In a startling shift of habit that was long overdue, I have stopped listening to music altogether. That’s right, you heard me. Stop before you waste a stamp sending me tickets to that GWAR reunion. I don’t care if Prince and Stevie Wonder are sitting on an overturned washtub in front of Starbucks singing the Jackson Five’s greatest hits and handing out purple jellybeans. I’ve listened until the meaning has been drained of every song I ever loved and now I’m not getting up off this couch.
I’ve spent the last three or four years in a state of low-level irritation trying to squeeze a song that matters out of my iPod, somehow always while I was driving. First of all, piloting several thousand pounds of machinery down the road while wearing reading glasses is against the law for a reason. People aren’t normally allowed to navigate our nation’s highways by feeling for oncoming traffic and stray pedestrians. Nor are we bats with fingers and car keys. No, we need to be watching the road, scanning ahead for brake lights and obstacles, not fiddling with our entire record collection while we slowly face the heartbreaking demise of both our hearing and our relevance.
Secondly . . . I don’t remember what my second point was. Which just proves my first point: KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD. Hands at ten and two. Face, shoulders, abdomen, legs, and feet relaxed.
Treasure the transition betwixt hither and yon in focused yet meditative silence.
No. I mean, yes, I could do that some of the time, drive in silence, but the impulse–and maybe it’s more than an impulse, maybe it’s a true need to fill the void between home and work with some reminder that the highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive, and that everybody’s out on the run tonight but there’s no place left to hide. But why not use every ten- and twenty-minute commute between nowhere and back to do more than live with the sadness, Wendy? Why not.
So I took it upon myself to use my drive-time for self improvement, which is how I discovered that the library is full of audio books about people murdering one another and pretending they didn’t. However, if you look hard enough there’s a little path to enlightenment winding right past the NPR Driveway Moments CDs.
NOW I remember what my second point was: the font size on my phone is so tiny! When did that happen, that I can’t read 7-pt. type with my bare naked eyes anymore? So that’s to explain why I was wearing reading glasses while I was driving. Trying to find Marvin Gaye on my phonepod.
The first improving CD I checked out from the library was called The End of Your World written/read by a man named Adyashanti. This man seems very nice. He speaks in a really friendly, accessible way about things that are laughably over my head. I almost believe him, that I could achieve full awakened enlightenment in this lifetime. It’s not that he’s so terribly charismatic and now my bedsheets are in the washer being dyed saffron with RIT, it’s that he’s like the best soft-sell salesman in the world. He’s the guy who says, “I don’t care if you buy this car. It’s a great car, and it will never need to be fixed or run out of gas, and the keys are sitting right there on the dash because you don’t even have to pay for it.” And at first you think, No! This is too good to be true! And then he says, “If you want this car, all you have to do is see things as they really are,” and you think, Wait, enlightenment is a rainbow-hued sedan with a permanently open sun roof and spinning rims? And then he chuckles at you (you are kind of funny) and offers you a kale smoothie.
After Adyashanti’s advanced course in managing the post-awakened ego, I felt like I needed to backtrack a little; before I melted down my psychic armor in the white-hot furnace of the bliss I needed to figure out how to get the damned stuff off. And who was coming ’round the mountain but Pema Chödrön. Pema is an American Buddhist nun and she is hard core about the Eightfold Path. She is committed to taking off her armor and she’ll show you how to open your heart if you’re ready. Yeah, it sounds pretty, but it’s hard work, and it can be scarier than any Stephen King hacks-her-body-up-and-hides-the-pieces-where-they-may-be-found doorstop.
I did give in and download some Cee-Lo the other day, because one of the joys of parenthood is introducing my son to lyrically inappropriate music. And it’s not quite right to say that music doesn’t matter to me anymore–it’s just that I don’t have the heart I once had to weed through so much bad music until I found the song that would make me drop my armor for two minutes and thirty-five seconds, or the album that would turn my life around.