Tune in to tune out

I’m working in New York this week and have been walking the 30 or so blocks from my brother’s apartment to the office. For several mornings it’s been raining hard.

This, however, hasn’t stopped several fellow walkers from reading on their way to work.

Londoners walk and text. New Yorkers can walk and read and juggle an umbrella and a cup of coffee. And sometimes a stroller.

On one level this is just an example of multi-tasking, but when people tune out of their environment in order to tune into a book or a radio show or a newspaper or their itunes, it’s also a bid for personal space.

These people are transporting themselves elsewhere. They’ve checked out of the hustle and bustle under their feet, over their head and shoving on past them.

We urban souls fight noise pollution and cramped body space by creating these sensory barriers (achieved through headphones or miniature video screeens or hard copy reading material) that shield us from sensory attacks from sources we cannot control (that siren, the contruction drill, that mother screaming at her child.)

I’m old enough to remember the outbreak of Sony Walkmans back in the 80’s. At first being surrounded by headphoned people seemed wrongfully anti-social, but then I got one and life no longer seemed complete without the ability to control my own soundtrack.

Creating our own experience amidst chaos feeds that most primal of needs — the urge to control our environment. The more anxiety ridden some of us are, the greater that urge.

These days I rarely ever listen to music on my way anywhere — but this is the subject of another blog … the way some of my life phases demand music vs times like now, when it just wouldn’t cross my mind and even if it did — I wouldn’t know what to pick.

Instead, in the past six months or so I’ve fallen prey to a different distractor — if I’m commuting to work or burning fat on the treadmill, I’m hooked into a podcast (once known as a webcast as in a broadcast published on the internet, now “pods” in a nod to Apple’s role in making this sort of media so popular.)

I can’t remember how and when I downloaded my first podcast, but I do thank both my mother and my friend Dave for routinely offering me excellent recommendations.

This weekend’s blog series will share some of those (and I’d love it if you replied with your own listening suggestions.) 

First up is a podcast from RadioLab which was brought to my attention by Dave in response to the recent Question of Sport blog-off with Charlotte.

Featuring stories from Freakanomics author Stephen Dubner,  Games discusses what it means to be a hero-worshipping fan, the nature of child’s play and why some games are better than others. Whether you’re on a long walk, doing the laundry, hitting the gym, pottering around the house, cooking up a storm or just trying to tune out from the noise around you to tune into something more meaningful and worthwhile, this is a great listen.

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3 Comments

Filed under Bibliotherapy, Sport

3 responses to “Tune in to tune out

  1. Fred

    Podcasts eh?! That is one of the few areas of modern media that I haven’t really tried yet… Send your suggestions and I’ll give it a go.

    PS: I can barely walk most of the time, let alone multitask while doing it…

  2. For some reason, I can’t cope with adding a sensory barrier when I’m out and about. My headphones stay inside the house, where I like to be transported away from cleaning the windows or mopping the floor… but I find that if I’m walking through town or in some other public space, it kind of has the opposite effect and I end up feeling claustrophobic – like anything could be happening out there and I wouldn’t know about it – or be able to deal with it effectively – because my head would be somewhere else.

  3. I’m a huge fan of the Planet Money podcasts.

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