Listening to Music, and Some New Developments
Over the last four months, I’ve spent one to two hours a day listening to music. I’ve obviously had to cut back on my writing/reading, but I feel like I’m supposed to do this, at least for this season of my life. It’s not just that I enjoy the music, though I obviously do. But this music is also somehow changing me. My wife has noticed I’m calmer and more sensitive. I feel things more deeply. I seem to be enjoying art and poetry more than I ever have. I’m finding that my imagination, which has always been vivid, has become even more so. In fact, I’ve found that my dreams are more vivid and I remember more of them.
What is up with this?
Most of the changes I’ve listed are associated with the right hemisphere of the brain, the part that is more in charge of creativity, music, intuition etc., as opposed to the left hemisphere that is more in charge of analyzing, reasoning, and categorizing. I now realize I have spent most of my life in the left hemisphere. Since I discovered philosophy in 11th grade, I’ve spent most of my waking moments reading, thinking, analyzing and writing. Before this time, however, my life was all about music. I hated reading. I don’t believe I had read a single book up to that point. (Confession: I used the same book for four different “book reports” on different subjects from 7th to 10th grade. And I didn’t even read that book. I based it on what my older sister had told me about it!). At that time in my life, I spent hours listening to hard rock music (e.g. Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple), and it often moved me deeply. When I wasn’t listening to it, I was trying to play it as a part of band.
I believe my right brain, which was so dominant up until 11th grade, has been pretty much starved for almost 40 years. The only time I’ve intentionally listened to music has been during devotions, and even then I wasn’t listening to the music; it was just a backdrop for my encounters with Jesus. So it feels like my hungry right brain is finally getting to feast, and it’s doing so with a vengeance. As a result of this feasting, all the other activities that are associated with this side of the brain are being strengthened. It feels like my musical obsession is making me more well-rounded. I don’t expect to devote an hour or two to music each day for the rest of my life—though, who knows? The future is open! But I believe this is what I’m supposed to do for now.
My experience illustrates an important point that I think we all need to hear. Our “normal” way of doing life causes us to assume that we will be the same today as we were yesterday. Consequently, we do life mostly on “autopilot.” The truth, however, is that we are never exactly the same today as we were yesterday or as we will be tomorrow. We evolve, and we’re supposed to evolve. The thing is, if we’re doing life on “autopilot,” we easily miss the inner nudges that are telling us it’s time to change. And even if we notice them, we easily brush them aside simply because they don’t fit into our “autopilot” schedule. As a result, we don’t grow the way we’re supposed to grow.
In this light, I encourage all of us to pay attention to new developments that our soul is urging us to embrace. Notice when you find yourself being interested in or moved by something you hadn’t been interested in or moved by before. If you’re walking with God, you can trust that these new developments are communicating something important to you. Because it’s hard to notice these new developments in the busyness of the day, I encourage you to devote either the first and/or last part of the day to asking God to help you take inventory of your soul and hear what it is trying to tell you. And when you discern something, I encourage you to embrace it and make space for it. Yes, this will mean you’ll have to let go, or at least back off of, something else. And I know first hand that this isn’t always easy. But if you refuse to make space for the new, you’ll be stunted in your growth by the old.
As I said in my message last week, not adjusting to new developments in our soul is a bit like refusing to acquire larger shoes for growing feet. Before long, those feet will experience pain, and in time, its growth will be stunted, resulting in deformation. In parts of China, people used to do this intentionally to the feet of young women. Believing that small feet were more attractive, they never upsized the shoes of these poor young ladies after about the age of three. This forced their feet to grow by curving under themselves. I can’t imagine the pain these poor girls endured throughout their growing years!
We do something similar to this when we cling to the “autopilot” way of doing life and refuse to adjust to new developments. Since we are always evolving, I encourage us to look for and embrace new developments, making whatever adjustments needed to “fit” in these new things. Most of these will not be as life-altering as my recent musical development, but all of them will be important.
Stay awake. And rock on!!
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Greg Boyd received his Ph. D. from Princeton Theological Seminary (1988), his M.Div. from Yale Divinity School (1982) and his B.A. from the University of Minnesota (1979). He was a professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University (St. Paul, MN) where he received the Teaching Excellence Award and Campus Leadership Award. He is…
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