Here Be Monsters has the mission to explore all things conveying fear, discomfort, or ambiguity. Perusing the website reveals an unassuming website with a simple description: it is an eclectic group of contributors, from listeners to artists to producers, who are “interested in pursuing their fears and facing the unknown.” I reviewed both 30-minute parts of “How I Learned to Love Rejection.”
I chose this episode because both the title of the episode and the title of the podcast caught my interest. It’s October – all things scary – and you don’t often hear “love rejection” in the same sentence. Ultimately, I was incredibly pleased with the selection.
This has been, by far, the most captivating episode with the most resonating message yet. The episode starts with Jeff Emtman’s low voice and heavy breath, describing an eerie walk towards a forest where, on his maps, looks like a decent place to camp. Creepy, yet intriguing.
The episode goes on to describe that our protagonist created the episode to describe and reflect on his cross-country hitchhiking experience. This podcast is, after all, dedicated towards discussing the unknowns, anything confusing or interesting, and fears.
Throughout the episode, therefore, Jeff slowly reveals his lifelong fear while including anecdotal stories of his trip. Initially, he claims that he tells a temporary travel companion that his mission for the trip was to discover the ‘true American.’ He quickly admits to the audience, however, that he was lying to his companion. He was trying to get over his fear. He briefly describes his fear of strangers, of rejection, and of complacency with a sub-par life. His theory is that consistent and public rejection was the only way to get around his fear of strangers. If you ask me, this realization by someone who is a self-proclaimed introvert is incredibly laudable and deserved a little bit more time discussing, but our host is too humble.
Since describing the stories in detail would undoubtedly take away from the experience of listening to the host describe it, I will explain the events from the trip without revealing too much detail, except for one important story introduced in the beginning that ultimately completes the entire episode. Someone offered a necklace that was supposed to protect him in times of trouble. He admits that he didn’t believe in magic, but, as an introvert and someone who wasn’t in the business of upsetting people, he went ahead and took the necklace. Seems completely insignificant when you first hear it, but I promise, it’s important.
For the rest of the trip, the stories are pretty wild. In the words of our protagonist, “I saw a preacher’s vision of hell, a hick’s view of the ‘end-times,’ a drunken man’s violent ideas on how to solve a problem, wild pigeons in a cave and a train rider’s vision for the future.” This is really only a snapshot of each respective story, the retelling of which includes interviews, songs, gunshots, and colorful language. When you’re listening to the stories, you’re unsure how they’re related. But when he gets to the conclusion, you realize that he has been setting you up for a terrific coming-together of ideas and themes.
Near the end of the episode, Jeff reveals that he realized he’d faced his fear when he conversed with a homeless hippie named Puke. This two month trip was nearly over, and he wasn’t quite ready for a return that was, in his words, anticlimactic. He reflected on how travelling alone actually was difficult post-trip because, while he had the notes, photos, sounds, memories, etc, he never had the conversations or the companionship. He claims that he “blundered in and out of lucidity.” He struggled upon his return.
The really interesting part of the episode, to me, was the very short ending. I wonder if the brevity of his conclusion wasn’t a strategic way of ensuring that the points reverberated in the listeners’ minds; or perhaps it just spoke to me, as someone who has traveled both alone and with company. He said that, on a personal level, he thinks that people will notice him stand a little taller, and that he will be a little more confident. He noted that through all of his seemingly-tame-but-ultimately-resounding experiences, he was able to see the “magical thinking that flows through the veins of America.” He said, “there was true value in the magic that I don’t believe in.”
He so aptly conveyed the message that, although he might not believe in a certain system or pattern or religious belief, he was able to see the merit. Perhaps this is a bit of my own personal belief system making its way into my review of this episode, but the message that I received was ‘to each his own (minus harming others).’ I love that.
Truly excellent episode. From the notion that it is imperative to do the thing that you fear most presented in the beginning of the episode, to the ending that is both precise enough to be clear and vague enough to allow personal interpretation, I honestly can’t say that I have yet enjoyed an episode on Podcast Perusal as much as this one. I hope if you listen to no other episode that I review that you choose “How I Learned to Love Rejection.”
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