Thursday, March 17, 2011

Stuck In A Rut? Rearrange Something

Ever since I got some attention on YouTube for my satires, I’ve become less and less interested in recording music, which has long been my No. 1 passion in life. When I was just a musician on MySpace, I was excited if I got a couple dozen song listens, and now I have over 15 million video views. As someone who’s always wanted an audience, it became far more rewarding to make comedy videos that get tens of thousands of views, rather than a song that may never get heard by anyone.

So my home studio began to deteriorate. It was accumulating massive amounts of dust, and even in their inactivity, somehow the cables strewn about the floor seemed to get increasingly tangled. A few days ago I finally spent a day with the vacuum and Swiffer and got everything back where it belonged.

While cleaning up, though, I realized that my studio had been set up almost the same exact way since I got out of college, even after numerous moves. Originally I had not only a receiver and CD player but a turntable, cassette deck, and DAT machine, not to mention several VCRs and a TV — so I had a large wooden “entertainment center” to house them all. But while cleaning, I realized that only the receiver and CD player were left, so why the hell do I have this huge behemoth of furniture taking over the room? In one of those rare but liberating moments of transformation, I decided it was time to say goodbye to the giant wooden cabinet. This allowed me to move the futon couch away from blocking the closet doors, which had always been a pain.

What a difference! My studio went from being a rigid, awkward layout shoehorned into a room where it didn't belong — a place where you couldn’t go in a straight line more than about five feet without hitting something — to a wide-open space highly inviting for performing and recording. And immediately I started playing music again. (I’m easing my way back with a cover song; look for a performance video on my YouTube channel in a couple of weeks.)

For no real reason, we tend to hold on to objects and habits that we’ve lived with for years. Like the “junk DNA” left in our genome from the evolutionary adaptations of our sea-worm and lungfish ancestors, which similarly accumulates over time never to be cleaned up, these objects and habits simply stay with us, by default. We unwittingly learn to work around them, somehow remaining unaware of how they encumber us. I had stored an old Mac and its associated peripherals under my studio desk, which annoyingly reduced the legroom there; this crap is now much better stored in a Hefty bag in the laundry room. Also, the studio door would never stay all the way open, so in five minutes I made a little magnetic thing that keeps it open whenever I want — finally! No more kicking the book or T-shirt as a door stop.

Until we force ourselves to examine whether a setup is really working optimally, we put up with what we’ve got. It works, we might tell ourselves, without realizing that it’s working badly. Thomas Jefferson believed that we ought to throw out the Constitution every generation and rewrite it from scratch. While that may be a bit extreme for a democracy, we can rewrite things in our lives, anytime we want.

Think about things in your home or your life that no longer serve their purpose. Is it really optimal for your sofa to be there and the table to be there? Does your Facebook page really have just the friends you want to have? How many static, worn-out things in your life are like that just because you haven’t bothered to think about changing them? How many little inconveniences can you remove from your day, just by putting aside a few minutes to notice them and then solve them forever?

You don’t need to buy a new car or move to a new house or a new city to shake things up. Just think about your surroundings, and then move some things around. It’s easy to improve your life in small but significant ways, so do it. You’ll be glad you did.


  1. Similarly, I just rearranged my dorm before spring break, and found that I now have much more space. Definitely something I would recommend to everyone :-)

    Looking forward to the cover song, as well!


  2. Getting rid of "stuff" is a very liberating experience indeed. There came a point in my life where I felt like my stuff owned me and not the other way around. I went through all my drawers and purged everything I didn't need (donated a good bit). Now I find myself surrounded with books and art and technology to reach the outside world. It's quite nice.

  3. Off-topic: What ever happened to your interest in biocentrism?

  4. Thomas -- Actually, it's bigger than ever! Especially given the recent exciting news that biological molecules are able to selectively interact with quantum systems, hopefully the first of many experiments that discover the links between physics and biology. But on this blog I tend to stay near conventional physics, and the biocentric stuff is pretty radical — not to be thrown around lightly. But look for me to venture into that world here gradually, beginning with an upcoming post called "The Case for Metaphysics," which will argue that philosophy has an unavoidable place in the interpretation of scientific data.

  5. I just got around to watching the "Possum Kingdom" cover; great job! You have a very nice singing voice :-)

  6. I love to get rid of stuff. I read once that if you don't use/wear something for more than a year, you should start think in giving or selling it away. I'm trying to go for that... speacilly when related to food ;-)