strings attached

I’m going to try something a little different today.  If you are reading right now from an iPhone or other device that does not have sound (or good sound), wait until you are somewhere that does have suitable sound.  If you do not wish to wait, please click here instead, to read about the virtues of waiting.

Today is about experiencing something new.

Make sure you have at least 10 minutes of quiet and uninterrupted time to devote to this experience.  If you do not have 10 minutes of quiet and uninterrupted time, please click here for inspiration on incorporating some stillness into your life.  You need it.

Be sure your speakers work and are turned up.  Then make yourself comfortable.  Maybe you’d like to move to another chair in the next few moments when the listening part begins.  If you do not have a comfortable chair … I’m afraid none of my posts can solve your problem.  The hard desk chair will have to do.

I thought about encouraging you to “clear your mind.”  Instead, I’d like to encourage you, to the extent you know how, to open your mind instead of clearing it.  That is, rather than pushing thoughts out, let them in — whatever thoughts present themselves, good or bad.

Now, without thinking too much about it, quickly click this [link] — and then just close your eyes.  And listen.

If you are still reading but did not listen, stop and ask yourself why.

Are you not open to new experiences, or those outside your tastes?

If not, you might find better uses of your time than I fear the rest of this post will offer you.

Do you just want to get to the point?

How’s that working in your love life?

Do you feel that you are “intellectual enough” to understand without the listening exercise?

You may well be able to understand it intellectually.  But,  as with romance, you will have missed the point entirely.

Assuming you did take a few minutes for the focused listening, what did you feel?  Try to find a word for the feeling (or feelings) you had while listening to this piece.

Now consider your thoughts while listening.  Were your thoughts about the music itself?  The beauty of it?  The rise and fall of it?

Where your thoughts in some way indirectly related to the music, such as thinking about the immense talent and passion one must have to be able to play such a piece?  Remembrances of your own musical ventures, past and present?  A musical dream you once had hoped to achieve?

Were they about something outside of, but yet connected to, the music?  A loved one that you’ve lost?  The beauty of a certain setting in nature?  A movie scene?  How you wish you made time for more moments like this?

Or were your thoughts scattered or opposing?  Your plans or to-do list for tomorrow?  That you didn’t care for this type of music?

The truth is, regardless of your thoughts, you succeeded.  Congratulations.

You succeeded, because you were willing to have a new experience.  To try something different.  To let it affect you, whether it was much like you, or very different.

Last night, on my way out of the parking lot at my home, I saw a guy walking the other direction on the sidewalk.  I couldn’t see his face on account of the book he was holding up as he walked.  I smiled, thinking about someone who was such a passionate reader, that they would walk and read at the same time on a beautiful summer evening.  Then a thought came to me.

Eric.

I introduced my new friend Eric in my previous post entitled “sketchy.”  And I remembered our parting words about our shared love of reading.  I turned the car around and parked.

The young man continued his reading, sitting on the steps outside a nearby building — but not the building where Eric had told me he lived.  Still, I took the risk and continued up the walkway.  I really didn’t have a clear recollection of what Eric looked like from the night I met him, because it had been dark and he’d worn a hat.  So I smiled and asked, “Are you Eric?”  The recognition was instant on his part as he looked up from his book.  “Erik!” he beamed.

I crouched down and we talked about books.  He was reading Game of Thrones, a fantasy book of recent televised fame.  This led into a furious rundown of our favorite books and series within the genre.  Then we moved on to other genres (he had told me he was well-read, and he did not disappoint).  Along the line, we talked about books we had not liked, and discovered that we both held a similar rule — that once a book is started, it must be finished, whether we particularly like it or not.

“That seems like a waste of time,” some readers may contest.  Allow me to respectfully disagree.

In finishing books that I have not loved — or even liked — I have increased my understanding of what makes a good book good.  I’ve also been able to talk intelligently with others about this book or author, opening more avenues for connecting with those real people all around me.  I’ve learned more about myself, in that finishing books helps me to understand more fully what I like — and what I don’t like, which is a very useful life skill.  In working with teens, I can have honest dialog about sticking with difficult or uninteresting subjects in school, again allowing me to relate to more people.  Reading poor writers has even done quite a bit for my own skill as a writer, by way of assessing what doesn’t work, as well as what does.

At the very least, I’ve thought new thoughts I wouldn’t have otherwise had.  And that has value.

For this reason, I also have the same rule with albums.  If I start listening to an album, I finish it.  If it is one song, I finish it in that sitting.  Even if I really hate a song, I hear it out, seeing it as an opportunity to understand yet another kind of person out there.  And I try to find the good.  The commitment that the performers have made thus far in their career.  Some line of the song that was well crafted.  At the very least, I appreciate the idea that someone is full of dreams and hopes for their future.

That’s what an experience is.  And for this reason, we should welcome — even seek out — as many different kinds of experiences as possible.

OK, now some of you had it easy with the cello piece.  No fair.  Indulge me with less than two minutes more of your time for another experience.

As before, we’re going to listen.  This will be a very different experience from the last.  But, as before, just let your thoughts go where they go.  Try your best to be present throughout this short piece, not merely “getting through it.”

Make sure your speakers are on and up.  Then, when you are ready, click this [link] — and just listen.

In light of thoughts shared in recent posts, consider the “me mentality” vs the “others as real people” mentality.  Apply it to the types of experiences you allow yourself to have.  If you only engage in experiences that you naturally like and appreciate — well, first, you are missing most of life.  But beyond that, you are continuing to feed the idea that your way is the best way.  Or even the only way.  In opening yourself to experiences that are less similar to you or less within your comfort zone, you gain an expanded view of other people, namely those who might enjoy the experience at hand.

Imagine asking your teen son, or your mom, about his or her favorite artists or albums.  Then imagine asking to borrow those albums and listening to them (whether you like the music or not), with the express goal of better understanding your son, mom, etc.  Go one step further by stating your goal to your son or mom: “I’d really like to know more about who you are and what you enjoy.  Could I borrow a couple of those albums?”  Do see how connecting this would be even in the asking, let alone the discussion that might follow.  The important thing won’t be if you have the same tastes, but that you took the time to understand this person better, by experiencing something important to them.

The artist you last listened to above (yes, he’s a musical artist as was Bach, despite their disparity in genre) writes music used as soundscapes for video games and action movies.  And for most of you, you’ve just allowed yourself to have a new experience with his music.  So, again I say, congratulations!  But what I want you to do next is to mentally tell yourself one or two good things about this music or artist.  Go ahead.  Articulate them to yourself as clearly as you can.

What did you gain from this experience (resist the urge to let yourself give the easy answer of “a headache”)?  Might you have gained a bit of a better understanding of someone you know who likes action video games?  Did you get the urge to see an action movie, realizing you haven’t in a while?  If so, who could you take with you to such a movie who might enjoy it?

Remember, at the very least, you thought new thoughts.  And doing so on a regular basis has value beyond what you you may even realize in this moment.

Think of new experiences as colors.  Who wants the little pack of two or three crayons that they pass out at restaurants!  Why settle for the standard box of eight?  Don’t you want the super jumbo pack with the sharpener?  The wonderful thing is that there are far more experiences waiting for you in real life than any box of crayons could account for.  Think oils and pastels, chalks and charcoals, pencils and — and berries.  Who knows.

Let the crayons have the box.  It’s time to break out of your own with some new experiences.

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About Erik

Erik is an author, speaker, blogger, facilitator, people lover, creative force, conversationalist, problem solver, chance-taker, noticer and lover of life. He lives in the Boston area. "It's more about writing lives than writing pages." View all posts by Erik

2 responses to “strings attached

  • Rod

    Albums? Albums? How OLD are you?!?!?!?

    Old school country and western would be fine, just don’t make me listen to Garth Brooks or other new country. A couple of years ago, started listening to surf rock from time to time because ‘The Ventures’ was suggested by a co-worker. Then late last year found ‘Big Iz’ and started listening to other Hawaiian artists (yes, even Don Ho). Very little that I don’t cycle through.

    Like

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