‘But are we all lost stars, trying to light up the dark?’ If you are a recording artist, trying to get your big break into the music scene, one song might change your life – for better or worse. If it is moving enough, resonating with many, your time has come. Yet, even after a major hit, there will be nagging suspicion that you might be a one-hit wonder. It becomes unnerving to anticipate better, or at least equally good reception to your next song. In this sense, it is as if one song can save or ruin your life. Your ups and downs always being one song away…
An exaggeration perhaps, but you get the metaphor, for life itself. There are many ways to punctuate the chapters of the movie of our life, to remember significant life experiences. Some say smell offers the strongest memories, but if so, it is not easy to recover a bygone smell. Since music pervades our lives, even if not consciously as background music, and since it can be reheard easily, songs have this power of becoming our autoplay soundtracks.
Perhaps because we are sentient beings, we tend to find the marriage of tune and lyrics, emotion and reason pleasing. However, songs tend to paradoxically evoke, accentuate, amplify and solidify attachment and aversion, while also releasing them via expression. Maybe this is why Buddhist culture seems to have a love-hate relationship with music? Music can be used for moving tributes to the Triple Gem, but it can also become a distracting worldly diversion that disrupts quiescence of the mind. Skilfully composed chants combining devotion and wisdom thus form the Middle Path. And they can be moving too!
If you are to mix a single album, with what you deem the greatest hits ever, that parallel significant moments of your life, what will be on your playlist? Now that your have this soundtrack, will you loop it indefinitely? But for how many times, before you find it overbearing, to become just noise? Or would you prefer random play of an infinite playlist? After some time, If you pay enough attention, you should get the drift. There is only so much or little truly unique music with insightful words to hear. And at the end of the day, we should write ourselves to be songs worth singing before life ends, before we ‘begin again’. May each next song be greater than the previous, to be no mere replay, till we sing of liberation!