What I Learned Without Music

Last month I set myself an unusual goal: I could only listen to music if I didn’t choose the song.

Here’s why:

I listen to music all too frequently. (Of course, with so much music available at the touch of a button these days, I’m guessing that most of us do.) It reached a point where I struggled to work without music, and I found myself constantly selecting songs to get the best mood or atmosphere that I needed.

Having the choice of any song I wanted became a burden rather than a blessing, so I did away with it until the end of the month. If someone else put on some music, I could listen, and I could also put on the radio. But I no longer had the choice of what the next song would be.

The odd thing was how tangible it felt to be without this choice. In the same way I might feel hungry and crave a warm melted-cheese sandwich, I craved the powerful, dramatic, and exciting melodies I was accustomed to experiencing every day. But the craving didn’t last. By the end of the month, I felt less dependent on music and more grounded in reality. I felt better without the option to choose my music than with it.

Don’t take this the wrong way. I don’t want to demonise music, as though it were a source of addiction that should be shunned. Music is a wonderful thing. I fully acknowledge its value and goodness.

However, the past month has reminded me that I can easily fall into a rut, where being surrounded by good things only compels me to find more and more things with no satisfaction in sight. The same can be said of many good things: food, fiction, fun events, and the list goes on. In the clamour for more good things to love, we forget to love what we already have. It’s an old lesson, but I forget it too easily.

It’s only been a few days returning to music and I’ve already found myself drifting towards my old rut.

I liked it better last month. Maybe I’ll do it again.


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