Things Jane Says: The Music and the Smoking

"Are you for or against this Somewhere Over the Rainbow stuff?"

Dec 2, 2012 at 9:00am | Leave a comment


What usually happens at about 3:00 every day when Madeline and I cannot stand hearing the same song twice.

1) "Are you for or against this Somewhere Over the Rainbow stuff ... because they're playing it a whole lot around here." --Jane

Some might say that it's a privilege to have music on at work, at least music that is current and not the proverbially buttery escalator "jazz." The past two jobs I had didn't allow us to listen to music at all, not even on headphones. The days got long. Yet is it better for the day to be long than it is for the day to be annoying, as in you hear the same Mumford & Sons song four times, even when you don't particularly like Mumford & Sons? Ask Madeline about this, she's about ready to rip the speakers out around here.

There's something about hearing a song a second time that goes beyond the I-have-this-song-stuck-in-my-head and straight to the I'm-pretty-certain-that-I-hate-this-song territory. It's an intrusion, and can quite easily scathe part if not the whole day. Lately, a few of us xoJaners have taken to intoning, "OH MY GOD I'VE NEVER HEARD THIS VERSION," or chortling upon some other equally exacerbated wave of discontent. Usually Mandy laughs from the other room, whether with us or at us we might never know. It's clear that shouting this is almost, if not just as equally annoying as hearing the song a second time, but sometimes it's the only choice we have. 

Music gets inside our heads fast. If we're fortunate it's mostly for the better. When it becomes annoying it's usually because the lyrics are quite flat and lacking intrigue, which also means they tend to wreck whatever instrument is accompanying them. It’s easy, then, to work in an environment that keeps the back sounds instrumental, even though this too can trolley into a lull—but you can at least ride a groove for a while and remain focused when there’s not the disrupt of repetitively stale choruses. I realize that this is a giant and subjective topic, that of music in the work place or music preference in general, so I’ll just stop at asking you what songs you plain hate/dislike/can’t stand? Does it have to do with hearing them more than you want, on radios or at work? I’ll start with five I cannot stand then you give me yours:

That one song by Journey
Whatever this Mumford & Sons song is
That other song by Journey
That one Passion Pit Song
That other Mumford & Sons song

For the record, Somewhere Over the Rainbow is a great song, but thrice in one day ...

2) I’ve been thinking a lot about a recent Jane’s Phone post, one that has received a lot of comments and has started what could be great debate. As a former smoker (well, I quit six months ago) I feel as though the topic of why one smokes, doesn’t smoke, chooses to quit or not, is an endlessly engaging one, mostly because the answers vary so much and because I believe it always comes down to wanting to do something or not; also, it leads to a larger conversation, which I’ll get to in a moment. With smoking, I always felt like I would stop when I wanted to and I did feel that wanting to stop would arrive before needing to, though I’m sure I’ll find out how bad I’ve scuffed my lungs some day. But thinking by way of the latter would make me one who sides with the argument that other people should quit because it's healthier, and I won’t be advising others to do that anytime soon, as it’s not my space, even though I respect some people's willingness or drive to do so. Also, to think of what something might do to us at a later time is a very patiently honed trait that I have not acquired, as I like to think I’m focused in and on the present—I get that this sometimes shirks rationality but this is now, this hereness—so I’m not the first to talk about what might be.

Jane’s post conjures up a topic beyond smoking and that is the issue of boundaries and if they can even exist in a culture that has for so long broadcasted its desires through the many manipulating forms of media.  It’s true that nobody wants to be told what to do, but media and quite often people don’t operate aggressively enough for their words and actions to fully pop under the light of instruction; instead, these messages are carried out quietly by way of the image and the suggestion. And in my opinion the responsibility to detect the suggestive goes mostly to ourselves, and so when someone does something like hand you a card in the street that’s a very direct way of operating and I think much less invasive than the many other suggestions that surround us on the daily, that usher us secretly into actions we might not have made otherwise.

A lot of this exploration can get caught up in both semantics and semiotics so I’ll refrain from heavily threading such angles. I think that what stirs my thoughts the most with this topic is the way that we react about our own health when it is questioned, commented on, or recognized by forces outside ourselves. It’s easy to seek out answers when we recognize something off kilter in our bodies, to try and diagnose, but when others bring light to our bodies there tends to be an inherent defense system ready to release its weaponry. I’m thinking mostly of substances here, that when someone comments on a smoker or drinker’s intake the smoker or drinker probably doesn’t want to hear this. Whether they need to hear it is an altogether different thing, but I think that this defense is partly because we want to be in control of what is ours, by nature of our very own being, that we walk and talk in these bodies and that we know how to keep them or because they are ours we have the right to do as we please with them. However, I’d like to accept the suggestions of others as light nudges or even just kind recognitions of the potential outcome of continuing on with something in an either speedy or heavy manner.  For some it might feel like an affront to be handed a card about smoking or to be told a didactic story from someone having quit the very thing it is that you might be doing, and a lot of this has to do with how it might feel that one is questioning our very fibers of being, judging our pendulum of choice, but rarely is that the case.

I’m not entirely certain where I stand in terms of the arguments and debates going on in response to Jane’s post, nor am I out to defend or offend any one opinion (as we've seen, a lot of us have strong ones about this topic/issue). What I do know is that the same reason people become offended—that we are being judged or told how to handle something that is ours—is also the same reason not to be offended—that we can choose not to hear or care that we are being told something and continue on, in our bodies, in our minds. We are offended constantly by many forms of media aforementioned, so sometimes I wonder how reality, or real actions, are different than what we're confronted with via images.  At least that’s how I’m contemplating it all right now.  This could change. It's a much larger topic. That said, what are the things you don’t like to hear, either from friends, family members, or strangers?

Now that you’ve answered that, why do you think it is you don’t like to hear this? I think answering the second question will direct us more toward understanding, toward fruitful discourse, and I'm pretty keen on that happening

Cheers! @tfdorholt