Some of what I’ve learned about life has come from, of all things, music. Yes. Music, through the years, has taught me about relationship… over and over again. The more I understood the relationship between one note and another, the better my music became. Little by little I began transferring my understanding of relationship in music to relationship in life. Wish I’d started understanding those similarities years earlier. But I didn’t.
My god. When I think about it, life, for me, could have been so much simpler had I attached my understanding of relationship in music to my everyday life. For in music, there are consonants and dissonances, with many of the dissonances being vibrations to be avoided… for any reason. They sound ugly, they mess up the whole rest of the piece and they show a painful lack of integrity for the music itself.
There are some dissonances that do work, however, and it’s important to know which ones do, for the right dissonances mixed in with the consonants often produce different, creative, sometimes magical sounds that enhance the piece and often move it to the next level! How about that?! And that theory translates very nicely to human relationships.
In basic terms, I’ve come to understand that the better we know ourselves, the easier we can find the good fits with others, while also knowing which ones to avoid. Learning to recognize the “consonants and dissonances” in our everyday relationships can change our lives in a dramatic way. That concept goes far beyond physical attraction, relying more on our instincts… our brain and our heart. It takes some practice, sure, doesn’t nearly everything worthwhile? And this is an important one, for it can change (for the better) who we spend our days and nights with, often changing even how we spend them.
But why should we spend the considerable time to get to know ourselves better, to understand who we really are and what we really need? Simple… because there’s a world of people right outside our front door who don’t and won’t spend any time at all trying to figure out who they are, and who they might fit well with. Almost everyone we “run into” on a daily basis thinks we will like them and accept them just as they are. It’s like they think “I’m cool,” or “I’m a good person, a unique person, and you’ll like me!” Or even “What’s not to like about me??” Know some people like that? Of course you do! So knowing who we are and how we fit into the great scheme of things can make our daily life so much easier!
There are other benefits to understanding ourselves in the realm of relationships… one of them being that, over time, we more easily find people with whom we can relate on many levels, who also relate to us. With those people we usually get along well, make good and often lasting friendships with, and build a relationship of trust, rather than the shallow “Nice talkin’ to ya, see you around.”
Now, I see relationships mostly as a peek into the rear view mirror. That “peek” often says more about who I was than who they were. Circumstance always played a huge part in who I spent time with back then. As the path I was traveling was so important for so long, those who were traveling a somewhat parallel path usually defined with whom I was friendly, with whom I spent time. Musicians, sure, and other artists who might have lived in close proximity.
I suppose it’s part of human nature to seek out our pack, our tribe. In that regard I often had difficulty recognizing a potential dissonance when meeting new folk. That, I now realize, came from a mindset of believing in, and hoping for the best of people. Naive? Oh god yes. I stumbled in and out of bad dissonances for years, until that youthful belief in people in general wilted away, to be replaced with a more careful, quieter and far less outgoing version of myself. A great move too, though much too long in coming. For a time it felt like I was shutting my real self down, yet life got easier, simpler, and the realization of those changes cemented my new self. A little more consonances, a little more care in choosing the dissonances. Eureka! Why couldn’t I have figured this out years earlier?
These days I desire very few relationships, and hold dear those few I still have with old friends. Good times spent together, a mutual respect and trust, a comfort zone of knowing they’re the real deal, and that they know I’m the real deal as well… so important now. I’ve come to understand that the old hack, “strength in numbers” should be attributed only to the concept of the power of influence, and war, not to integrity, human understanding, or even love.
I have become, as have many old people, averse to large numbers of people. I have found that there is easily enough dissonances in the best of us to provide harmonic discourse at the highest and often the most beautiful level. Try adding more people to that formula and we find the dissonances quickly expand into the uncomfortable zone, with emotions rising and reason quickly ducking into the restroom.
We’ve all been there, we’ve all done that. Time to simplify, get rid of the angst, keep our relationship numbers down and operational while keeping the integrity and respect of our remaining relationships up. But wait… is this what old age and experience are trying to teach us? Yes, I believe it is. For me anyway, I’ve found a great balance that music has helped me define and put into practice… good and simple consonances sprinkled with a few well-thought-out dissonances. Add some quality silence between some of the notes and what I’ve ended up with, then, is a very few excellent relationships that continue to be sweet, and deep, and so rewarding.