Saturday, November 13, 2010

Music Hath Charms

"Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak." from 'The Mourning Bride' by William Congreve 

One would hardly gather from looking at me today that I was a long distance runner in my youth, and a pretty decent one. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the competition was as much about beating yourself as it was about beating the other competitors (something that I also enjoyed about golf at one point in my life)

These days it would probably take someone chasing me with a weapon that could do me significant harm before I would run three blocks, let alone three miles. And while I don't think that I was a particularly gifted runner, especially by today's standards, but I did have a trick that I used to get through me the shortness of breath, the heavy legs and feet, and the occasional bout of shin splints that I still use today. 

Long before the Walkman or Mp3 player was invented, I was able to carry music in my head while doing something else. This was beyond the condition of having a commercial jingle in my head that I couldn't shake, though I am as guilty as anyone of suffering from this as anyone else. It was an ability instead that allowed me to carry a song in my head as a distraction from what is going on to me and around me and let it go while hearing nothing but the music. In the day, two Blind Faith tunes were particularly effective, "Sea of Joy" and "Can't Find My Way Back Home". Add in the earlier song by Cream "Sunshine of Your Love", and the three miles was behind me before I knew it. 

The music has changed over the years, but the process has remained the same. Even now when I have access to the latest technology, I find myself falling back on this in moments when wearing ear buds seems inappropriate. Using music inside my head allows me to get outside of it, and outside of the often contentious situations that surround me. 

By now you are probably thinking, "interesting Tim, but what does this have to do with anything?" The connection was one that I made today when reading the newspaper (I am evidently one of the few remaining dinosaurs that does so) while listening distractedly to some political punditry being spouted on cable TV (you know, multitasking). It seems that within but a week of the preponderance of election results being announced, that the two bullies in Washington (D's and R's) have one again returned to angry rhetoric. R's: "You just wait! Now that we'll be taking power in January, we're going to show those D's what they did was wrong. Not only we will enforce our will for the next two years, but we'll get even bigger and stronger by winning in 2012." D's: "You just wait! With the R's taking power in January we're going to show everybody just how bad things were before we came along. We're not going to give back anything we gained in the last few years, and when 2012 comes around, we'll get the power we just lost back." 

Little of the rhetoric being spouted is about really fixing any of the problems confronting this country. Oh, they may try and nibble around the edges a bit; but no party, and no individual representing either party now seems to want to step up and push forward with real solutions. Meanwhile, bureaucracy will continue to grow, though perhaps at a slightly slower rate. Government spending will continue at its out of control pace and debt will be run up at a clip that would leave a shopaholic dizzy. Taxes will continue to increase and to be piled upon fees and licenses, in a confusing and confiscatory pattern designed to do little more that feed the bureaucratic Frankenstein that has been created (and cannot apparently be killed). Regulation will be piled upon legislation in a continuing effort to keep citizens cowed, knowing that with all of the rules out there, the likelihood that they are in violation of one or more is almost certain. 

Government 'as usual' is already back in Washington, because or in spite of the voters having recently spoken. What I am proposing is that we pipe a little music in to help these bureaucrats and lawmakers to get outside of their heads and back into the real business at hand. Perhaps if we could get them to forget the pain that they feel when looking at their opponents, they would find it easier to do their real jobs. Perhaps if we could get them to stop feeling the pain of raising money and running for office again, legislators could find the time to read the legislation that they're voting on before they have to do it. Perhaps if we could get them to stop worrying about competing with each other and simply run the course, they could actually remember why we sent them to DC in the first place. Perhaps if we could lighten the mood of bureaucrats wading through 78,000 pages of Federal Register regulations they could use a little common sense in dealing with people rather than rules. 

I would therefore like to install speakers in Congress and all of the bureaucratic offices in Washington, in the hopes that we could use music to soothe the savage breast and help to distract these folks from their non-stop encroachment on what's left of freedom and liberty in this country. (Besides, they can justify the whole thing as part of the economic stimulus.) If that doesn't work, with the technology already in place we can pipe in some Enya to put them to sleep and keep them out of trouble, or some Bjork tunes to drive them screaming from their respective buildings. 

If we can't provide them with some peace and sanity through the use of music, perhaps we can provide ourselves some by keeping them out of trouble for at least a brief period. (I apologize for the lateness of today's posting, but the piece I originally wrote ended up going to the Kansas City Star as an op-ed submission ... with no guarantee of publication, I might add. If it doesn't get used however, you will probably find it updated and here soon.)

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