Interest is asking questions. Care is attachment to a specific answer.
So when Chuck Klosterman confesses, “I don’t think being interested in something and giving a fuck about about it are remotely connected,” he also describes the ideal state for a journalist: inquisitive and unbiased.
In fact, it’s enlightening to locate our personal and professional lives along these two dimensions: interest and care. Consider these the four quadrants of curiosity:
1. Not interested, don’t care: We are ignorant of these topics. Everything we are easily convinced about falls here. For most, this includes plate tectonics, foreign tax law, the sex lives of the elderly, and plot of the Entourage movie. Common professions of people that don’t ask questions and don’t care about answers: hitmen, political lobbyists.
2. Not interested, but care: Here we hold strong opinions, but don’t have the time or courage or curiosity to question what we believe. Usually includes city planning, contemporary fashion trends, superior pizza locations, how cell phones work, our cholesterol level, books that we buy and don’t read. Common professions of people that care without interest: people more successful in school than out of school, terrible journalists, unsuccessful investors, bad spouses, unethical academics, bloggers.
3. Interested, don’t care: These topics elicit neutral questioning. We ask, and we keep asking, because we’re not partial toward any particular answer. Includes the worlds of astronomy, non-applied (pure) mathematics, neurotic cat behavior, and combat. Here we meet ethical scientists, empiricists, platoon leaders, photojournalists, taxi drivers, strippers, successful investors, and people more successful out of school than in school.
4. Interested, and care: Ugh. These are the topics that inspire passion within us. Exhausting, ideological passion. We research obsessively. Each answer inflames or revolts us. We know every scrap of trivia, and when we run out of questions we invent hypotheticals. We know we’re right; we must be. After all (we say smugly), we ask the most questions. These are our zealots, nerds, bodybuilders, annoying students, fiction authors, and people who want to create new schools.
Every idea, every event, every subject, every app, every meme, every possible conversation, every person we meet, every history and every future fall somewhere along these two dimensions for you.
And should you be dissatisfied with any of these, consider moving to a new quadrant.