Saturday, September 04, 2010

Train of thought

(Pay it Forward update: two boxes down, one to go...)

Tonight Miss V was busy listening to a whole raft of songs online, trying to decide which one she would select for a free download. She gives most songs all of three seconds' listening time to pull her in, so if she doesn't already know them, they must be instantly catchy to the teenage ear to pique her interest. As she went frantically scrolling through the list, I caught the strains of something I knew I'd never heard before, but which nonetheless had the seeds of familiarity -- and which somehow managed to be compelling in the course of three seconds. "Wait, what was that?" I asked.

"That" turned out to be the song "This Ain't Goodbye" by Train, off the band's latest album, Save Me, San Francisco.
I don't know what it is exactly, but ever since 1998 I've been serendipitously bumping into Train songs on the radio and loving them instantly -- often without realizing that they were all songs by the same band. Pat Monahan manages to write songs with hooks that seem tailor-made to hit the auditory sweet spot in my brain. I learn the lyrics, I sing along with gusto while running errands in the car, I've bought some MP3s of stand-out songs.

And yet I don't have a single Train album in my music collection.

It's not because of file sharing -- although I'm more likely to purchase individual songs than full albums these days, I still buy a fair share of CDs from bands I like. It's not because I consider Train a guilty pleasure, either. De gustibus non est disputandum, especially when it comes to music -- I don't care whether or not others like what I enjoy. And whether the songs are fully orchestrated studio versions or stripped-down live performances, I appreciate both iterations. I just can't seem to bring myself to buy an album for some reason, even though I know I'd love the music.

So why do I apparently struggle so hard against embracing something I enjoy?

I'm not really sure. Maybe it's the same reason I resisted watching the Firefly series (and before that, Babylon 5) despite the fervid praise of many friends. It's related to my reluctance to buy a cell phone and join the 21st century. It may be the same reason I often merely think about running off to play in Seattle, rather than actually doing it... or the same reason I take forever to get out the door, even though I know I have errands to run... the same reason I often take a very long time to make new friends. For about a decade now, I've been highly cautious around things that appeal strongly to me; this nervousness makes me resist or put off doing things I really like. It's a paradoxical sense of wariness, even fear, upon encountering a potential source of pleasure -- almost as though my brain is saying, "It's too good. Check for traps." Which is nonsense, I know... but the human brain, especially mine, is far from being wholly rational. I'm just not sure how it got started. More to the point, I'd like to conquer it, because it's keeping me separated from so many opportunities.

For now, I've put Train on my want list. (Christmas and my birthday are coming up, you know.) On my mental to-do list, however, there is now a new question: What, exactly, are you afraid of?


KO said...

really interesting. In an evolutionary brain sense-- that might be a good survival strategy. Extreme caution probably pays off in the wild.
just a thought...

Soozcat said...

I suppose it might at that, whether in the wild or in the wilds of downtown. But just as every virtue taken to extreme becomes a vice, even those instincts which help me to survive can also keep me from thriving if they go too far.

Thanks very much for your comment.

Soozcat said...

Dear Night Agency people:

I have now received two different comments from your organization on this blog entry, encouraging me to shill a contest sponsored by one of your clients. Suffice to say this is not that kind of blog. Thanks for your interest, but please don't post here again. Thank you!