Lester Bangs, again:
If love truly is going out of fashion forever, which I do not believe, then along with our nurtured indifference to each other will be an even more contemptuous indifference to each other's objects of reverence.
He wrote those words on the eve of Elvis's death in the summer of '77, lamenting not only the passing of an entertainer but the whole concept of a shared piece of cultural pie. "We will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis," he said, and while Elvis was just his easy example, he could have been talking about a great many other things. He probably was.
"We will continue to fragment in this manner," he wrote on, "because solipsism holds all the cards at present." Solipsism is not the same as believing nothing, although it's sometimes tricked up to sound like that. It's when you believe you have all the answers you need — and that everyone else can either go hang or probably thinks the same way you do, too.
It's not that we've all suddenly turned into this. It's that we've always been like this, to some degree, and it's just taken the last few decades to make us acutely aware of how high the walls really are, by being shown how we can find out so much about everything and yet know so little about ourselves. Shared taste isn't enough; there have to be shared values of substance. They don't have to be dogmas, but we often grope for those as a fast substitute to just skating over a void.
I had my own run-in with such a thing when one of my best childhood friends, someone with whom I shared tastes in everything from David Cronenberg's body horror to the new Skinny Puppy record. Then I found out I didn't want to trust the guy with my lunch money, let alone my hopes 'n dreams, and I felt not only betrayed but terribly alone. This guy was an alien in human skin, and shared taste had added up to exactly nothing to protect me from that.
There are other things we use to bind ourselves together, of course — a common background, a shared outlook on parts of life that don't reduce themselves to a formula. Among them I find the one that makes me happiest is when I find others about which I seem to have almost nothing in common but whose questing spirit, inquisitiveness about life and ceaseless thirst for understanding are completely familiar.