James Joyce has something in common with those who are prone to mental leapfrogging from one observation, sensation or reflection to the next. This mental zigzagging allows one to let the thoughts flow with no apparent connection between thoughts or musings.
In essence, stream of consciousness allows the mind to explore an idea until another one takes center stage. When one indulges in this free flow of thoughts, it is important to have a notebook and pen handy to jot down anything you want to explore further. Otherwise, some flashes of amazing possibilities will be lost.
Are you one of the many commuters whose daily drive takes an hour or longer? If so, the conditions are perfect for the stream of consciousness process to kick in. To enhance this free flowing mental process, tune your satellite radio to a station that plays 50s music.
You may wonder why we recommend that particular musical era. Why not pick country music, hip-hop or something more modern? Supposedly, the 50s were a simpler, more innocent time followed by the rise of rock n’ roll.
The music of the 40s was the amazing big band era and ballroom dancing, but the music does not lend itself to the stream of consciousness process. The music of the 60s was rock n’ roll, the era of Beatles, Bob Dylan, and other musicians espousing getting high, free love and other experiments. By the end of the 60s, the Leave it to Beaver society was becoming more turbulent with student demonstrations and other societal upheavals.
Country music is raw, down and dirty — he “done” me wrong; I paid him back and so on. Not the ideal background for any stream of consciousness experiments. Think of the process as similar to Einstein’s thought experiments. All the ruckus stirred up by country songs would result in ripping another black hole in the universe and not the theory of relativity.
The 50s music tells love stories — the yearning for love, the finding of love, the loss of love, teenage angst on life and love as well as presumably more mature, adult love. It is surprising to discover the number of songs about suicide, both teen and adult suicides.
As you listen to the lyrics of the old songs, your mind is transported to that place where thoughts turn into ideas and ideas into conviction. Nothing is off the table. Thoughts may flit from ethics to the state of mankind, politics and life.
For example, how does the mind of a teenage girl work? In “Teen Angel” her boyfriend’s car stalls on the railroad track. They escape. But just as the train approaches the car, she runs back to the car for his ring. She dies and the boy is heartbroken, but in the back of his mind, he has to question her irrational behavior. No ring is worth the compacting experience of becoming one with the mangled car. But where love is concerned, rational thought is scattered on the wind.
Another song “Patches” tells of two teens from opposite sides of the track. He wants to marry her, but his parents bar him from seeing her again. She thinks he no longer loves her so she jumps into a nasty, polluted river, and probably dies of the crud before she drowns. The boy decides to join her and jumps in the river as well saying “I know it’s not right, but…” If you happen to be a clean freak, one prevailing thought is foremost in your mind. Gross! The river is filthy.
Then there are the sneaky lover songs. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is about a guy enticing the woman to stay a bit longer and enjoy the warmth of his arms. She stays. He wins.
Since music tends to reflect life to a certain extent, one cannot help but wonder when common sense got off the train. Are people so mindless or just needy?
What ever happened to self-preservation?
Humor columnist and author, Elizabeth Cowan’s books are available on amazon.com. Check out her revamped website: www.elizabethcowan.com.