Some nights I go to bed with headphones on. I’ll play some songs that I love, songs that take me places that only music can. I’m a musical guy, so music speaks to my soul the way art might for others. Some songs, the moment I hear them, take me to specific memories, or specific events, or a specific period of time. I know certain albums take me back to grade 12 finals studying. Other songs take me to the streets of Minya, Egypt.
Music, though, always links me to the past more than the present. These last two nights, the music has taken me places where my heart did not want to go. It took me to the same events all the way back in juniour high, when I got my first stereo player, that my siblings and I thought was called a ‘ghetto blaster’. I had no clue what a ghetto even was, but I had a ghetto blaster nonetheless. We probably heard of it on television.
Speaking of television, in those days, my parents cancelled cable on us. Before cancellation, if you wanted to know what was going to play on television, you had to check the newspaper (that used to come in print, by the way), or the ‘TV guide’. That special channel on TV that gave you the line-up? Yeah, that wasn’t in existence yet. You couldn’t look it up on the internet.
Speaking of internet, we didn’t have it yet. That came later. The first time I heard about e-mail (yeah, e-mail was a thing once, and it was not in existence before it was a thing), I remember struggling to envision how one could put a letter into an electronic device and it somehow transmit to others. How were you to write a letter in that way?
Speaking of letters, we used to write those. With our own hands. With pens or pencils. Pencils were used for things like mathematics so that you could erase things. You used a pen for anything meant to be permanent: non-practice lessons, assignments, and real letters. I used to write snail-mail (what letters came to be called) to people in other countries. Walks to the mailbox were always filled with excitement when you knew that someone might be sending you a personal letter.
Speaking of personal, we used to do that: be personal. People spoke to one another. Often. You had close friends that you did not tweet to or SMS (even that’s already dated). You physically went out with them, and if you were lucky, you got to call them. People did not phone about just anything when I was a kid; that came later. People spent quality time together. They walked, hula-hooped, roller-bladed (or roller-skated!), played Pogo Balls or Pogs, and sometimes they went camping together. People had loyalty to one another and were friendly.
Speaking of friendly, we used to yell a lot less back in those days. We didn’t yell at people for having opinions nearly as much as today. We even used to know the names of all our neighbours’ on the street. I remember a lot of them until now. Bill was right next door, he lacked a thumb, and I always stared at it. Elaine was a few doors down from him, her and Sandy sometimes babysat us. Preston and his siblings were at the end of the street, they were my first friends. I was brown, he was white…we didn’t really think about that ever. We were simple.
Speaking of simplicity: that’s what I miss. Every generation probably laments something lost. I’m not that old and I’m lamenting already. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I don’t see any good in society or the ‘new generation’. On the contrary, I see great things and have hope. But I do see that simplicity is lost. People don’t go to the library to learn a few facts anymore. Instead, they can google and find a billion things at once, and feel that they understood it. People are trying to figure out their genders, sexuality, political leanings at ages where all we did was play tag football or signals. Children are asked to digest issues like immigration and equality, at an age where we used fight over who would be player 1 or 2 while playing Super Mario Bros.
I hear songs that take me to my first job, at a pharmacy, vacuuming at the end of the day, and being so content to have that task so that I could hear my favourite songs on the local radio station: Q97.5. I hear songs that take me to a world that is already extinct. The music lulls me, and I sleep.
So what’s this blog about? Is it a lament? Perhaps, on a personal level, it is. But I think it’s not what I meant it to be when I picked up the figurative pen to write. Instead, I think this is a call for simplicity. For all the innovation and luxuries that have come since those days – many of which I have enjoyed – there was a death to simplicity. There was a death to the luxury of not needing to know everything, or even to feel responsible for knowing everything. There was a death to just hearing things, processing, admiring, and loving. The melodies went stale, because the people wanted something new, rather than what is real.
Wherever you are in life, stop, look, and listen. Take away the layers of meaning that you have been taught to apply, and look for the intrinsic beauty of everything. Everything true is beautiful, because everything true is of Truth. Everything in life is actually simple, but we tend to complicate. Be simple in your seeing, and your heart will be simple in its responses to things. One who is simple is not easily distraught, upset, or angered. One who is simple is often joyous, peaceful and merry. Seek simplicity, because our God is simple, and, as the psalmist says, He preserve the simple (116:6).
As for me, I’ll put on my headphones, and go back to the 90s where I came from.