The English writer/ philosopher Alan Watts had a unique way of using music as a metaphor for explaining how people manifest suffering in their lives.
The idea is that, in music, when we define a series of notes as “melodic” it is based upon a certain familiarity. A run of notes we might call “right” or “pleasing” are based totally upon tones and patterns we are already familiar with.
Much in the same way folks have a hard time sitting through a dissonant/ atonal piece of music, when we apply the “melodic” concept to our own thought process, we see how when we are less familiar with the series of events that lead up to a viewpoint that is different than ours (whether it’s a mild discrepancy between coworkers or a national core issue like a women’s right to choose) we often see those opposing viewpoints as discordant or even painful to listen to.
Watts’ solution for breaking this logjam of judgmental suffering is to develop what he calls a “tone deaf” mind.
Think of how much more music we could appreciate if we were able to listen to each note equally, without bringing our personal familiarities and biases to the table about what sounds right or wrong, melodic or harsh, refined or primitive.
In Buddhism there is the idea of equanimity, which means to view things with an unbiased perspective, in the present moment, beyond all personal cravings or aversions.
It doesn’t mean we can’t have opinions. It just means when listening to others we try to suspend our melodic bias so that we can hear people with equanimity and compassion.
Think of how much happier we would all be if we were able to truly listen to people with a tone deaf mind!
Below is a playlist of songs that have resonated with me in the past month. I hope they bring more joy to your life. Thanks for listening, MMM
Included are songs by: Major Matt Mason USA, The Dream Syndicate, Momma, Brent Windler, Carl Carlton, Interpol, Oren Ambarchi, Yo La Tengo, Sly &The Family Stone, Coshiki, Julianna Barwick, Les McCann
(Subscribe to get a new playlist every 1st Monday of the month. Click on my user link or search: Major Matt’s 1st Monday on Spotify to cruise past playlists and discover more music.)