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Alone Together: Tim Lindsay

May 21, 2020

It seemed obvious I’d write about how music is keeping me going. How many people have you seen on social media lately posting covers of formative albums (with NO EXPLANATION… why the heck is that a requirement)? These past weeks, however, I have been more concerned with teaching myself to sit comfortably in silence. A recent study found that many people would rather do anything — even electrocute themselves! — than be alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes.

An infant laying down on a bed looking at the camera smiling
“In the little one’s brain, there is no other moment but this one, no world but the one we see.”

Part of my identity has always centred around whatever I put into my ears. Connecting to music does get me through the dark and uncomfortable times of dislocation and isolation. Admittedly, the record-collecting end of this habit gets ridiculous, but the rewards are great. I love the sense of lifting off the earth that so much music provides, and to “arrive without travelling”, as George Harrison wrote. This feeling is very private, and yet so strongly connected on an emotional level; for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved that sense of unseen inner motion.

Armed with a list of ingredients from my dad, I took to the kitchen. After guesstimating proportions for the filling and prepping the wrappers, I fumbled through the first samosa despite carefully following each step on YouTube. This shouldn’t come as a surprise but wrapping is hard. Over the hour and 15 minutes it took me to wrap only 17, I couldn’t stop thinking about the amount of time it must have taken my grandma to put together those seemingly bottomless bags. Not only for my family, but also for the 11 aunts and uncles, and 8 cousins who also lived in Vancouver.

G.I. Gurdjieff, the mystic philosopher, had a lot to say about music’s significance. Even in a single note, he felt we could all hear resonances within ourselves and from the wider world. Gurdjieff was convinced that every encounter with music held this promise of connection, but only rarely do we experience it on that level because our awareness is underdeveloped. Humans gather in groups for concerts and worship services, Gurdjieff said, not just to see and hear what is on offer but more primarily to “get human” with some other humans in a room. To see and be with an audience is a fundamental part of the musical event: a shared communion of exchange between the music, and its performers, and the listeners. Right now, our communion with music is stifled. To connect with it all by ourselves, we must first be at peace with silence.

I do not only mean disconnecting from “the attention economy”, as Jenny Odell has written about, but that is part of it. Immersing ourselves in the presence of silence, without distractions, we can better hear those inner and outer resonances. The private experience of being spirited away by a solo listening session, while hypnotic, can itself be a distraction from the present moment. We can be entranced by music’s spell, asleep to what is here and now.

Meanwhile, I am raising a newborn during this crisis, a very intense experience and uncharted waters for me. Being cut off from almost everything else, at least I have an opportunity to really enjoy these precious early moments with my family. Using this time for escape, to take off into another world, is in violent tension with the demands of the baby in the room with me. For, in the little one’s brain, there is no other moment but this one, no world but the one we see. Being here in the precious moments of quietude, I am learning how to listen again.

— Tim Lindsay

Tim Lindsay is the Technical Director at The Theatre Centre and works as a freelance sound designer.

Alone Together is a series of shared stories by The Theatre Centre. Over the next several weeks, our team is going to offer you some of our own personal joys, those things that nudge us, the arms that extend to us in the dark, those things that catch our hearts off guard. And we’d love to hear from you in return… what’s blowing your heart open these days?