Never in the existence of our species have we been so exposed to what could be considered sensory overload. The sights, sounds, smells and the touch of our environment can be a bit overwhelming if we allow it though I strongly believe that many of us have learned, albeit unintentionally, how to ‘tune out’ much of the background information assaulting us from every angle. The result of this is the all too familiar sight of a single person in life just going about their business with nary a damn given as to what’s happening around them. We all do it and probably more often than we realise.
The best example of this for today is that of the solitary individual (or even groups in some cases because sod socialisation when we have to continuously check our Facebook feeds, right?) habitually staring at their phone as the world goes on and on. Most of us are literally surrounded by the habitual rituals of the modern person as they carry on around us and many of us don’t even notice that they’re there. We get so busy being wrapped up in our lives that sometimes I feel it’s as if we are a society of ghosts haunting the world with our busy schedules until we finally get the chance to go home, pop on Netflix and relax , or is ‘chill’ still the appropriate term? Okay, I’ll admit it, that got a bit deep and dreary there for a minute so let’s get back on point my fellow world wanderers.
With all of this in mind, I have come to realise that we do live in a culture that prioritises the sense of sight above all others. I believe that most of us will begin to form an opinion about anything and everything based on how someone or something looks to begin with before we have even had the proper chance to gauge how it/they sound, smell, taste or feel. Just to clarify, I am not suddenly suggesting you consider checking to see how someone tastes or feels without prior permission. I am almost certain that person would object to such an invasive public approach. Well probably anyway, I’m not here to judge!
Have you ever considered just how much you are missing by letting your eyes, your literal view of the world, dictate how you perceive everything? Don’t get me wrong folks, seeing the world around you is an important requirement. I wouldn’t want to take a bloody step out of my door in the morning if everybody suddenly wanted to sow their eyes shut like some freaky, horror show come to life. I mean, they would struggle to get about to do simple the things like eat, sleep and defecate with their self imposed ocular mutilation – there would be poop everywhere! Sight is important but it can detract from us potentially having more considered approach to something we are experiencing.
The other evening, my fiancé and I had the chance to go and see the Devin Townsend Project. They’re a fantastic rock band that could best be described as a battalion of heavy metal going to war with an orchestra and a choir in a recording studio and then all sitting down for crumpets and tea afterwards to fully appreciate the beautiful chaos they just created. They’ve produced some cracking and incredibly varied songs over the years if you wanted to check them out. I’d recommend starting with Juular, Hyperdrive, Kingdom and Lucky Animals and you’ll have an idea of just how brilliantly diverse their material is.
Anyway, as we were listening to their set, each of us with a smile laced with an appreciative recognition of Devin’s particular brand of eccentric peculiarity and showmanship, his onstage banter is almost second to none, every so often I would glance over toward the folks sitting in the balcony opposite to us. Sitting to the far right of that area was a blind fellow who, upon witnessing for a brief moment, I couldn’t help but firmly appreciate his own unique perspective of the show.
I consider myself to be quite a perceptive person, sometimes a little too much, to the point where my attention though still firmly fixed on the sound of the music, would often carry my gaze to notice other things dotted around the room. These included intermittent surveillance of the walkways to ensure easy passage if necessary, stopping to notice the occasional howling of the excitable inebriate with a beer in each hand every few minutes, having a firm appreciation for the instrumental set up as well as the atmospheric lighting effects producing a good show for a relatively small hall with high levels of reverb bouncing around the place, carefully analysing the various humorous expressions on Mr Townsends face as he gleefully did what he does best, looking to my left every song or so to make sure future wife was having a good time (she did) as well as having a firm appreciation for the gentle swaying of several hundred heads bobbing along below us in unison to the eclectic chords of the band onstage.
My visual faculties have a tendency to be over utilised in almost every situation my life presents to me. I don’t really have a problem with this for the most part as my ability to quickly absorb and analyse what I see has been, and continues to be, very useful to me. However, I could not help but wonder as I looked upon the blind man gently swaying from side to side as he clutched his white cane in front of him just how much he was able to fully appreciate the brilliance coming from the stage as he shut out almost everything else around him to listen to the music. For a moment, I envied him. A ridiculous notion I know for a sighted man to envy the blind but it occurred to me that he was probably having the best night of all of us there from a purely acoustic perspective. It seemed to me that he was able to enjoy himself without having any of the unnecessary visual nonsense bombarding his mind, like with myself as described above, and he definitely appeared to be having a good time.
Shortly afterwards I actually closed my eyes so that I might be able to experience the sound without my other senses, especially my sight, taking priority and for those few seconds I was temporarily able to focus on solely what I was hearing. I do the same sometimes when I am at home and listening to a fragment of my music collection. I’ll sit at my desk or on the sofa, close my eyes relatively confident in the fact that I won’t be attacked by gherkin wielding, ketchup firing condiment ninjas (they might exist, you don’t know!) in my own home and just listen to the tunes. To this day, I am still convinced that this is the best way to completely appreciate a great song. An experience without distraction and without compromise.
Just imagine what we can all experience for even the briefest moments if every now and then we just tell our eyes to shut the hell up with all of their sensory information overload. Close your eyes and thoroughly taste that piece of fruit. Close your eyes and carefully listen to the birds singing in the distance. Close your eyes and embrace the gentle caress of the wind on your face. Close your eyes and appreciate the tender touch of a loved companion hugging you or holding your hand.
I think we can all forget that what we see isn’t necessarily everything there is to any given situation. It took the admiration of the auditory experience belonging to a man deprived of sight to remind me of this fact. Sometimes it might be a good idea to just close your eyes and experience the world in a different way and as I have mentioned before in the past, you may just surprise yourself as you do.