will probably never have, and don’t really want to have, but can still appreciate because someone took the time to speak about it in a way that both honored their own experience and actively worked to find a way to connect it to my experience.
I think that the internet has pushed communication on most subjects to move beyond just speaking to shared experience. Anytime you put anything on the internet there is a potential audience in the billions and no guarantee that the audience has the same lived experience of the person putting out the content. There is the possibility of going viral on your very first upload or for creators like Hank (and John!) on vlogbrothers there is a recurring audience of subscribers in the millions so creators need to recognize that they can’t take for granted everyone having a shared basis of experience.
The notion of care as a guiding principle for creative pursuits has appeared in a bunch of things I have read recently but I think that I have most felt that care when watching Hank Green talk about mosh pits. In order to connect the way Hank does when talking about mosh pits you have to care, not just about maximizing view time, but about how you can find common ground when your lived experience is vastly different from the people you are speaking to. When I watch this video about mosh pits I get the sense that Hank has cared enough to consider that just saying “the energy of mosh pits is great” will not mean anything to some people watching the video, that he has thought about the fact that someone who doesn’t find that appealing exists, which seems basic but is often lacking when people talk about the things that they love.
Intentional or not I think that the internet would benefit from this kind of content that looks for common ground rather than establishing a singular fixed access point and that act will bring the kind of care that has become a part of some more ivory tower discussions.
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Find Hank Green talking about mosh pits here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmJAChgF0q4
If you are interested in the notion of care as part of creative work Billy Rae Belcourt’s memoir History of My Brief Body touches on it several times with a good balance between academic and real world discussion.
Although it is not something that I have done a lot of research on I think that care is kind of an alternate conversation to the one about love that is a part of contemporary theory and philosophy – bell hooks has some wonderful writing on the subject.