What Would You Write Songs About?

Songwriting is an unusual way for us to communicate with other human beings. If you were to write songs, what would you write about?

We are all familiar with listening to songs. We hear them on the radio, in movies or TV shows, on the Internet, and so on. We sing them to each other, and we might even sing in the shower, because the acoustics are so good!

And yet, despite being familiar with music, only a very few have much skill and experience in writing songs. The act of creating lyrics and music together to form a memorable, catchy tune is not easy, and it takes time and practice.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss a related question: ‘What does your favorite music say about you?’ We also discuss a bonus question as well, ‘Where does authority come from?’


Most communication is verbal, of course, although we also communicate non-verbally as well. Music, however, remains a unique way to communicate with our fellow humans. There is something special about music and how we react to hearing it. It can tap directly into our emotions in a way that everyday speech might not be able to easily do.

With that in mind, imagine for a moment that you are a songwriter. What, then, would you write about? Many songs deal with love, although there is no shortage of other topics as well.

What would you write songs about?

Related questions: Why does music evoke emotion? How does creative expression help us to know ourselves better? Music: Make or listen? Where do ideas come from?

What Do You Think About When Your Mind Is Not Preoccupied?

For many of us, life is very full. At any given waking moment, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of things to be preoccupied with.

Most of what we think about from moment to moment tends to be concerned with immediate needs or problems: What should I wear today? Did I pay that bill? I’ve got an early meeting at work that I can’t be late for. What should I eat? …and on and on.

If you were to remove these sorts of thoughts from your mind, what is left?

To answer this question, there are some concrete steps you can take. There are different strategies for taking your mind off of these bustling, nagging thoughts.

One method is meditation. Meditation has grown in popularity over the last several years, and there are some suggestions that it can help to alleviate stress and reduce anxiety. There is no one sure-fire recipe to learn to meditate, although most methods involve focusing on something tangible, like breathing, to avoid preoccupation.

Another route to a peaceful mind is to surround yourself with a serene environment, like walking through a remote stretch of woods. If you remove reminders of your everyday life from your experience, you are less likely to think about it.

Yet another way is through intense physical exertion like exercise. Often your mind is able to let go of thoughts when your muscles are in action. This might be due to reduced oxygen available to your brain, or perhaps because of endorphins that are released during exertion.

Whatever method you use, one of these or something else altogether, what thoughts remain after the others are removed? Do you think of nothing? Or perhaps abstract thoughts become easier? Or maybe you become tuned in to the details of the world in front of your eyes.

What do you think about when your mind is not preoccupied?

Related questions: What do you think about when out for a walk? Are we too busy? Meditate or medicate? How do you find peace when you need it?

Why Do We Sleep?

Sleep is one activity that everyone engages in every night, and yet it remains something of a mystery. Do you have any theories on why it is we sleep?

It is obvious that our sleep schedule is tied to the day/night pattern. It certainly isn’t a coincidence that due to the earth’s rotation, it is dark every night, and we sleep every night.

Moreover, it seems pretty clear that sleep is the product of evolutionary pressures. Our very distant ancestors gained some advantage from being asleep every night that allowed them to survive, and possibly even to thrive.

However, we don’t know what that advantage is.

One possibility is that our senses leave us at a disadvantage to other predators in the dark. Our eyes do not allow us to see as well in the nighttime, nor do our ears hear so well as to make up the difference, compared to some of our animal competitors. Therefore, a survival mechanism is to keep humans inactive during the time when they are disadvantaged — at night — and concentrate their efforts in the daytime.

But why didn’t the eyes or ears evolve to be more sensitive? Other animals did, so why the difference in humans?

Another possibility is that our larger brains required more organization, and processing of information. For humans, this happens during the sleep cycle, in particular during REM sleep. This, in turn, requires long stretches of uninterrupted sleep, and that is easier at night with fewer distractions.

These are just two examples of possible explanations. Do you know of any others, or have a pet theory? In your opinion, why do we sleep?

Related questions: How many hours of sleep do you need? Do you have trouble sleeping? Early bird or night owl?

What Is Genius?

The word “genius” gets used often these days. But what exactly is genius, and how can you tell it when you see it?

Either a person or an idea can be referred to as “genius”. Typically for a person, it might refer to someone with a particularly high IQ. This can be measured via an IQ test, and at least in theory, can be quantified.

However, it is also used in other contexts. For example, someone might be called a musical or artistic genius. Is there any possible way this can be measured? Is there some sort of threshold to be labeled as such in a creative field? Or is it entirely subjective?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What gives a person value?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What makes you you?’


When the word is used to describe a creative person, is it used for someone with a high level of expertise in a very specific field, or to someone with a broad skill set? That is, which is more of a musical genius: a guitar virtuoso, or someone who can play a dozen different instruments with a relatively high level of skill? Or perhaps both are?

If both, are we in danger of making the definition of the word so broad that it loses meaning? If everyone can be called a genius (in their own way), does the word cease to mean anything?

How do you use the word? Do you use it frequently, or know people who do? Does it simply mean “I think this is really great” or is it more than that?

What is genius?

Related questions: How can we measure intelligence? What is intelligence? How important are important people? How important is the artist to art?

What Would You Say To People In The Future?

If you had a chance to convey a message to future generations, what would you say? What would you hope to communicate?

Speaking to the past is easy. For instance, here at Intellectual Roundtable, we previously asked the question: What advice would you give your past self?

Such a question is relatively common in our society, and it is easy to see why. Even though to your past self, the future is a mystery, your present self knows what happens. You have the advantage of knowing how it all turns out.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What are you waiting for?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Are science and religion compatible?’


However, to your present self, the future is unknown, perhaps even unknowable. So what do you say to the unknown?

You might even have some idea of what to tell yourself a decade on (or more). But what about someone a hundred, five hundred, or a thousand years from now? What information would you try to convey? How is it different from sending a message in the present moment, to the other side of the world?

Of course, we have a version of talking through time already. After all, isn’t that what writers do? What is, say, the novel Frankenstein, if it is not Mary Shelley taking to us from the 1800s? Was Homer speaking to people more than a thousand years later when he wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey?

So the technology exists to send a message forward in time. How would you use it? What would you say to people in the future?

Related questions: Past, present, or future? How do you plan for the future? What is time? What do we owe the future? Will the future be better than the present?