Ugh, I’ve been dozing off at the screen for a few hours now. Just can’t get it to work. You know you have those days? The will to produce is there but you just can’t pull yourself together. Pure lethargy. I’ve had a bunch of coffee too, it’s just… *yawn*… man… just not clicking today.
Have a gander up top at Amy Sparrow’s third original piece of photography for this series. Click on her name to check out her tumblr account and touch base with her. Truly beautiful stuff.
Part 3 of 7: Sloth
I’ve heard it said that man’s greatest flaw is one of two – fear or laziness. After years of pondering – in bed, on the bus, and on escalators – I’ve settled the debate, at least for myself. It’s definitely laziness. Sure, fears can be paralyzing, but I feel that it’s easier to muster up courage and surmount fear than it is to muster up energy to perform some intimidating or unattractive task. With fear, adrenaline can kick in and save the day. Mothers lift vehicles to save their babies. You run across the dark room and flip the light switch before the monster gets you. You take a deep breath, think “here goes nothing”, sip your beer and say “Hi, I’m ______” with a goofy grin to the stunning creature beside you. Just like that – fear is conquered.
Sloth, on the other hand, has no easy solution. Fine, an adrenaline needle to the heart would probably get you off the couch, but seriously – that feeling of overwhelming laziness is practically insurmountable. Slothfulness seems to breed slothfulness. The lazier you are, the lazier you’ll be. The less you do, the less you’ll want to do. Maybe all seven deadly sins are self-propelling… Once you complete a “cycle of sin”, if you will – be it of gluttonous binging, unchecked avarice, a spell of insatiable lust, etc. – all subsequent cycles become progressively easier to fall into. We’re creatures of habit, yes? This is why it’s important to try and catch these cycles early on… before it’s too late.
I’m here to open your ears to one of the lesser-known versions of these abusive, self-destructive behaviours:
Passive Music Listening
You may not have heard of it before – passive music listening (or PML). Actually, “listening” is a misnomer here. Passive music listening is essentially the lazy, unengaged hearing of music. We all do it. Note that it’s not always a sin, though; passive music listening unavoidably happens in elevators, malls, restaurants, and waiting rooms. We drift along, hearing whatever’s shooting through the speakers. It’s thrust upon us. We have no choice in the matter.
The real tragedy, the real self-abuse starts when this passive “listening” seeps into every other part of your musical life. You no longer listen intently to your own music. It’s in one ear and out the other. Nothing is processed. You know you’re hearing something, but that’s as far as it goes. You’re not actually listening intently to anything.
Now, why is this a sin, you ask? Well, sloth is basically the act of being emotionally and spiritually inactive, uninvolved. The soul, or the self, or whatever you want to call it – that little spark in you that makes you you, needs nourishment just like your physical body does. You can tend to that spark in a number of ways – by surrounding yourself with good friends and family, finding fulfilment in your job, not sweating the small stuff and, among many other things, listening to music.
See, listening to music is an activity. One must make a choice to listen, really listen to music. There are different levels of participation too. You can just dip your toe in the pool and see what the music’s like, or you can cannonball right into the deep end and breathe out as you sink down to the bottom. Try sitting on the pool floor for a while. See what things are like down there. There are sounds and feelings down here that you just can’t experience with just the tip of your toe.
I know what some of you are thinking – “Listen, that’s great, man, but I can’t swim around in the musical pool all day. I’ve got shit to do.” You’re absolutely right. Active listening is an intense activity. You can’t jog for days, y’know? We all need a break here and there. Actually, the breaks are crucial to being able to truly appreciate the music in the first place. You need to cleanse the palate, shake it out. Wipe off the board before the next lesson starts.
Some of you are skeptical. That’s okay. A lot of this probably sounds like a lot of hippie hogwash to you. But do us both a favour, and humour me. Take ten minutes and dig up some music you haven’t listened to in ages, and listen to it. Really listen. Give yourself some room. Go for a drive. Go for a run. Have a bath. Lie on the floor. Shut the lights off. Put your big headphones on. Pour yourself a drink. Have a smoke. Light some candles. Whatever it takes. Get comfortable and listen.
It really is that simple. If you can’t think of what to listen to, ask a friend. There’s something out there just itching to blow your mind.
When I was oh, about 15 I guess, my father, disillusioned with my teenaged taste in music, took me aside and gave me Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. He told me to go to my room, shut the lights off, lie on the bed, put the headphones on, and listen to it from beginning to end. This made me think – “Dad definitely smoked pot at some point.” Turns out, this wasn’t about drugs. This was about Music. I put the phones on, hit the lights and lay down. The first minute opened the door and ushered me into a place I’d never been before. A huge new space full of sound. My universe exploded in slow motion at the 1:13 mark. There was no coming back from this. I was told to “Breathe, breathe in the air. Don’t be afraid to care.” Okay. I did. I breathed deeply, slowly. “Run, rabbit, run.” Just as I got nice and comfortably settled, my trip changed direction at the 4:00 mark. What’s going on here? I didn’t agree to this. I’m getting a little scared. Something’s about to happen. The darkness at 5:30… echoing back through my brain at 5:55. I don’t think I’m going to make it out of here alive. This is… this is just… *breathe*
I’m tearing up as I write this. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if my dad hadn’t done that for me. He could see my love for music, I was obsessed with my favourite bands. I screamed my angry little heart out with Korn. Years earlier, I knew all the words to “Whoomp, There It Is”. There’s nothing wrong with those things. I don’t regret any of it. I just didn’t know where all the doors were. My dad helped me along the corridor and used the keys he’d found throughout his own life to open the Pink Floyd door for me. He bought me Led Zeppelin’s BBC Sessions. I didn’t understand why there were so many versions of “Dazed and Confused”. Then I listened to it. Ah. I get it. I fell in Love with The Doors. I stole my dad’s double-disc Best of The Doors and played it incessantly. I eventually gave it back once I’d picked up all the individual albums. Jim Morrison became my god. Here was a chubby little freckle-faced kid, listening to Jim telling him to break on through and that the end was his (our?) only friend. I was furious with Morrison for dying so young. What a jerk. It wasn’t fair, I wanted him to still be around, to make more music, open more doors. I eventually resigned myself to the fact that he was gone forever. He wasn’t on an island off the coast of Madagascar. He hadn’t faked his death. He was gone. I just needed to be thankful for what he, Ray, Robby and John had left me.
The rest is history. Once my dad taught me how to listen, music enveloped me completely and it hasn’t let me go since. It gives me chills. It makes me smile. It gives me strength. It makes me weep. It destroys me. And at the end, it lets me know that everything’s going to be just fine. It is, after all, just a ride.
Just open your years and listen. It might just change your life.
Oh, and Dad… thanks. For everything.
Original photography by Amy Sparrow.