I like variety. This shows up in in the food I eat, the music I listen to, the books I read. I enjoy when my world expands, to have new and different experiences. I believe there is a lot of good in this, and yet, I found myself wondering about the cost. Less than 200 years ago life was much less mobile, there were far fewer occupations, and even fewer options for which occupation someone might have the opportunity to engage in. The community you were part of was bound by geography without cars that greatly extend the geographic sphere one could regularly interact with. The variety of “stuff” one could own was much smaller than it is today. It might be a shock to some today, but people survived, some even thrived. Do I wish to return to the 19th or earlier time. No. But I do wonder what we have lost in our variety filled world.
The Value and Cost of Variety
This morning I woke up with the song Love is a Worth Cause by Sara Groves running through my mind, my heart. It was a good way to wake up and it lifted my spirit. Waking up with a song on my lips has become somewhat common in the last few weeks. The songs have varied a bit, a few other songs by Sara Grove and a number of classic Christmas hymns. Why is this happening? I think it is likely repetition, a parring down of variety.
If I listened to all the music on our server eight hours per day, I could go more than half a year without hearing a single song repeated. If I add in the possibilities from Spotify, Pandora, or the radio, the possibilities grow expotentially. In reality, I don’t listen to everything in our collection as one big shuffle. My family found the jump between genres too jarring sometimes, so normally I am using a play list which excludes genre that are at the “extremes”, so we would go a mere two months without a repeat. This is still a long time, meaning that it’s unlikely for any one song to have a significant impact.
In the last few months I have generally not been listening to one of these large play lists. Instead, I have constructed a couple of very short play lists. One list is a collection of songs that have helped me grieve and/or see hope. The other is a list of Christmas songs. Rather than thousands of songs, there are tens of songs. Rather than hearing a song once every few months, I am hearing the same songs several times a day.
I believe that the repetition is causing the songs to get lodged deeper in my heart and mind. Once embedded, the songs have had an effect on my perspective, they have influenced my thinking. I am starting to think that music is food for the spirit and exercise for the heart. When athletes are in training they tend to select healthy food, not junk food. There is a careful selection of exercises to strengthen specific muscles, not just a random physical activities. How much more important are our minds and our spiritual hearts.
Going forward I am going to be more conscience of the music I ingest. I will continue to enjoy a wide variety of music, in the same way that I enjoy eating chocolate mousse… a treat to enjoy but not part of every meal. Likewise, while it’s important to engage in whole body exercise, there is a need to target specific muscles, to address weakness and build strength. What’s the mix between broad playlists (potentially whole body workouts) and specific playlists which target needed areas? I don’t know. I suspect it will vary person to person, and depend on what season of life one is in, it is something that will have to be discovered, and as soon as you think you know the balance, it will be time to change again. Seasons of discovery, seasons to consolidation. Today I am in a season of consolidation, where there is a need for more focus, and less variety. I find myself wondering what other things should be paired down.