Pan-Tastic!

Dear reader, welcome! Welcome to the pulse of Millennial America.

I think I’ve figured out our schtick. What separates us from those who’ve come before. The wind in our sails, what’s gonna power us into the future. Maybe even inspire those kids who come after us (that’s right, we’re gonna inspire some folks, boys and girls).

Ladies and gentlemen, lads and lasses: we are a generation of Pans.

The Greek god. With the furry legs. The hooved feet. Dude who played his reed pipe in the mountains, got on well with the ladies, indulged in spirits (didn’t he though? I could be wrong. Pretty sure he did).

But why? you ask. Prey tell, why are we Pans?

Good question, young padawan.

Pan, you see, was a vision of solipsistic perfection.

That’s right. Creative. Narrowly, sure, but creative nonetheless. Obsessed by his own preoccupations. Uninterested in the opinions of others.

Take, for example (and this is really my only example, so you’re gonna have to bare with me): the musical contest between Apollo and Pan!

Yes! Classic.

This contest is critical. I will eagerly relay to you the deets as they’ve been relayed to me:

Pan, as well know, was essentially The Dude from the Big Lebowski.

He was relaxed. Busy doing his thing. Diddling around on his flute. Maybe chasing tail (literal or figurative, you never know with those centaurs). Essentially chillin’ and maxin’ outside of the school.

When a god named Apollo (who was up to no good) starting making trouble in his neighborhood.

You see, Apollo heard Pan boasting about how good he was at music (probably trying to impress a lady-goat thang). The woodland creatures loved to hear him play, so it’s not like he was wrong, you understand. Big fish in a little pond, perhaps, only I’m not sure knowledge of a greater pond (some would say “ocean”) would have deterred our hero Pan.

You see, Pan (like internet-savvy Millennials) would know how to create his own ponds, thereby negating the importance of pond size to begin with (size being of importance only to the 1999 American iteration of Godzilla). Thereby his pleasure wouldn’t be dependent on width of water: he would derive satisfaction all his own, from himself and those around him.

What?

That’s right: if Pan had lived during the internet age (and not passed away all too soon in a horrible auto accident, RIP Pan), he would have carved out a corner of the internet to call his own. A loyal throng of Facebook friends, perhaps. Rabid followers on Tumblr. He’d have a xanga. A blog. His fans would be able to download his new songs from Myspace, while he waxed poetic about the giggly pixie that recently dumped him. He could even be one of us Digital Americans.

The point is thus: I don’t think Pan was boasting because he had anything to prove. He was boasting ‘cuz he was feeling fine. That’s it. That’s the Dude’s main draw.

But this boasting made Apollo feel not so fine. Maybe threatened him a little, because Apollo’s sense of self-worth must have been all wrapped up in feeling superior (and he could only feel superior, apparently, if other people told him that, without a doubt, he was). So he challenged our horn-headed friend to a duel.

A musical duel. Battle of the bands.

So it was Pan with his seven-reed flute, and Apollo with like a full on orchestra, with reams and reams of Beethoven (and hopefully Frank Zappa) that he was gonna blast through.

Only they needed a referee, or the whole thing would be pointless.

So they picked Midas. That guy. Golden touch fame.

Midas, as you know, is the histrionic buffoon of Greek mythology. He’s hilarious! He’s like a cross between a potato chip and a mop, the guy is a hoot. You know if Midas pops up in a story it’s gonna be good.

Pan is punk net neutrality. The spark of creativity. Untamed. Audrey Hepburn from My Fair Lady, before she gets classed up.

So Midas shoots the pistol in the air, or whatever it is that gets the contestants to start playing. When Pan plays his set, it’s funky and dirty and shaggy and people are really getting into it. Moshing, maybe. Definitely sweating. Sloppy audience participation.

Then Apollo goes, and he moves everyone to tears with his surgical acuity. He plays the classics. Inoffensive, challenging. Not Pan’s dirty-jazz-funk pop (Pan being a mythological Ke$ha, at this point busy picking the glitter out of his fur), but unquestionably good.

And that’s the rub. See, Apollo is better. Technically? By whatever celestial objective body decides these things for all of us? The one we refer to when we say things like, “This song is fun, but I know it’s not actually any good!” or, “This film is classic, as opposed to this B-grade trash I can’t stop watching.” You know, that thing we do, when we tend to like stuff that we readily admit is garbage while secretly wondering how it can be garbage if it’s so enjoyable.

What I’m saying is this: people were really getting down to Pan, but when it came time to vote, everyone thought Apollo was technically better (much to his satisfaction). Pan was like a little lovable Ed Wood, but Apollo really killed it. Kudos, Apollo.

Only nobody gave old Midas the memo. He shrugged (or probably beemed, knowing him, that guy’s so hilarious), and was like, “Dug on Pan’s more, buddy. Sorry Apollo.”

Which just about drove Apollo up the wall. He was so riled up, he transformed Midas’ ears into donkey ears (true story), because he had the ears of — you guessed it — an ass.

Point is this: Pan wouldn’t have cared either way. Pan wasn’t in it for the acclaim. He was living in the moment. Enjoying himself. He had “YOLO” tattooed on his hooves.

For better or for worse, we live in this insanely special time when we can do that, too. We can create things. Instantly. Then, there they are. For better or worse. I mean, our generation is the lucky recipient of literally gallons of memes, so many memes we don’t know what to do with. So many kittens, so many little glitter balls of art that make our world a better place. We don’t have to ask permission. Like Pan, we can just pick up our flute and play (pick up our keyboard and post).

You interested in making movies?

Well, kiddo, grab your smart phone. Start a youtube account. Boom! You’re a movie maker. Maybe not a film maker. Not in the Apollonian, classically trained, I’m-making-the-next-Godfather sense of the word.

But, you know, think about Pan. And like Pan, you’re in your pond, amongst the people who’ve given your video a green thumbs-up. Relax in that. Creation, I believe, is one of the greatest things a person can do. Sure, a Vine video isn’t Casablanca…but God, some of those clips are awesome. Hilarious.

(I just have one question…what are those?)

Pan would have lived for Vine. He would have had thousands of obnoxious five second videos of some goofy flute riff, wide eyed groupies watching him affectionately in the background. He would have been so annoying, but hilariously so. Midas would have watched (and enjoyed) all of those videos.

Think of Apollo as establishment. Sure, Apollo is all about increasing his skill, and for the record, that’s obviously good. Dude’s dedicated. But he’s also all about others affirming his sense of worth. He’s all about setting arbitrary criteria and enforcing barriers of entry.

Pan is punk net neutrality. The spark of creativity. Untamed. Audrey Hepburn from My Fair Lady, before she gets classed up.

That raw, rabid, Dionysian impulse to create sometimes produces literal garbage. Thanks to the internet, and our Millennial propensity to over-share and sneeze at filters, we live daily with a stupefying ton of internet garbage.

I mean, it stinks in here, people! Internet land is sometimes a landfill.

But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Somewhere in that garbage, there’s a little internet Pan learning his craft. Honing his skills (which are really just his interests, you know, and the more he hones, the better he’ll get). He’s self-realizing, in a lazy, soft, Andy Dwyer sort of way.

Is this something to be proud of?

God, probably not. But Pan’s lesson isn’t about pride, anyway.

And besides: as good as competition is (and I’m assuming competition is the best way to objectively judge skill and value), competition oftentimes can’t shake his obnoxious twin brother, conformity. Which means that, thanks to the success of 50 Shades of Grey, every other book cover I see has, like, handcuffs laying out unassumingly. Or a ribbon. Twisting uncomfortably in the air. A cube of ice trailing a pair of lips. Or maybe, like, a ball gag (just kidding), and when I read the descriptions, I read all about how surprised Mary Beth Sue is by just how unwaveringly strict her new boss really is.

Oo la la!

That’s fine and good. I guess. Only I’m willing to bet whatever Pan’s writing about is more interesting, even if it isn’t as good.

“Good” being a standard only a fool like Midas would feign to judge in the first place.

And that dude literally has the ears of an ass.

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