As a teenager I used to think I would listen to my walkman for the rest of my life. It was so essential to me – the cassette tapes I had painstakingly curated, the stock of fresh AA-size batteries, the headphones I found in an airport in England. The ritual of plugging it all in and pushing play. It just didn’t get any better.
One day in my early 20s I found my dad’s LP collection and an old hifi setup. I heard classics like Otis Redding and Springsteen in such clarity and power. Besides the fidelity, there was the long beautiful process of choosing the record, cleaning it, playing one side through and flipping it over, reading the liner notes, poring over the album covers, adjusting the needle and the audio settings. A new ritual was born. My life changed.
Now in my 30s I have my iPhone and an Apple watch. New tech, new ritual. I can call up any song I want no matter where I am. The digital liner notes are getting better every day and the sheer convenience of Bluetooth and music on the go is changing my life again. Don’t even get me started on Spotify’s daily mix and discover weekly playlists. That revolution in curation is a topic for another post.
Older forms of technology can all still be used of course. And often they retain their original power even though the convenience factor is low. Vinyl has made a come back. Audiophiles also tout the benefits of CDs and cassettes. For me this means I now have an arsenal of ways to access the Music drug. The music is the constant, Platonic form while the tech revolves and morphs around it in a clumsy, circular dance.
Perhaps one day the headphones will be nothing more than chips in our brains. A neuralink device Elon Musk sells for a fee. What might a music listening ritual look like for this scenario?
I get comfort from the fact that the music never changes. Taste and quality may vary, but a song is a song no matter what. The catalogue keeps on growing, but the essential form and function of a song is set. It is information in the form of a sound wave being received by the brain. Only the tech for delivery varies.
I only looked at my phone once today before writing this.
It was refreshing. I also ate no sugar. I had more energy.
It’s strange, the things we’ll do on lockdown.
Happy Wednesday chimps.
Movies are given to us in (usually) 2 – 3 hour chunks. Designed to set aside a whole evening for your entertainment. Conversely, Entrepreneurs and influencers on Tiktok or on Instagram have mastered the quick fire clips and video messages.
Even though there are neuro-chemical tricks going on with Instagram, it is interesting to me that social media often feels like the only form of entertainment that fits into my life right now. To read a book I need to wake up at 5am when the house is quiet. The same with movies or albums. These things need concerted effort from me whereas the Instagram account goes with me wherever I go.
I know this is not revelatory in any way. Mobile phones are convenient…..so what? However when I look at these facts I realize two things. Firstly, I need to manage what’s appearing on my Social media feeds so that the messages I am receiving are of value and not just a trick to keep my brain’s attention. Secondly, I need to make time for books, albums and movies that I still want to have in my life while my kids are young and life is so busy.
That will go some way towards escaping the media jungle of life.
Nearly New Years! Happy Monday chimps.
Sometimes my brain will flick a switch and bail out. Just like a wrestler tapping out of a choke hold, when my stresses build up and become too much, the brain seems to automatically hide from responsibility. It searches memories for simpler times and childhood. Sadness creeps in. The search for distraction and pleasure creeps in. It bails out of life. This happens quickly and quietly.
Inevitably when this happens, and when I take the time to look at my life, I will see a pattern emerging. Usually this “bail out” mindset happens when I haven’t looked after myself in one of three ways. Either I haven’t done any exercise in a while, I haven’t done anything artistic in a while, or I’m not sleeping enough. Or some combination of the three.
So yesterday my brain bailed out. So I ran in the afternoon….yes….endorphins! Then i went to bed early. Today I’ll try find some time to doodle on the guitar or work on the podcast….Yeah, the podcast I reckon.
Do what you can. Which is more than you think.
Daily life can most often be distilled down to a single question: should I keep this alive?
Whether it is a pet fish, a job, a relationship, a website: burn the dead wood.
And possibly the goldfish??
Happy Tuesday chimps.
Playing games is important to me. In my life, Games come up all over the place.
If I find something difficult then it helps me to think of it as a game. This approach makes things less stressful and lowers my anxiety. Elon Musk says we might all just be living in a simulation. Sometimes it helps to think of life in that way. A few examples of play as it manifests in my life:
More and more I see life as one big bunch of games to play.
Some people are not good at playing. Doodling, Riffing, Games, Jokes, Humor are seen as a waste of time. I can’t understand this approach to life.
Happy Wednesday, chimps.
- Playing with the kids at whatever game they have going
- Treating menial parenting tasks as a game
- Comedy and conversation with friends
- Computer games
- Sport and exercise including data on health
- Social media accounts
- Music – listening and playing music is a beautiful game
- Blogging 😉
Is getting bored a good thing?
In the age of Facebook, Netflix, Spotify and Fortnite it’s easy to let the system take control. If you allow them, these streaming, entertaining, dopamine tripping platforms will keep you glued to your seats all day. They won’t let you get bored.
This thing is, getting bored serves a function. As far as I can tell, the whole purpose and spiritual breakthrough of Yoga is to cope with boredom and through this to reflect on life. No time for that in a video game.
Some other activities where boredom is there to be overcome:
Taking a walk with no phone in hand. Just walk.
Listening to an album from start to finish. Just listen
Running for 30 minutes straight. Just run.
When were you last bored?
Black Friday Blues are a very distinct set of emotions. These emotions hit my consciousness like a Mike Tyson punch to the head once a year. My name is Ross and I am addicted to technology.
If you could see my setup you would realise how deep my addiction has set in. I have wonderful headphones linked up to specialised hifi equipment attached to my Macbook. My TV room is full of gaming, streaming, hifi and AV devices. The pleasure it gives me to link up a piece of high fidelity tech has become a crutch. And now the internet throws half price deals at me – it’s like offering an alcoholic a tequila shot and a beer chaser – half price happy hour. Sheesh.
I still haven’t figured out how I am going to avoid/ignore/manage the deals that will barrage my inbox all day today and tomorrow.
Wish me luck.
As an experiment, try and find the habits in your daily life that are driven by pleasure – you know the ones i mean – those things you do when you’re a little bit bored which give you that nice little buzz and dopamine hit.
It is difficult. It forces you to reflect on your actions and life, and it eventually forces you to recognise that pleasurable things are not the most fulfilling things, precisely because they are temporary and external. In this way, pleasure is different to happiness.
Pleasure is a momentary feeling that comes from something external — a good meal, a message notification, making love and so on. Pleasurable experiences can give us momentary feelings of satisfaction, but this feeling does not last long because it is dependent upon external events and experiences. Try and locate the pleasurable (not happy, remember) activity in your life and try to stop doing it for a whole day – I’m almost certain you’ll find it hard to do.
But pleasure is not wrong in and of itself – so why stop? Because we need to know how we feel without the constant pleasure seeking. Are we doing all these things because we are sad without them? And if we are in fact sad about something, shouldn’t we find a more permanent solution?
The trouble comes when we ascribe the pleasurable activities in our lives more value and power than we should. A drug addict gives heroine priority over everything else – she sees it as the source of her happiness and of her power in life. Similarly a bulimic ascribes power to food and the control thereof. In actual fact, drugs and throwing up give us but a temporary pleasure – not a true satisfaction. They are not the answer to any sadness that is felt.
Once we see the things we are deriving pleasure from, a useful next step is to reflect on how we feel when we do not have access to these things – are we happy or sad without them? If we are happy without them, then there is no real problem. Carry on living.
If we are sad without them, and furthermore if we rely on the activity more than we should – then something needs to change for the sadness to lift.
If something that is abhorrent, abnormal or unacceptable to society becomes your norm, what do you do? Of course this is a hugely subjective question. So some examples for a thought experiment.
If you are hooked on video games and can’t stop yourself from playing 5, 6, 7 hours a day, what do you do?
If you are used to seeing graphic images online and find yourself watching pornography far more than you care to admit, what do you do?
If you can’t stop throwing up the food you eat, because you feel like it will make you fat even though it is in fact a balanced healthy diet, what do you do?
If you accept bribes as part of your daily routine at work, what do you do?
If you don’t recycle your rubbish and burn fossil fuels every day in your car, what do you do?
Abstinence may form part of the solution. Letting go of preconceptions and control seems to play a part in some of the cases. Almost certainly the solution involves soul searching, a whole lot of courage, and a multi-pronged attack which can be draining and requires full commitment.