I believe life has a soundtrack. Poignant moments in our lives are punctuated by the songs playing in the background. The sonic thread that solidifies our experiences, just like a scent.
I grew up in an orange grove listening to vinyl records that spun sound over back yard tomato vines growing out of oak barrels. My dad’s Linda Ronstadt, my mom’s John Denver. We had the cassette tape for The Sound of Music and I knew every word to each song.
Life’s soundtrack changed around the age of nine, however, as I moved into my own bedroom, got a small radio, and gained a window into the world of mainstream pop music. Eddie Grant’s “Electric Avenue” was like nothing I’d ever heard, fitting perfectly with my wonderment at the fifth grade boys in checkered Vans and their BMX tricks. Men At Work‘s “Land Down Under” was another song full of foreign intrigue. I bought the cassette at the local Radio Shack and would play it in a portable recorder on my front porch, as my sister and I roller skated in circles.
This music was not my parents’. The sounds escaping the little seven-inch speaker of my radio moved me in new ways and linked me to the world beyond the orange trees.
Music has forever been a part of my life. I only recently retired as a DJ at our local community radio station after 16 years of sharing my favorites on my show “Music as Medicine.” I left the realm of mainstream radio in the 90’s and have spent the last twenty years exploring music of many genres and mostly listening to what would be considered “independent” music.
Jeb’s been raised on Alexi Murdoch, Scott Matthews, Micheal Franti and Feist. Of course, Joni Mitchell’s been in there and Bob Dylan, too. Try as I may, he insists that he just doesn’t care for Bob Marley.
Blame it on the school bus, but it was last year’s trips between home and school that introduced my nine-year old son to the world of mainstream pop. With my own opinions that Top 40 music was generally market-driven and superficial (not to mention, sometimes just plain terrible in its content), I began to hear random snippets hummed from Jeb at home. There was talk of a specific radio station that played these songs, but the frequency just didn’t reach our part of the island.
With our new commute to Jeb’s art camp this summer, one of the highlights has been the ability to tune into his favorite station, JAMZ 98. That’s right, the “Island Blaster” has been gracing my vehicle with songs from Maroon 5, Rihanna, Justin Beiber and Pink.
At first it was fairly painful for my prejudiced ear. But my memories of how it felt to hear Michael Jackson for the first time on the radio superseded my distaste, wanting Jeb to also find his moments of joy with sound.
We’re going on two weeks of 7am travels with Top 40 and I’m trying to strike a balance. The audio book for Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” is in the car, and after dropping Jeb I often listen to a few words of wisdom from the man that speaks of the present moment. Many times, just listening to him calms me and brings a bit more presence to my drive.
“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”
― The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
I absorb Eckhart’s words when I’m alone on my daily trek, and I find myself leaning upon them with Jeb in the car, while Pitbull and Christina Aguilera pump through the stereo. As superficial as the songs may seem on the surface, the more I listen, the more I hear a yearning to transcend time.
“One day when the light is glowing
I’ll be in my castle golden
But until the gates are open
I just wanna feel this moment”
The message comes through in the guise of bass beats, extreme production, electronic keyboards, and vibrato notes, but it’s there all the same. The human desire to be free.
So, as the bass pumps through our speakers and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are chorusing
“Here we go back, this is the moment
Tonight is the night, we’ll fight ’til it’s over
So we put our hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us
Like the ceiling can’t hold us”
I rest on the teachings of Eckhart Tolle.
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.”
― A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
No need to change the station playing in our car. Instead I tune my inner dial to the now. Enjoy the soundtrack solidifying this experience with my son.
We are driving on the bridge over the Wailua River. Kalalea mountain rises to a point in the distance. A blue sky domes above us. The air conditioning is broken in our Toyota so our windows are down. Warm salt air mixes with passing cars and swirls our hair in the cab. Red dust is on the console. Jeb’s fingernails are covered in paint. He sips a homemade smoothie from a mason jar. He is nine and a half years old. I will be 40 in a few days. A male voice echoes the station ID, tough and serious: “Island Jams! FM 98. All hits.” This the summer of 2013.
The ceiling can’t hold us.