When you hear a song for the first time on the radio, you may find something about it you like, or cannot wait for it to be over. Some songs you enjoy over time, some you immediately resonate with. Some you like for a period of time, and then not so much after a while. Some you play over and over again. Some remind you of your own story.
This is similar to our relationship with people. Some you like straight away, others not so much. Okay, so why am I giving you a song metaphor?
Because really, it's not a metaphor. It's what we do. People say I'm a good listener, that I am patient. Well, the patience part is rarely said by people who have sat next to me in a traffic jam when I'm late... the listening part isn't true either. Most of the time, I don't listen, which is what makes me a good listener.
A good listener will listen to someone's problems, offer some compassionate response, and will be willing to do that over and over again, regardless of whether that person sings the same song or not. Many times we get frustrated with our friends, when they don't take our advice or insist on making the same 'mistakes' over and over.
If you hear a song you like, or an artist you like on the radio, you don't get mad at them for singing the same lyrics in the same key each time, do you? So why do you get mad at your friends when they sing their song? They are on their path, they are not on yours. It is completely and utterly not your problem whether they take your advice or not.
Once I've picked an artist I like musically, I tend to listen to them a lot, see the different styles in their musical compositions... sometimes they will take on a new style that a really don't resonate with, and sometimes I change, and find that music doesn't resonate with me anymore. In either case though, I am always grateful for the memories of the wonderful music they shared with me, for however long the time was they shared it.
I feel the same way about my friends. I get that they are singing me their songs, and all they ask is that I listen. I don't have to comment, critique or advise. Sometimes the songs are funny, sometimes sad, frequently heart wrenching and always beautiful in some way.
A friend who repeats the same pattern of behavior with a different series of temporarily significant others is simply singing me the same song. If I like the artist, I'm content to listen to that song over and over.
Some songs we collaborate on together... tossing ideas backwards and forwards... these can be relationships, projects, anything. And anyone who has ever picked up a guitar will tell you that you learn more playing with someone else than you do playing alone.
Too many times, it seems we get caught up in the words people say to us. "I love you", "I will always be with you", "I would never do that to you". If you see this in terms of simply singing a song, be it a love song or whatever, then there is no sense of 'betrayal' when they don't 'live up to' their words. We can simply accept that they sang us a song, and enjoy how it sounded.
Simply listen to the Song. In the book Cognitive science by Benjamin Martin Bly and David E. Rumelhart, they present evidence that bird 'song' may be a language with syntax.
"Some researchers have claimed that of all natural animal communication systems, bird song most resembles human language (Aitchison, 1996). Bird Song has many similarities to language, including, at first glance, many properties of syntax. In both birds and humans, the individual sounds have no meaning by themselves."
We have no idea what birds are saying, yet we will listen to their songs for hours on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Some of the songs may not be as pretty as others, but we do not judge them.
If we did know what birds were saying, we would probably get incredibly bored with their conversations very quickly - something beautiful would be lost from the song.
As the authors state, the individual sounds have no meaning by themselves. If I say the word 'Red' to you, what will you think of? Color, Fire, Sex, Passion, Danger, Stop?
Whatever context I say it in has meaning to me, but once it has taken a merry trip through your hippocampus (where a lot of our word-event association is believed to occur), it will be associated with your own set of associations, and will thereby color (pardon the pun) what you hear me say.
Since we hear what we choose to hear in any given moment, the same words spoken three weeks later may have different meaning to you, different meaning to the speaker.
Ultimately, language is an highly inefficient mode of communicating. But for now, it's what we've got.
So, just enjoy the songs :)
Vaughan Wynne-Jones is author of Being Human - a Guide to Metaphysics, Love & Gratitude - a Guide to Healing and Acceptance and various articles on spirituality. If you have any questions about this article or wish to publish it elsewhere you may contact him via MySpace. Parts of this article are included in his new book, Love & Gratitude, A Guide to Quantum Spirituality, due out in Fall 2009. Potential publishers contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.