Playlists and Life

There is a playlist you have, filled with all the wonderful songs you know, all the lyrics you sing from the heart, all those songs you love. You put it on Repeat, and listen to it day in and day out. Even if it’s on Shuffle, there is no need to worry that the next song that’ll play is something you don’t want to listen to. There is no need to mind that at some point during the playlist’s run, you’ll have to push the Next button to skip a song. You had handpicked each song from the music library; each and every one of them is something you’d love to hear playing any time of the day.

And so the music runs, you sing along, you play along, you rock your head to the tune. Never have you felt so in control of your own life, so proud of your ability to set your own rules and have a say on which songs should be playing and which ones should not. You enjoy the run for quite a while. Life is perfect, and perfectly predictable, too.

Then as your handpicked songs continue to play, one after another, shuffling and repeating by themselves a hundred times over, something changes along the way. You begin to hear less and less of the songs, the melody blending in with your mind’s hum so that one becomes indistinguishable from the other. You don’t notice it when one song ends and another begins. The lyrics dissolve in a sort of faceless blur as they run through your ears, until at some point you become so desensitized from it all that you no longer notice you’ve still got music on.

When you eventually recognize how you’re no longer listening to—and I mean really listening to and actually hearing—the songs in your playlist, you press Stop. There is silence for the moment.

You try to figure out how you can get yourself to notice again. To feel the songs the way you did before. To thaw from the numb brought about by the endless shuffle-repeat of the songs in your playlist.

You go to your music library, that place where all songs—both hated and loved, both never played and most played—exist. This time you place the entire music library on Shuffle and Repeat, never mind the unpredictability of it. Sure, there are songs there you might hate, songs from long ago you’ve already forgotten, songs you have willed to forget. But when the playlist is unpredictable as this, you hear the songs again, each individual song, fresh and crisp to your ears.

Sometimes a song that you don’t like plays, and so you have to press Next. Sometimes you do press Next, other times you let the song run anyway.

Sometimes a song you haven’t heard for ages plays, and you smile as you recall how much you used to love it and how many times you’ve let it run, by itself, on Repeat. Nostalgia sets in, and it feels nice to wallow in it for a moment. But when the next song plays, you’re over it.

At some point forward, you hear several new songs from somewhere, outside of your playlist—maybe from the radio or from TV, or from some movie you just saw. Aha, you say. You download the songs and hit Create New Playlist. Shuffle. Repeat. ♦

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