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Sunday, March 12, 2000

Music as Thought Avoidance

Some years ago, I used to drive between San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area every couple of weeks. It's about an eight hour drive, or at least it was in the Volkswagon bus I had at the time.

Well, one day I got in the bus, turned the key, and a solid blanket of thick black smoke rose on my left, like a window shade being pulled up between me and the driver's side door. I turned the key off, the smoke production ceased, and I stumbled out of the car coughing, gasping, and laughing all at the same time.

On inspection I discovered the power cable to my stereo had shorted somewhere, and had turned into a plastic-coated heating element. Uh oh -- no more stereo until I get around to fixing that.

Being an avid procrastinator, I didn't really worry about it until it was time to drive all the way back to San Diego, and then I didn't have the time to worry about it. So I embarked upon a silent eight hour viewing of grey asphalt with four hundred miles of ETETET written on it in Morse code.

And the time went much more quickly than it had in the past, which was certainly not what I expected.

I've paid much more attention to the role of music ever since, once I realized that the activity I chose instead of music was thinking, which, for me at least, is vastly more entertaining.

Now with this Sudbury thing, I also take special notice of the role of boredom. Because boredom is the emotion that kicks us in the butt and makes us put out effort to make something happen rather than "just getting by".

And with the two together, I watch in quiet horror again and again as people caress the dials of their musical paraphernalia to save themselves the effort of thinking, to give them that feeling of thought which alleviates the boredom created by the empty space their own laziness has created around them.

For me now, music is more often an annoyance than a pleasure, because I've reallocated that part of my brain to other, more interesting things, and when there is music playing I really do feel that part of my brain that I am accustomed to using is missing. And I like my brain. I miss it when it's not all there. That's why I'm not a morning person, after all.

Think about it.

Look for it.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com