The Slow Joy Of Being Alive To Music

Musings / Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

I listened to music for the first time today.

It was a still morning in Bangalore when I woke up – a quiet lull where even the birds seemed a bit tired by this week. I sat at my desk with my coffee, staring at my laptop, a sip here, a mail there, a tab here, a document there. And then, I caught myself. What I was doing? I was rushing through time, taking giant bites of it frantically, being a mess of distraction. This wasn’t how mindful mornings look like. This morning hadn’t dawned just for me, but it was still a delicious gift, and I was waffling away, not really paying attention to the gift. It’s amazing how time slows down when we really really pay attention to it. And how it just rushes past us, like an irritated friend we have annoyed with our busyness.

Then, I remembered a book I was reading yesterday – Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D Williams, where the protagonist finds joy and inspiration in her darkest moments in the powerful voice of Billie Holiday. 

“I really listen. Her voice…her voice is incredible. It swings up to the high note so smoothly….she sounds sad. But something else, too. Hopeful.”

I paused. I don’t think I had ever listened to music like that. I listen to music all the time. Everyday. Distractedly. At work. On my runs. In the shower. While cooking, cleaning, reading. There’s always music. Yet, I had never really just listened to a song with full and complete attention. I hadn’t thought of notes and had never lost myself in the pitch, tenor, and sheer depth of emotions a song can wring out of us. I had never offered my entire presence to a song before. I hadn’t gifted myself a song, just a song, and nothing else but a song. 

So, I kept aside the coffee. This would be music time. To honor Genesis, I picked Billie Holiday’s ‘In My Solitude.’ I hadn’t heard this song before. For the next 3:27 minutes, I closed my eyes and heard the slow, oozing pain of Billie’s voice for the first time.

And this is how I listened to music for the first time. Her voice came alive, casting the haunting despair of those lyrics over the blinking sunlight of my room. It was a beautiful alive, and I felt like I had really woken up only then. ‘In My Solitude’ is a song that brims with an aching loss, yet listening to it fully made me understand for just a little while my own losses. 

We end up shoving our grief, those torn shreds of old pain into the darkest corners of our selves. In doing so, we deny darkness its brightest hue. Because pain comes clothed in all the iridescent colors of our galaxy. Sometimes, it does us good to take that mindful broom and not sweep away that pain, but to welcome it, and just dust those corners to make its stay comfortable. And when it leaves, and it will, to bid it goodbye knowing we held it well. 

Three minutes of musical mindfulness can’t take away the mindlessness of the rest of the day. But it does make the rest of the mindless moments just a little bit more bearable.

May you find joy in a song today.

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