Monday, July 17

Zen and the Record

In the realms of the physical activities, there is a point at which the conscious decision-making processes yield to the unconscious. A good sailor or boxer, for example, will tell you that at certain moments their mind is no longer processing sensory information in the usual way, nor is their mind sending electrical impulses to their muscles as normally would happen when lifting boxes, or frying eggs, or another typical activity. These moments may come about at times of stress or challenge; the sailor might say that during a big storm they moved simply on impulse or intuition or instinct, doing whatever was necessary to keep the ship afloat, but not really thinking about each action as it occured. For the boxer, the process of seeing a fist approach, identifying its trajectory, then selecting and carrying out an appropriate block or dodge is too slow: to be successful, the boxer must react faster than conscious thought allows. They might call it "Zen" or being "in the zone". The way the mind handles sensory information changes in curious ways when an athlete is in the zone: time may seem to move slowly, movements at the edges of the field of vision are noticed as if they were immediately in front, limbs and fingers move seemingly before the brain has asked them to. At these times the consciousness or ego(is this the right word?) recedes to let something else take over the physical activity.

But what about the realms of the mental activities? In the examples of the sailor and boxer above, these athletes necessarily relied on years of training and experience to enter into that Zen Zone. A novice sailor or boxer is incapable of this, and must still rely on the sensory intake - decision - muscle reaction process. In a new stressful situation such as the storm, the novice will not have the the experience and training necesary to make the right decisions, or perhaps any decision at all. But there are those who have years of training and experience in a field not related to sailing, boxing, or another form of physical activity. Take, for example, me. I've been choosing records and cds to put on to entertain and content myself and my family and friends for years. I don't choose randomly, instead I try to evaluate the mood of who is in the room, I consider the time of day and even the weather and then select accordingly. I'm not always right and certainly in years past I didn't have the variety to choose from as I do now: not everyone can be satisfied with prog-rock or grunge, as was my favour 10 years ago. Recently, I've found that the less thinking I do about the choice of record to be played, the better the results. I'll flip through my LPs until one "speaks" to me. I'll put it on, and everyone enjoys it; if I'm the only listener, I love it. Yesterday, it was Mike Oldfield's "Crises", an album I've listened to only once before. Like I said, I have years of experience doing this, just like the expert sailer and boxer. I have all the sensory information I need, but I don't apply it directly to the decision making process as I once did. When I put a record on, it feels as though it was chosen for me already.

What's going on here? Have I reached the Zen of the Record? Has all the time and thought put into the music I listen to finally paid off as some form of divine music picking inspiration? And you, who have also put years of thought and effort into one or many specific activites, physical, mental, or otherwise, have you reached a point where the mind subsides, gives way to another form of decision making action? Tell me, what is the Zen of the chemist, the biologist, the artist, the musician?


At 1:21 AM, Blogger Johnathan said...

I think I'm approaching the Zen of making off-colour references in mixed company.


Or I'm an asshole.


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