There are situations in which I cannot go headphone-free
Riding on long-distance buses, for example, can be torturous without a solid playlist. Staring out the window as the world goes by, music serves as connection to the rest of the world and allows me to be the DJ of my senses. I can blend the experience of big band music with the experience of a long, dusty road, and end up with something novel. The ‘there,’ a different time or place or vibe, melded with the ‘here.’
There are situations in which cloistering myself in a prefabricated enclosure of inputs is detrimental.
Going for a run through a new part of town, for instance, or walking through a new city. Closed off audibly, I experience pieces of what makes a place unique, but think of the data I’m missing out on. The music and voices and subtle background chatter sifted from my impression of my environment.
It would be like watching a video of New York with no volume. I’d have some idea of what the place was like, but would lack an entire sensory range to tie it all together. Would lack that additional context.
Sometimes it’s better to be in the present, in the moment, and sometimes it makes more sense to build your own moment, woven from tangled bits of input originating all over the world.
It’s an incredible time we live in: we can rig up our own bubbles and stay inside them perpetually, if we want to.
But even more amazing is having the ability to enter an exit when we please; the capacity to gather bits of beauty from here and there, and to over time weave them together into something potentially even better than the original source material.
Update: April 15, 2017
These bubbles of ours are amazing, but can also be crippling if you hope to learn new things and be exposed to new ideas. This applies to music, to in-person experiences, to the news we read, and to the social media we consume.
Finding a balance is key. Too much of either extreme tends to lessen our experience of the whole.