I've often wondered what it would be like if I dropped dead while running with my trusty iPod shuffle.
Not morbidly, not obsessively wondered -- it's more like curiosity. What would whoever found me think of my taste in music?
I was a huge fan, back in the day, of HBO's Six Feet Under, a dark series with a quirky sense of humor. There was a very compelling cast involved in a family funeral home. The formula for each episode was to begin with the crazy, grisly death of a soon-to-be-customer.
My personal SFU fantasy has someone coming up on the twisted body of a decidedly older exerciser (that would be me) splayed out on a running trail, with music still playing through my earbuds.
While from appearances, one would assume my personal listening would consist of old Chicago tunes and Glee revivals, instead the camera would pick up the x-rated lyrics of a rap song -- one of several in my collection.
Cut. Scene. Another entry in the "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover" category.
Directing Our Lives
Lately, though, I've thought a lot more about the iPod shuffle itself -- and what it represents. What mine represents is about 20 years of random and very eclectic music collected on my computer, combined with several audio books and personal recordings.
Which means that, while running, I might hear "It's Hard Out Here for Pimp" right before I listen to Bill Moyers interview Joseph Campbell on the Virgin Birth. And you know what? I am equally interested in and fond of both.
The Shuffle allows me to be as complex and contradictory as I really am.
We create the same kind of entertainment mash-ups with our DVR's, of course. We pick our shows and watch them at our convenience, not when somebody wants us to view them. We skip through the ads, fast-forward through the slow parts, and instinctively trash any that don't hold our interest.
Any compromise or community that was part of tv watching is almost gone -- my husband and I finish dinner, then each go our separate ways to "watch our shows." And why not? Thanks to programmable devices, we have the freedom to create own little interest zone.
What power we wield!! What flexibility we have!!! We are the directors, producers and stars of our own show.
There's Always a However
But are we really qualified to, or interested in, controlling every aspect of our own lives? Without some kind of outside stimulus -- even stimulus you don't like and didn't ask for -- isn't there a danger of getting stuck in our own little ruts?
Don't we need an outsider prompting us, encouraging us, even shaming us into reading another kind of book, trying a new kind of food, venturing into a new activity?
As much as I love being able to create my own environment, I am a little worried about spinning myself into a personal, insular cocoon.
The world -- and I -- need new ideas. Maybe we should borrow each other's Shuffles?
Case in Point
Not much of a science fction fan by nature, I was forced to read The Sparrow through peer pressure in a book club. And guess what? I loved it. I also loved reading Ray Bradbury, in school and out of school. After his recent death, NPR replayed an interview with this surprisingly energetic and effusive author. The best line?
"So I've learned that by doing things, things get done." -Ray Bradbury
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