Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Truth Whispers

As I've mentioned before, I tend to surround myself with music at just about every waking moment. In the car, while I'm working, while I'm exercising, and so forth. If I'm doing anything that doesn't involve listening carefully to someone speaking (such as while watching a film, receiving instruction during class, etc.) then I tend to have music playing. Sometimes this is to provide a sort of background noise of familiarity to mask out more chaotic sounds: such is the case in my office, right now. My cube-mate, a salesperson who works from our home office every couple of weeks but is otherwise typically working from his home in North Carolina or is on the road somewhere, is notorious for a) talking on the phone continuously while b) using an astonishingly loud speaking voice. Headphones and loud music enable me to almost completely block him out and to get work done. Other times it's just to provide a distraction that helps pass the time while I'm doing other things: driving, working out, etc. This morning I realized that sometimes this distraction can really be a detriment, though.

I'm trying my best to get myself back on a reasonable gym regimen. I used to hit the gym at least 3 or 4 times a week, heading straight there when the kids went to school and working out for about an hour before showering and heading to my office. However, when I was out of work this summer I kind of fell out of my more strict gym routine, and once I began working again and Christine started substitute teaching my gym attendance fell off to maybe once or twice a week, tops. some weeks I've been unable to go at all, owing as much to native lack of motivation as to lack of opportunity. So I realized last week I needed to kick myself in the ass and just start going 2 times a week, then up it to 3 or 4 times a week once I get back in the habit.

So, this morning I headed over at about a quarter past seven or so. Once i arrived in the parking lot, I began to dig through my gym bag, grabbing my membership card out of my wallet and pulling together the various parts of my iPod so I could get my music going. However, I quickly realized I'd screwed up and forgotten to put my headphones back in my car. So, no headphones, and therefore no music.

Ugh. Half an hour on an elliptical runner with no music. I felt a stir of dread in my chest. Oh well, nothing to be done at this point, so i headed on inside, dropped my stuff at the locker room, and hit a machine that was poistioned directly below one of the gym's PA speakers, ensuring that I'd at least have music of some volume to listen to while doing cardio. All in all, it wasn't so bad.

Then I moved onto stretching -- a big part of my exercise regimen for the past two years has been 15-20 minutes of stretching 4-5 mornings each week in order to increase my flexibility and it's paid off tremendously. I can kick comfortable over my head and rarely get strained muscles in my legs or hips anymore, so keeping up the stretching routine is important. But stretching without music is borrrrrrring. But, again, I just sort of plodded through it.

Now, this left me with about 20 minutes of time to fill in before I had to hit the showers. I used to spend this time on doing weights, but as my training has become more advanced and demanding in the past year I've instead used it for additional time working on forms or one-steps. Usually this is when I most crave music, as I can use the music as a sort of pacing mechanism, ensuring that I maintain a certain rhythm when performing forms. But today it was just me in an echo-ey studio, with the sound of standard health club dance music seeping through the glass walls. At first I was a bit distracted by this: the sound wasn't clear enough to really identify easily, so part of my brain kept trying to figure out what song was playing, sort of the way your mind automatically will try to piece together half-heard conversations when you're walking through a crowded store. But after a bit I began to just filter the sound out altogether.

And then, something fairly unexpected happened. I realized, quickly, while working on forms, that I was paying far more attention to the details of my form, to the finer poitns of movement: hand and foot placement, the angle at which I had my hips turned, my breathing, and so forth. I suppose this shouldn't be too much of a shock, really: I mean, I know that listening to music while doing things that demand attention and focus, like forms, will have something of a negative effect. but I just hadn't realized how much of my attention was being sapped away by a little background noise. I was so much more able to critique my own performance, to judge where my strengths and weaknesses in my pyang ahn o dan, chil sung ill rho, and bassai were and to adjust, compensate, and improve on the fly.

It reminded me of something I once heard -- I'm not really sure where, but I'm sure it came up in a conversation I had years ago, long before I began training in tang soo do. The gist of it was that one of the ways you can tell that someone isn't telling you the whole truth is they tend to yell more. The idea is that people know when they're not telling you the whole truth, and they know that if they don't bowl you over a bit you might start asking too many questions, so they use force and volume to drive their point in. Conversely, people who are telling the truth and who are confident in the rightness of their words or ideas whisper. The idea would be that the power of truth ensures that it will be heard and believed, but the irony is that liars tend to drown it out with volume. Thus, people who want to glimpse truth need to learn to listen, carefully, to small things, while learning to ignore all the racket of lies and half-truths around them.

This is a pretty big concept, I think, something that applies to many aspects of our lives: obvious "big" things like the news media, advertising, religion, and such as well as less obvious things, like the voices we use when we speak with ourselves. We can sometimes expend so much effort drowning ourselves in stimulation and distraction that we simply are unable to hear the voices in our hearts, telling us simple truths. I think sometimes we do this on purpose, intentionally drenching ourselves in stimulation so we can avoid facing facts we'd rather not deal with, but sometimes we can just get so used to the noise and racket that we forget that sometime all we need to do is stop, take a deep breath, and listen to what our minds are saying, quietly, to us.

We know, inside, the truth, or at least what we know of truth, and sometimes we just need to stop for a minute and listen to really hear it. Whether we want to know it or not.

Mood: A bit harried (lots to do this week, and I'm attending my first trade show next week, so there's stress too...)
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