Gather round, kids of all ages and genders. I’m going to tell you a secret.
The world does not come with a five-star rating system.
Several times lately I have seen people impose the five stars into systems that did not helpfully provide one. As if this is universal. As if this is the natural and right way to interact with the universe. No. No.
Yesterday it rained while I was out running errands, sheets of rain rolling into the river valley off the prairies. It was warm rain for Minnesota in November, though not in absolute terms, when what we deserve was snow, but we’ll take it. We’ll take it. My jeans were plastered to my thighs in less than a minute, my hair soaked through. I almost had to pull over, driving home, because there was so much rain that I couldn’t see two cars in front of me. I crept along through the wet white world.
It was not a five-star rain. It was a glorious rain, a drenching rain, a pounding rain.
Last weekend we heard the Minnesota Orchestra play short Sibelius pieces. The humoresques danced and romped. The Oceanides drew us in with woodwinds. For awhile I did not think of my loved ones who had been hospitalized that day. I thought of the music, of the woods of Finland and the sea and the music. At the end we clapped, and we went home, and there was no button to click for stars. How many stars? Five? Why not more? Seven, nine? Ten stars? Seventeen?
I know, I know–the things that do have the five-star rating system attached are trying to get feedback. Many times they’re trying to get past automated gatekeepers, and that can be a worthy goal. But the things that don’t have that don’t need you to impose it.
Sometimes things are so amazing as to leave you wordless. I know. I spend a lot of time there despite all my chattering. But “five stars” does not convey that. Any time you create a shorthand to try to convey that, it stops working the minute it’s established. For most of the things that matter, you have to get out there and say: this moved me. Or, I have mixed feelings about this. Or, I was not so sure and then the tarragon flavor really hit me and I was a convert. Or you have to be willing to let people see the stars in your eyes.