When someone dies who had an impact on us — a beloved entertainer from our childhood, for example — we are sad, even though we don’t know the figure personally. But why should that be?
There is no doubt that there is an emotional reaction to the news of someone’s death. For people we know and interact with, that is understandable. That person’s place in our life is missing.
However, we also feel sadness for some we have never met. For instance, a musician who sang a particularly meaningful song, or an author who wrote a touchstone book.
But why? The meaningful part — the song, say, or the book — still exist. They are not being erased from the public consciousness, and in fact may gain some awareness from the creator’s death.
Is it that the person will no longer be creating anything that might move you similarly? Chances are, unless you are a completist, there is music from that artist you have never heard, or books by that author you have never read. There is still new material — new to you, that is — to be discovered.
Perhaps it is general empathy. We are sad to hear of someone’s death. A life with value has come to an end, which is a cause for mourning.
And yet, people with value die every minute of every day. With eight billion people on the planet, we cannot mourn the passing of each and every one — we would live in a constant tsunami of sadness.
So why, then, are we affected by these individual deaths? Why are we not happy that the person existed in the first place, and created such impactful works of art? Why not take joy that our world can produce such people, who in turn create such meaning?
There is no doubt that we are saddened by the news of these passings. It seems obvious that the feelings exist. But is there a reason why? Why do we feel sad when someone we don’t know dies?
We all get embarrassed at one time or another. If you think back on those times, can you find a common thread to what embarrasses you?
There are many things that people find embarrassing. For some, it might be a bodily function of some sort. For others, it might be something normally kept private. And of course, there are many others as well.
While it can be uncomfortable to think about those things that make you feel shame, it can also be helpful. By identifying what embarrasses you, you might be able to avoid awkward situations. Or, in the best case scenario, you might realize there is nothing to be embarrassed about after all.
If you think back to the last time you were embarrassed, what was it about? Can you pinpoint why it is that situation makes you feel shame? Is it something taught you by your parents? Was it a result of your peers laughing at or making fun of you? Or something else entirely?
We all have experience with loss. When you have lost something — a pet, a loved one, a friendship — do you attempt to replace it?
In one sense, life is just an accumulation of various kinds of loss. Over the course of your life span, you will, at one point or another, lose just about everything, from your car keys, to your innocence, to your parents.
Since we all have experience with loss, we also can learn to deal with it. Some losses are more impactful than others, while some are downright trivial.
Replacement is obvious in some cases. Of course you replace your credit cards if you lose your wallet. Of course you send out your resume if you lose your job.
However, in some cases, particularly if the losses are emotional and not physical, it is not so clear. If you are emotionally devastated at the loss of a beloved pet, do you get another one? Or is the emotional wound so raw that you cannot risk getting hurt again?
Similarly, as friendships come to an end, it may not be clear that you will make new friends. For most people, making new friends gets more rare the older you get. Is that because you get pickier when choosing who to spend your time with? Or is it something else?
Generally, how do you deal with loss? Is your instinct to try and replace the thing that is lost? Or do you try to forget about it, and concentrate on other areas of your life?
One of the great aspects to music is the way it interacts with our emotions. Do you ever consciously use music to alter your mood?
There are many examples of music intensifying or changing how we feel. A morose soundtrack at a particularly poignant moment of a movie can bring us to tears. A song with a powerful beat can get us on the dance floor. At a rally, an inspirational song can make us feel like anything is possible.
However, these are all examples of how others might use music to make you feel the way they want you to feel. You can also do this yourself, and probably do, to some extent. When you feel angry, you might list to some heavy metal. You may have a workout mix that you listen to at the gym. Some classical music might be good music to study to. You may even have a particular set of songs that help you fall asleep at night.
Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What does your favorite music say about you?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Where does authority come from?’
To follow that idea to its logical conclusion, you could use music as a way of changing or modifying how you feel.
For example, if you are feeling depressed, you might listen to some depressing music to heighten that mood. Alternately, you might choose to upbeat music to try and chase away the blues.
Similarly, soothing music might calm anxious nerves. Or the reverse, with fast-paced music waking you up in the morning. If you are facing a long drive and are feeling drowsy, some dance music might help you stay awake.
Are there times you purposefully use music to make you feel a particular way? Or if you feel a certain way and you don’t want to, do you use music to alter your mood?