There are two periods of time on the Jewish Calendar during which many people observe a sort of mourning — the first is during thirty two days starting on the second night of Passover and ending with a holiday called “Lag B’Omer.” The second is called “The Three Weeks” and begins and more or less ends with fast days — the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz being when it begins and the fast of the 9th day of the month of Av being when it ends for all intents and purposes. Those who observe time periods do so in a few different ways but I will focus today on one in particular — listening to music.
I have a long and complicated history with music starting when I was a child and did not particularly like any non-classical music, taking me through high school when I found myself very much enjoying Led Zeppelin, the Phish years at the tail end of high school, the exploratory years from about 2002 when I bought a Flaming Lips album based on a review I read (and the title) until late 2008, when I allowed a coworker to give me dozens of suggestions of musicians.
Thanks to the coworker, my (now deceased) iPod got the kind of workout it had never seen before, as it was more used to a lot of Phish and not a lot of anything else — the occasional Radiohead album notwithstanding. So these time periods come along and I just fully stop listening to all music. I stop short of avoiding television programs with music in them (though we did stop watching Glee a few seasons before it ended and I feel like a bit of a quitter for having done so…) but otherwise, no music for me. This makes my commutes interesting.
For the last few years I have been reading fantasy books on the train ride to and from work. A coworker told me that every year he likes to reread the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy and so I thought, I wonder if I could tackle that if I stuck to a schedule every week? I did exactly that and divided the number of chapters in all four books (including The Hobbit) and it turned out that I would read one or two chapters every single week. The following year I read all five books in A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin and it went up to about five or six (sometimes seven) chapters a week. This year I am reading the fourteen books of The Wheel of Time and read about thirteen or fourteen chapters every week. What keeps me going while reading? Music, believe it or not! More on that when I write about this daily habit in greater detail… another time.
It’s interesting to get a full break from listening to music while reading. For one, a person can get an appreciation for the various noises of the subway. The down side is that there are many sounds a person can hear on the subway that are quite unwanted and unpleasant to the reading experience. I have to tune them out when I can and try not to listen to the mundane conversations that I often have heard, as tempting as it is to fully enter another person’s life.
When I am not on the train reading, I am either walking to or from the train station and when I am not listening to music, I listen to podcasts. I listen to podcasts every morning regardless — it is a constructive way to pass the half hour or so that it sometimes takes me to wash the dishes and an educational boost as well — my two favorites are Build Your Tribe with Chalene Johnson and The Charged Life with Brendan Burchard.
After three weeks of not listening to music and in some cases getting some melodies stuck in my head that I really want to hear (The third piano concerto by Rachmaninoff comes to mind as one that I heard shortly after the Three Weeks this year) it is a warm and welcome reunion. Every year — twice a year — I get to miss music all over again and appreciate having it in my life. That’s a nice thing to have in one’s life, I think.