Now, here's a little test. Does this photo make you curious about what's at the end of the path? To the point where you would happily go off to find out? And what if you've just been tramping for five hours and hated every minute of it. Would you still want to get to the end? If the answer is yes, then welcome to the club! I am also one of those people who always have to know how things turn out, regardless of whether the actual process of getting the answer is a terrible chore. A job started is a job finished. If your answer is no, then I need you to enlighten me. Maybe you need to save me from a terrible affliction!
Let's take the path scenario and apply it to something else. I really do envy those people who can stop reading a terrible book after just one or two chapters, or who can get up and walk out of a bad film after just 20 minutes. I have never been able to do this because of this obsession to get to the end of things. I wonder how many others share this strange desire for punishment. We are those poor souls who hang on in there until we see "The End", when everyone else has long gone and switched off the lights. Yes, we always persist, no matter how painful the experience.
I have friends who can toss aside a book that doesn't appeal to them after just a dozen pages. They don't care about the money they've spent. They have absolutely no qualms. They simply refuse to digest something they don't like. They can also get up and leave the cinema after just ten minutes, quickly making up their minds about whether a film is good or bad. They don't care about the cost. They don't care about the possibility that things might very well have been on the verge of improving. They say that if an author/producer doesn't engage the audience quickly enough, they don't deserve to get people's attention.
Maybe people like me stay engaged because we have this relentless hope that things really might get better, just around the corner, despite the false start. Maybe we believe that something can only really be judged in its entirety. Maybe it's about giving people a chance, believing that there is something good in everything, no matter how small that good is. I will often dislike a book during the early chapters but then find myself loving it by the end. Is it true that if we patiently endure cloudy spells we'll be rewarded with brilliant sunshine? Or is it really just a quirky need to finish things, the product of conditioning?
This reminds me of a story I covered for the radio when I lived in England. The organiser of classical concerts in a small city imposed a ban on a reviewer from the local paper. The crime? The reviewer had published a negative review of a concert, even though he'd only stayed for the first 10 minutes. The concert organiser argued that a proper critic stays and watches an entire show before reaching his or her conclusions. The reviewer and the paper's editor defended themselves, saying 10 minutes is often all that's needed to decide whether something is good or bad. Suffice to say that this story provoked great debate up and down the country.
So, now I'm going to go back to that bad read. I'm struggling. I'm not engaged. (No, it's not the book currently posted in my sidebar). I'll be relieved when I get to the end! But then, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.