Friday, July 22, 2011

Focus, trance, deep concentration

Lynn sometimes drives for 3 hours to see her mother in the nursing home and then drives for 3 more hours back home.  The last time she did it, she listened to music on her iPod both ways.  Much of the music we own has been put on our iPods so she has a wide choice.  She really got into some of the music, especially 'Experience the Divine", a 1993 album of Bette Midler.  She listened with deepest pleasure to "From a Distance", "Hello in there" and "The Rose".  

At home, she played all three pieces for me and I listened attentively.  I had heard The Rose before and liked it but I had never listened to the others, the most entrancing for both of us being "From a Distance".  I marveled at the sensitivity and imagination of the lyrics of all three songs, which are sung by Midler but not actually composed by her. It surprised me how difficult it was to track down the name of the lyricist for a song but I may well be missing a tool or some knowledge on how to check and verify.  I see that the song was very high on several charts but was also on some charts for being a very bad song, sometimes rated as one of the worst.

We have owned that album for years and we have had our music on iPods for a couple of years.  Yet, it was this summer that Lynn really paid attention to it.  It is just fascinating how things can go along unnoticed or unused for a very long time and then suddenly, boom!  Big focus.  

Really concentrating on a piece of music, maybe listening to it several times, reflecting on the lyrics puts me in mind of Flow, the book by Michael Csikszentmihalyi, psychology professor at the University of Chicago.  This is a well-known book and started the use of the word "flow" to mean roughly the same thing as being truly "in the groove", flying effortlessly through a task or experience.  

Lynn was so moved by the experience of deeply listening and "getting into" the music that her face clearly showed a glow when she told me about what she had listened to and how it had made her feel.  Since the same sort of magical cloud from music often envelopes me while I cook or do the dishes, I know how satisfying it can be.  Talk about putting on the armor of God!  A friend once said that he could bear any upset during a day when he had run.  Listening to the English version of "The Elixir of Love" by Donizetti or the North German Band marches or Beverly Sills singing to "Robert, the Devil" can lift me to an unshakable mood for several hours.

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