The magic of music

Image via Alice Moore

Music is powerful because of its ability to galvanize emotions.

As Oliver Sachs demonstrated, music is therapy; familiar sounds trigger memory and can help people feel like their former selves.

Music can also suspend doubt and fear. Your workout playlist can push you the extra mile. Ambient noise can boost your concentration and thus productivity levels. In short, music can free your mind so you can do anything from dancing with fear to get stuff done.

There’s something instinctive about music that tugs directly at the heart. It needs little if no processing. Even a plant doesn’t need a mind to dance toward the sun.

“Language is used every day, and easily becomes shopworn, and it takes a poet to recall it to its freshness, its ability to embody eudaimonistic insights in a meaningful way. Music is not as shopworn, and thus may cut straight to the heart.”

Martha Nussbaum

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The annihilation of space by time

To be experienced. (Image via Kelsey Johnsen)

Tempus fugit. Time flies. But that’s because we allow technology to accelerate it.

When we speed through life as we scroll through our Instagram feeds, seeing everything as “pictures on a wall,” we don’t remember much. We get caught in looking at the rapidity of impressions rather than engaging in real wonders. We see the world like a rolling film and any pause causes a fight with intolerable boredom.

The rush to speed through life and accomplish all our goals in quick succession is the fastest way to reach “the annihilation of space by time.” But if we walk and slow down, we can catch the everyday moments in between. Slowness is what stimulates.

Technology flattens time and our expectations along with it. We expect everything to be instantly digestible, a downloadable shortcut. The time we spend digging deeper — experiencing– is what puts the bones in the goose. Acknowledging that “it will never be finished,” opens up space and time to dream.

Read A Model Railway Journey

Finding Your Purpose

Is it better to be told what to do and ride around the racetrack of life or remain goalless, floating with the tide?

“We do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES…we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal.”

To pick a goal is to assume that there’s an end. But we are always developing. Our perspective today is different than it was a decade ago, and so forth. Experience and knowledge change us.

Instead of searching for goals, Thompson implores, “look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life.”

All believing is betting. But God rewards the courageous. Almost always the assured outcome is the unique path we take ourselves. 

“No one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.”

Read Hunter S. Thompson Letter on Finding Your Purpose

You can’t schedule joy

Remember why you started. (Image by
Remember why you started. (Image by Alice Achterhof)
“We make lists because we don’t want to die,” said Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco.

The problem with lists though is that we tend to include things we enjoy doing like writing, reading, meditating, along with other habits we should do, like exercise or our grocery shopping. When we fail to cross an item off the list, we feel like a failure. Said author and meditation expert Susan Piver on the obsession of getting stuff done:

I knew I had to give up trying to be disciplined in any conventional sense. It doesn’t work. And since the definition of suffering is trying the same thing over and over expecting a different result, I had to put myself out of my misery.

So she looked at her daily habits a different way. Instead of scheduling her to-dos, she instead did them out of sheer pleasure. She remembered why she pursued spiritual practice and writing in the first place and rediscovered a lighter, organic creative flow.

Once I remembered that my motivation is routed in genuine curiosity and that my tasks are in complete alignment with who I am and want to be, my office suddenly seemed like a playground rather than a labor camp.

If we want to be successful in any field, we have to do the work. Everything is practice. The problem lies in our interpretation of discipline and motivation. If the task becomes routine, the activity we once loved loses its purpose. But if we follow Susan Piver’s advice and convert tasks back into joyful exercises, we may be able to plan less and play with the process more.

I suggest that instead of being disciplined about hating on yourself to get things done, try being disciplined about remaining close to what brings you joy.