Engaging Culture

What Earbuds Keep You From Experiencing

In traveling around the world, I see more and more people living their lives with earbuds in place. I’m a huge music fan, so I understand the joy of listening to music, or hearing a great lecture or teaching when I’m on a plane, walking around – whatever. But I’m seeing more and more people who rarely leave the house without them. If you’re one of those people, here’s a few things you may be missing in your life:

1) Meeting other people. I’m from the South, so I’m a compulsive greeter. As a result, I rarely pass anyone without saying hello. I’ve noticed the people with earbuds aren’t rude, they just don’t notice me. As a result, they experience far less human contact.

2) Listening to your surroundings. It’s not just about avoiding being hit by a car, it’s about listening to the sounds of the city, the forrest, the suburbs – wherever you happen to be. Kathleen and I like to walk up the mountain behind our house in the mornings, and it’s always filled with birds, deer, bees, dogs – plenty of natural sounds. It’s hard to find a good substitute.

3) Probably my most important issue is simply listening to yourself. People who constantly have input from music or other sources, rarely listen to their own thoughts. A century ago, Friedrich Nietzsche argued that we seek out distractions in order to stay mentally busy, so we can avoid facing up to the big questions—like whether we’re living genuinely meaningful lives. He wrote that before iPhones or the Internet!

If Descartes believed that “I think, therefore I am,” if we’re not listening to ourselves think, then we’re missing our very essence.

Think about it.  Pull the plugs occasionally and listen to the world around you. You’ll be surprised at what you hear….

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  1. Guilty at times. I NEVER wear them while riding my bike. NEVER. but I will wear them at the Y when working out. Mostly because everyone else is and conversation isn’t and doesn’t happen. But I have begun turning my CD player off in the car when my wife is around (she doesn’t like my rock music) or when others are riding with me. That is a big step for me. 🙂

  2. As an introvert and seriously disgruntled traveller, I find headphones an essential element of my “talk to me and you will surely die” demeanour, especially when aboard an aeroplane sitting next to infuriating individuals who feel the need to tell me their life stories.

    That said, I agree with the general sentiment. The difference is I prefer to be genuinely alone with my thoughts, and I often make sure that I am. Other members of the human race need not apply.

    1. I believe it was filmmaker John Waters who was so tired of people talking to him on planes, that he had a book cover designed for a fake book called “Lesbian Nuns from Outer Space.” He’d just put that fake cover on whatever book he was reading, and NOBODY bothered him…

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