The Right Kind of Chaos

Music stirs the sediments of my mind.

It is sometimes the randomness I need interjected into my thoughts. On my drives to work, unless I am already thinking of how to solve a specific issue, or thinking of something creative, and I want my thoughts to have quiet space to percolate, I often turn on music. For one thing, I love to sing.

In the afternoons, on the way home from work, sometimes I want music to push out the echoes and the tangle of assorted mischief in my head (those leftover bits of all the things I worked on during the day). Sometimes I still want to sing. And sometimes, I just want quiet.

If my thoughts seem to be sorting themselves out, I usually prefer quiet. Recently I realized that if I don’t want quiet, it’s either to share joy, to learn the words to a new song I can sing (I do after all have a playlist for just that), or to stir up something. That last one brought a new insight with it.

I am often listening to music when I come up with my most creative writing ideas, or when I recall a memory that inspires me to write something about that as well. A new blog post, a book or story idea, or even just a small insight that I want to share, in as little as a tweet, or in something that I want to tell my wife or a particular friend.

Music stirs emotions as well as thoughts, and I think it’s too easy, especially in the grind of a workday, to have those pile up in a sedimentary layer that weighs everything else down. And if you leave it that way for too long, perhaps it really does crystallize and harden into something like rock.

Rocks are not easily stirred like water, dust, and dirt can be. Even sand moves. A lot. Rock just sits there and resists, perhaps until it breaks, and when it ruptures, sometimes the released pressure can be enormous and even destructive.

Whatever your creative pursuits might be, whatever gets your juices flowing in a beneficial way that is healthy for you and for everyone around you, embrace it! At least from time to time.

The mind is a rich field of ideas, inventions, concepts, artistry, and all manner of uplifting things. Don’t let yours calcify.

Even darkness has its place in the spectrum of human emotions, and it should be aired out, too, gently and with plenty of perspective. Read this again if you need some tools to explore it more carefully.

Find whatever moves you and stir your thoughts. It’s as healthy for you as it is for the soil in the Earth and the waters of the ocean. Seriously!

Some of the richest life on Earth surrounds coral reefs, and coral itself thrives where healthy currents run. Whether you move like a shark or sit like a coral, expose yourself to the currents of new ideas. Even if you have to stir them up yourself.

Back and Forth… and Back Again

It started off with just a simple errand.

I bought a couple of things at a new store last week, only to discover that I already had one of them when I got home.

Easy fix. We’ve all done it. So I kept my receipt, called the first chance I got, and drove to return it on my lunch break today.

The store was out of my way, but not far out. Just enough that I navigated to it, to be sure I would not get lost. Having been there once before, the way was mildly recognizable to me. I still used a navigation app; it wasn’t EASY yet, just a bit familiar!

Back in the car, it seemed wise to let my A.I. copilot guide me once more. But I quickly realized that I knew almost exactly where I was now. And suddenly, instead of carefully focusing on the street signs, I began to notice the scenery. And the people.

Here a car door opened into traffic. As I leaned toward the left side of the lane to make room, I glanced over at a young girl, barely of driving age, it seemed. The expression she wore suggested trepidation, concentration, or maybe just a difficult day. I felt bad for this child and hoped she was okay, perhaps only facing a new experience for which she would be stronger tomorrow.

There a woman marched out boldly in front of me. I saw her in time and braked, but she was focused on her destination, purposeful. Her determined expression a fierce contrast with the other girl, who might be a third her age. This woman knew the measure of all around her, whether she acknowledged it or not, and it showed.

Then the back of a head bobbing parallel on the sidewalk, no expression at all to read thoughts or attitudes. Just someone walking along on lunch, or on an errand of their own.

Buildings climbing on either side as I stopped at a light, blocking out the sun on a single street corner. Trees in lines at level heights, something far too cultured to be seen in nature. They decorate our cityscape, only hinting at what was here before. Or not, since I drive through a desert tempered by narrow lines of green, and well-kept streets. Mostly.

I have a friend across the country, who has lived a handful of decades about the city where I last spent but two; I on the outskirts, he in its heart. Gratefully I read a weekly newsletter he publishes, visualizing what he describes in such human detail: the faces, voices, rumbling cars and quiet cafés, books and trees and curiosities that abound downtown. It feels distant, a nostalgia for a place I left willingly, but still can feel a part of, if only for a few minutes each week.

Today I discovered it in my own backyard, or close enough. The cities are thousands of miles apart, say the maps, but I could have warped across space… or time, to compare the views. I still sleep on the outskirts, but I’m in the heart of it now. A closeness washes through me, to see the same vistas I knew then, here again.

Did I really move anywhere at all? Or did I just forget where I was for a while? By the pace of the familiar old city around me, I almost cannot tell.

Musings on a Darkened Day

For several months now, I have lived my life in daylight (fortunate to have one of those day jobs that can sometimes be done from home), and I have hardly used my headlights at all, except as a safety precaution in early morning or late afternoon. But I have never once needed them to SEE.

So today, as I left work at the same time as always, but this time in the dead of night (by all appearances), my headlights hardly seemed enough. No gradual transition, this Daylight Saving Time conversion! No, this is throwing a switch that kills the circuit and turns off all the lights at once. The difference in one hour around noon can seem almost like nothing. One hour at night can seem almost eternal. But one hour around dusk? Day literally becomes night.

Swiftly I recalled one of the first lessons my mother taught me when she was showing me how to drive: if someone is driving toward you with lights so bright that you can barely see anything in front of you… focus on the line to your right. If you focus on that outer line, just for those last few seconds, it is easier to maintain your place in the lane and control your speed and your steering. Plus it helps to keep your night vision intact.

I was surprised at how easily that old lesson came back after months of disuse, though of course I’ve been practicing it as needed for decades now. Much how catching a baseball (for those coordinated enough to do so) involves complex physics and mathematical trajectories that we anticipate without having to calculate the actual numbers, this skill was suddenly at the forefront of my mind without any words. My eyes glanced slightly away from the onrushing vehicle and its blinding glare, and I focused on that dim little white line, softly illuminated by my own headlights.

Worked like a charm, of course! I found myself maintaining a perfectly still position in the lane; I continued slowly forward, until the other driver had passed; and suddenly, my own headlights mattered again, and I could once more see a little bit of the road in front of me.

How reassuring to have these rarely-needed skills rise back up so easily when the time is right.

My mother was an excellent defensive driver. She could make good time on long road trips, but she also taught me early on that you can only control what YOU do on the road, never what someone else does. So if you want to be safe, act as though everyone else is paying less attention than you are and might miss things like turn signals, red lights, stop signs, oncoming cars, drivers in a blind spot, debris in the road. And you leave a little extra room, and a little extra time to respond, if that happens.

Driver in front of you didn’t see that board in the road? Might be nothing. Might have nails in it. Might flip up as they drive over it and thump their car, or come at yours. If you see it before the other driver, though, you can slow down, space out the cars a little more, and be prepared to respond safely.

I have driven a great deal in my years so far, and I have long ago lost track of the number of times that her advice saved me trouble, saved me from damage, and may even have saved my life.

Years ago, The Moffatts wrote a charming, age-appropriate song called, “Mama Never Told Me ‘Bout You”, where the lead singer recites many good lessons that his mother had taught him, but he was still blindsided by falling for this cute girl. Well, mothers may not automatically know everything, of course, but the wisest ones continue to learn as they go and impart their distilled wisdom into their children’s minds and hearts whenever they can, to set the best examples they can possibly do, and – ideally – to raise thoughtful, attentive, curious, compassionate, and kind-hearted children who grow up to be the same kind of adults.

My mother made mistakes – everyone does – but she got a lot of things right, too. In tricky situations, with a lot of variables in play, like driving and so many other things, one wrong decision in one instant can mean the difference between life and death, or any stop in between.

Strong wisdom and good teachings provide no guarantee that anything will go right in one’s life, but it seems like they lean the odds just a little bit in your favor, and I am grateful to have them on my side. Might have made all the difference a few hours ago. I’m glad we’ll never know, but I’m glad to be able to tell you about it now.