seeing things as we are
singing to a different key and looking through a different lens
“We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
A couple weeks ago, I pulled out the piano keyboard out of its huge box, turned it on in anticipation, and was terrified when I placed my fingers on the keys only to hear that the entire thing was sharp. Had I lost it? Was my internal tuning fork flat the entire time?
oh yeah, for background purposes, a scarcely shared personal tidbit: I have absolute (aka perfect) pitch. You know how most people can identify colors with conventional labels as "blue" or "red"? People with absolute pitch identify and/or recreate notes in a similar-ish way.
I spent the entire afternoon listening and playing music and was relieved to find out that my absolute pitch is very much intact (I can't find the original source lol but the absolute / perfect pitch Wikipedia uses “displaced absolute pitch” to describe what I thought I had: "where all notes are slightly flat or slightly sharp of their respective pitch as defined by a given convention") Displaced. Even the term itself sounds disgraceful.
Two letters ago, I mentioned that I'm practicing how to work with music. I've noticed that the more I play piano, the less I'm able to do so. I suspect it's because I'm playing more of what I'm hearing, thus my brain is processing music more actively, even when I don't want to. This made me think of the "given convention" that my brain uses as a lens to process music. What if my brain were defined by a different convention? How does my relationship with other entities beyond music change my behavior, conscious or unconscious? And in what different ways does an athlete / architect / anthropologist soak in the world?
BACH, "CELLO SUITE NO. 1.", according to Melissa McCracken, an artist with synesthesia
This doesn't happen with just music. When I'm entrenched in writing mode, anything and everything is calibrated to the key of the narrative in my head. Every word I encounter gets tested as a piece of the puzzle; every situation I see as a lesson or metaphor.
If I've painted all week, I'll take a walk and see the colors, shapes, and angles in the leaves and clouds in a whole new light.
It's the same way learning macroeconomics will make you think of everything in opportunity costs, sunk costs, and supply / demand, or being entrenched in permaculture design will make you see zones, sectors, and slopes in any space.
As long as you keep learning and experimenting, there are endless lenses in which to view and experience the world. How boring it is to be stuck in one identity, not able to break out of one perspective.
When I relayed a classic case of self-induced confusion and overwhelm this week to my wise friend Samara, they suggested I try on different answers and see how each resonates, much like trying different avatars or lenses on for different situations.
Related: the brilliant Janet created these beautiful digital deck of cards to help re-frame your work based on different roles (e.g. how would you approach your work if you were a maker, philosopher, slacker, student, etc.). It might help you solve creative problems in a new light. Also tangentially related: Oblique Strategies.
What key are you calibrated to? Might it be time to re-examine or tune? What if you could look through a different lens and create a new reality? What would you want to try?
Much light and love,
A huge thank you to Paul Millerd who gave Dig Well a shoutout in his newsletter, Boundless (AND gave amazingly thoughtful feedback on my book intro). As someone starting out on a similar journey as his, I relate to a lot of his thoughts on going off the default path of traditional success and grappling with the meaning of work and life. A very warm welcome to all of you who are here because of him 🤗.
Beyond the Blues: Poet Mary Ruefle’s Stunning Color Spectrum of Sadnesses. Maria Popova always curates such beautiful words. Here are some snippets:
Blue sadness is sweetest cut into strips with scissors and then into little pieces by a knife, it is the sadness of reverie and nostalgia.
Purple sadness is the sadness of classical music and eggplant, the stroke of midnight, human organs, ports cut off for part of every year, words with too many meanings, incense, insomnia, and the crescent moon.
Brown sadness is the simple sadness. It is the sadness of huge upright stones. That is all. It is simple. Huge, upright stones surround the other sadnesses, and protect them.
Green sadness is sadness dressed for graduation, it is the sadness of June, of shiny toasters as they come out of their boxes, the table laid before a party, the smell of new strawberries and dripping roasts about to be devoured;
Yellow sadness is the surprise sadness. It is the sadness of naps and eggs, swan’s down, sachet powder and moist towelettes.
Author's note: In each of the color pieces, if you substitute the word happiness for the word sadness, nothing changes. You know me, I couldn't get away with not writing about emotions at least once in here.
Background for the newcomers— I’m writing a book titled Reclaiming Control: Looking Inward to Recalibrate Your Life slated for publication in July 2020.
Releasing the introduction to my beta-reader community last week was exciting! I'm so thankful to those who have given such encouraging and helpful feedback.
I had a great call with my editor this week assuring me that all is on track for my June 5th deadline to push my manuscript to copyediting. Though I will continue to freak out about it, I'm trying to channel this energy into actually writing and editing lol.
People making their best attempts to recreate famous works of art on this Dutch Instagram account. idk why I laughed so hard at this one.
That's all, thanks for reading 💛
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