If Music Be the Food of Love

If Music Be the Food of Love, hit skip, stop or fast forward?

Duke Orsino: If music be the food of love, play on, Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die. [William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night Act 1, scene 1, 1–3 Duke Orsino of Illyria, presiding over the merry, mixed-up world of Twelfth Night, opens the play with these festive sentiments, soured though they be by the affected airs of the melancholic lover.]

Fast forward to Facebook 21st November 2015

Tamara Sutila: ‘With all due respect to those going through the heartache of relationship break-up or still living in its shadows, at some point you have to say ‘goodbye’ to your past instead of ‘hello’. I can’t help listening to Adele’s new smash single Hello and getting a bit irritated…”Hello, it’s me, I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet, To go over everything, They say that time’s supposed to heal ya, but I ain’t done much healing.” Really, after 4 years?!

So here’s the thing. I happen to have given this topic some thought recently. And not just thought right… but feeling too. You have to feel this topic. That’s what music does. That’s probably why it is such a blessing because it creates a pathway via which blocked emotions and unexpressed feelings might be freed from the body. If you sing or dance that is. Over these past few months all of the strangest lyrics started to make sense and hold meaning for me. I swear I missed most of the feelings they were ‘meant’ to evoke when I heard them all the first time around, whether it was several decades ago or more recently and I also only just discovered that more than 90% of music plays on one’s emotions. I’d missed this too – moved as I was in my youth by Bob Marley’s War, Osibisa’s Sunshine Day and Ringo Starr’s It don’t come easy. These songs were arguably about ‘bigger issues’ than romantic love, respectively: race based oppression; doing what one can to build harmony in the world and how your smile might contribute; forgetting about the past and all your sorrows and about how peace is within your reach if you’re big enough to take and how ‘trust’ is the requirement.

So I think that Sutila is on to something here. She is raising something much deeper and more important than revisiting the nostalgia of a past relationship. She is touching on how different people bounce back after any sort of difficult period in their lives. And what I think she might be missing – which is why her post has hit so many raw nerves – is that different people feel and process things differently AND some people ‘like’ or ‘need’ to take longer and these people irritate the one’s that bounce back more quickly. For the sake of short hand let’s label the two different group Gloomy and Bouncy and hope that most people exist somewhere in the middle on the continuum between them, to keep the world going round.

There are two points I would like to make. One is that if you belong to either group you are unlikely to understand the other unless you are hugely empathic. Gloomies are likely to think Bouncies superficial and Bouncies find the Gloomies heavy going as illustrated by the ‘enough already’ tone of Sutila’s question. What both fail to understand is that there are a complex set of dynamics that cause each to react in this way and no amount of sharing or explaining or describing why we react so differently will bridge this divide. And this period of recovery or healing may or may not relate just to getting over romantic break ups. Some childhoods were so bad that they wire one for blocking out and getting up and getting on with stuff and making the most of life and other childhoods were so good that they wire you to behave in exactly the same way because you are always expecting good and better experiences around the next corner, so you don’t dwell for long on anything that happens to you. Childhood is of course just one influence.

What matters is to learn and accept that what works for some will not work for others – or in the words of Roman poet Lucretius, One man’s meat is another man’s poison. It is of course from our differences and disagreements that we learn the most about acceptance but this doesn’t imply that we need to accept everyone’s views or remain placid. This is why I am so happy with the prospect of a part time coaching career. It separates the people who don’t want to make necessary changes in their lives from those from those who do. Coaching is about willing self-observation and wanting to get unstuck and change patterns and do things differently to bring about a different result. It isn’t about trying to understand why those patterns came about in the first place which is a backward looking trajectory.

The second point I want to make interests me far more and goes to the heart of what Sutila and Duke Orsino raise. I want to pose it as a question? Do the songs that make us look backward; remember the rawness of love and sex and emotion and ‘uniqueness’ of connection we felt with that ‘one’ person, do us any good? Is it helpful and healthy to revisit those emotions or have them dredged up in all manner of clever prose – lyrics – that have us going round and round in circles about the possibility that he or she might have been our one true love, entrenching the ’feeling’ that no other person will ever make you feel that way?

Toni Braxton’s Breathe Again is a good illustration: If I never feel you in my arms again; if I never feel your tender kiss again and so it goes… Then I shall never breathe, Breathe again? Really? And far more diabolical if the love you feel does not always feel good, Macy Gray’s Sweet Baby will make you stay anyway: Many times I’ve been told that I should go but they don’t know what we have baby; They may not see the love in you, but love I do; And I’ll stay right here […] Sugar wishes don’t change what it is or how it feels in the bad times; for whatever he is he is mine; all the time and we’ll get by… You should hear the music on this track – it’s compelling as it keeps turning in and around on itself blaming life for the craziness not the two people and justifying staying always and forever.

This is the multi-billion dollar industry that trades on regurgitating and reliving the emotions that have not always served us best that this discussion should consider. For sure, some of them lead to great creativity and yes it is love; romantic love that gives the world its edge and its wonder but it’s the stock market that makes the world go round. Or if you see through that, then you know it’s the configuration of our Universe, sun, moon and stars that do. And good friends, simple pleasures, gentleness, kindness and so on. But sometimes some of us do need to snap out of it too, in our own best interests. So thank goodness for Anastasia, Diana Ross and of course Gloria Gaynor amongst many other who imparted let me out this misery; get out my life why don’t you and I will survive, to Bouncies and Gloomies alike to balance the song books on love.

Think twice before you buy Adele or anybody else who may make you melancholy this Christmas. And be of good cheer!


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