Committed to One More Light

I’ve recently been trying my best to curb the horrid habit I have of starting things and then abandoning them when they just begin to gain any sort of traction.

Like most great things – it always begins at the most basic level, the very building blocks of great accomplishments: habits.

I’ve been trying to build the habit of committing to something, being disciplined in my approach, and seeing the project through. Because if I don’t get this down now, it’s going to contribute to a huge failing in my life eventually as we’re not always malleable to creating good habits and cultivating positive virtues.

My fear is becoming one of those individuals who checks out of life. Things got too hard for them, so instead of fighting to better & strengthen themselves, they turn to alcohol, drugs, TV shows, partying etc., to fill the void. They use these methods of escapism to distance themselves from the reality that they lack the necessarily skills required to survive in life. They’ve basically said ‘fuck it’ and checked out of playing the game of life. People might debate the severity of those included in the above category, but from where I’m standing in terms of engaging with life, someone lost in a TV show/video game is about the same as a heroin junkie – they’ve both checked out of life. Although one is definitely easier to turn your back on afterwards, I’ll give you that one.

That’s not to say the above are bad things necessarily (hard drugs aside), it’s just too much of them are a bad thing. Life is about balance – everything in moderation.

(Aside: I used to say that a lot: ‘everything in moderation’. Typically I’d jokingly follow it with the grim punchline of: “even heroin”. To which I always get a stunned silence and shocked faces. Love that people take my deadpan comedy seriously sometimes)

There comes a certain age where there is a natural withdrawal from engaging in the more active parts of life, but I have ill feelings towards seeing people who check out of life at 25, yet they still brag about how they’re going to be a billionaire by the time they’re 30 because ‘that’s the goal I set for myself’, while nothing in their work ethic or how they go about life maps to that future reality.

“What did you do over the weekend?”

“Latest season of [insert whatever TV show everyone is watching at the time] just came out, so I binged it all weekend”.

“Did you do any work on your business?”

“Nah man, can’t be bothered”.

Me in my head: looking forward to the stupid look on your face when you’re 30 and still working a dead-end 9-5. That wonderful cocktail of angst, anxiety, feelings of being trapped and dead inside all as one expression.

I mean – if you’re happy working a 9-5 and watching Game of Thrones or some shit in your spare time then that’s your jam, cool. You know what makes you happy and you’re living how you want, that’s awesome. No drama.

Just don’t go around saying you want to be a billionaire by the time you’re 30 and spend your 20’s doing fuck all: drinking, clubbing, talking with all your mates about all the stuff you’re going to do (while never doing it, ever, ironically), and not lifting a finger outside your day job. It’s an insult to people who actually do work hard for what they want. #rantover

I’ve foreseen the Checked-Out guy as a possible future for me if I don’t buck up and deal with the problems I’m having now in my 20’s, as it’s a very formative time for an adult.

So what am I doing to help? Well – my powers of commitment are so weak right now that I have to take minuscule baby steps to build up that initial foundation.

I’m starting with the thing that I’m always never without: music.

In this world with so much choice, it’s easy to become someone who dabbles in a little of everything. A jack of all trades, a master of none. It’s caused us as a technological population to have vastly shortened attention spans, some smaller than a goldfish, and means that we’re never really satisfied with sticking to the same thing and seeing it through. That frightens the hell out of me.

I do this with my listening habits. Having the vast array of Spotify’s dizzying music collection on front of me to pick and choose from has caused me to have listened to many things, but on a very artificial level (ie. just listening once or twice).

Now, I don’t know about you, but to me that doesn’t really count as listening to an album fully.

Bear in mind, however, that something that I’ve always enjoyed doing ever since being a toddler was re-doing things, to pick it apart in the process, and to observe the various levers at work, powering the mechanism to run, as I’m watching the thing play out in real time at the macro level.

This is why I used to watch the Lion King 20 times a day as a child. While liking the story, I was fascinated unconsciously with the structure of a story, how it’s told, how it progresses, how context is set up etc., all the elements that make up a motion picture behind the scenes.

But – to me at least – actually listening to something means you’ve smashed it to death (the love of the music causes you to smash it to death).

So I don’t really go around telling people that I like something unless I’ve sufficiently smashed the album. I used to go around telling people that I loved something after listening to it once, cause I was a bit of a wankery poser in my intermediate/high school years (another thing I’m working on), but I don’t get much out of doing that now.

I like doing things for me and not seeking approval from others for the choices I make in life. A crucial life lesson I’ve recently learned the hard way.

But it’s not always easy to keep listening to something. It can get difficult.

With so much choice at your finger tips, it’s so easy to just say “oh, I’ve listened to this so many times already, I’ll try something different”.

I caught myself the other day doing that. And I thought, you know what, no, don’t listen to the myriad of other songs that are out there in Spotify-land, stick to the same thing and be committed to listening to it over and over again, breaking it apart mentally, understanding all the nuances, and being rewarded for an increased appreciation for the album afterwards.

In this way I’m hoping to pave the road towards cultivating the virtue of commitment.

As always, it’s about getting started and taking those first baby steps.

Then, at some point, it should snowball, and this new skill I can then take and apply to other areas in life: work, health, relationships, passions, you name it.

If anyone is curious as to what’s in my musical rotation at this moment for the purposes of commitment, I’ve currently got 3 albums in the mix:

  • Linkin Park – One More Light
  • Ludovico Einaudi – Una mattina
  • Logic – Everybody

Alliteration aside, these albums are quite unrelated. I came across all of them within the last 2 weeks for various reasons, and I think they are all lovely.

I’ve been listening to One More Light by Linkin Park a lot this week. I was very conscious of their music becoming more pop-sounding, and I instinctively knew that there would be significant backlash from diehard keyboard warrior fans of their stellar albums from almost 2 decades ago, so I decided to just listen to it and see what it was like without accessing any reviews (especially online).

I really do in enjoy the album.

Don’t get me wrong, from where I’m standing there’s not a touch of rock there. To me it’s all electropop. But what I heard was very enjoyable and I liked it. I initially didn’t know what genre it was, but I just remember thinking to myself: “whatever genre this is, it’s good”.

So after listening to it through a few times, I decided to take the plunge and see what the internet said about it.

While there were many positive reviews, but of course there were the diehard fans and critics that had to take that line with the band.

‘They sold out’

‘It’s a marketing ploy to make money’

I remember reading an article a few days ago where Chester Bennington was confronted in interviews about being a sell out with this latest album, and he apparently blew up at those fans in the interview, telling them they need to move on from Hybrid Theory (along with other expletives).

Even though I’m not one for angry outbursts (and I don’t hold that against him) – I agree 100%.

I find this particular aspect of being an artist in the public eye quite frustrating. Not that I’ve experienced it in any measure myself, but witnessing and observing it happen to other artists & artists that I admire, is quite harrowing. And is a testament to how tightly people like to box artists in to certain categories in their mental model of the world, and how selfishly they refuse to let go of these associations.

This band makes X music, and makes me feel Y. This is what this band represents to me. I like this band for how the band makes me feel. If they choose to stray from this, to make Z music, which makes me feel a distorted form of Y that I’m not familiar with, then that makes me unhappy as a “fan”, and I’m going to lash out at them for doing that.

Fuck you. They’re not there for your benefit.

All very well that the fans are the ones that got the artists to where they are, but the second you hold out for them to fulfill your mental vision of what they are as a band/artist/musician/comedian, that’s when you turn from fan to screaming child in a high chair that knocks everything over and yells when they don’t get what they want.

Grow up. They’re previous work is recorded for a reason – so you can revisit them now when you want to. Not so that you can hold it up and demand a modified replica with “NEW ALBUM” slapped across the face.

The point of art is to engage with the particular muse that flows through you, and to express this as accurately and elegantly as possible externally to the world. This end product that is tangible is art. That’s the entire process.

In no part of that equation do fan expectations factor into churning out the end product.

Now, you definitely have artists that do absolutely factor in fan expectations when churning out new work, but some factions of the artistic community would call this another form of selling out. So you either gotta decide on who you’d rather not disappoint, or, say fuck all of them and do what you want.

What you love about that artist’s material went through the same process and came out as the particular piece of art/music/drawing/sketch/punchline that made you a fan.

They are applying the same process as an artist, the only difference is the end product comes out different from your expectation of them as an artist. And it should come out different. Because artists are never the same; they’re human, they age, they grow, the discover new parts of themselves – this is life and nothing but the natural flow of existential growth.

They’re not robots. You don’t poke them and say “new album, monkeys” and they spit out a new album like the old one but slightly different so that you’re happy with them.

No. They’re artists. They’ll move with whatever is moving through them at the time, and express themselves as they’ve always done – they did the same thing when they produced that line or bit that won you over, and they’re going to keep doing so in their own fashion, maturing and growing as they do as people.

To be a real fan – you have to understand this and move with it. It’s fine to admit that you didn’t like certain pieces of work better than others, but to disengage entirely because they didn’t fit your expectations of them is rather childish and a bit of a cop-out.

Just as well for them, though, they probably could do without all the flaky fans.

So – in summary – I really liked One More Light.

 

 

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