My friend Janelle texted me the other day: "Do you have three minutes?" I did not, at that precise moment, because I was driving.
When I got to my destination – a soccer field, of course, where Little T was experiencing the joy of "pod" training (thank you COVID) – I texted Janelle to let her know that I now had three minutes. Next, she asked if I was in a quiet place. Yes, I told her, for once, I was in a quiet place, not surrounded by my boisterous, busy family.
I was in for a treat. She sent me a link to this video and told me to listen:
Three minutes of sheer beauty and joy! Such a treat, so welcomed in this time of chaos and anxiety.
I have listened to it several times since and shared it with friends and family. But in addition to bringing me real joy, this brief three-minute video has also taught me some uncomfortable truths about myself that are not at all joyful.
The first time I listened to it, I couldn't focus on it. I immediately loved it, to be sure, but I was also distracted. Less than one minute in, I was already thinking about sharing it, already crafting a tweet or a post about it, already thinking about how MY take on it would be received (by my very, very few followers, no less). Mere seconds had gone by, and the beautiful music was already competing in my head with noisy thoughts about who I should send it to, who needed to hear it, why it was important, why my kids should listen, and what kind of moral decay the world was in if they couldn't appreciate music like this. It was unsettling to recognize that I couldn't simply sit still and listen to two incredibly talented musicians for three tiny minutes; instead, I was neurotically scheming about how to use this piece of art for myself.
Thankfully, I forced myself to quit that nonsense. Don't tweet. Don't post. Just listen. Just enjoy. Just be with the music. I am out of habits like that. I am in the habits of curating my responses for social media, thinking in sound bites, and anticipating notifications. Creativity cannot compete with such foolishness: I need different habits of being.
Today, I deleted Twitter and Facebook from my phone, the number one places where I get sucked down into the valley of scrolling death. Yes, I'm writing this reflection on my blog: irony is a bitch in heels.
The task in front of me is to figure it all out: figure out how to enjoy art and beauty, and how to create whatever it is I'm going to create, and how to do it authentically, and how to share it authentically. I think it starts with stopping: stop being on social media for awhile, stop scrolling and reading one-liners and hot takes and having nanosecond reactions to things that barely register before I'm on to the next thing, like some never satiated hunger that grows larger with every swipe. Stop being horrified by Trump, and racists, and DeVos, and anti-maskers, and whatever new horror comes along. Scrolling is numbing me and depressing me; it is lulling me into imagining that my outrage is my activism. It is not.
We must be able to take in beauty, deep inside: it is an act of self-preservation. I wasn't able to do that with The Swan the first time I heard it. I will keep trying.