Radiolab

A Way Through

A Way Through

"The quite cynical response would be to say, Why we love nihilism in pop culture is that it saves us having to be burdened with it. It saves us from feeling it. We can enjoy it in our rooms. We can get off on it. And then we let it go and we go back to work." ~ Simon Critchley 

If We Didn't Try to Hold the Flux

“What both science and at least some philosophical and even religious traditions tell us is that the world is impermanent. Nothing in it stays the same. We don't stay the same. Our bodies don't stay the same. The people that we love and the things that we love don't stay the same. That's just the truth of the matter, that there's this constant impermanence, this constant flux. And some philosophers have argued over the years that we should just embrace that. We would be freer if we didn't try to hold that flux for a moment.” 

Alison Gopnik

Quantum States of Time

Dawn of Midi live at Cafe 939 (Berklee School of Music) October 21st, 2013

Excerpt from "Dawn of Midi," Radiolab, August 29, 2013: 

"If you just let it do what it's doing and have none of the usual expectations of resolution—or of that usual arc—it's not going to tell you a story, it's going to keep you company. That's what's happening here. What it's trying to do is to get you into a different state of mind—like a different state of time—that experience of time that is non-narrative—where you're sort of existing in time, not is sort of a regular story way where everything leads to the next thing—beginning, middle, and end—something else.

What I often talk about is that you have quantum states of time. What I take it to mean is something very ancient in a way...What you have are these vertical stacks of rhythms, like almost multiple time flows existing simultaneously—in the same moment.

And if you listen in to this music...and try to pick out, Okay.What's the base doing? What's the drums doing? What's the piano doing? You will hear that they're actually almost not fitting together, like they're playing different beats, pulling at each other in some sense.

If I listen in and try to pick out all the lines, I get lost in the intricacies of their rhythms. If I listen out, I can just nod my head to it for forty-five minutes...And that's just interesting to me, the way the patterns on the interior just kind of mess with your ear because they all seem to be on their own cycle, but then when you pull out and just listen to the whole thing together, you're like, Oh yeah, I can nod my head to this. 

Clues Everywhere

“I guess the neat thing about all of these tales is, you think when you’re gonna tell a story from the past that the sensible place to go is to go to the library, you go to a fossil, you go to a ruin. But truth is you can go anywhere. The blood coursing through your veins tells you, I have a story for you. Same with a little bit of garbage that sits next to an ancient shoe. You pluck a sheet of paper and Jesus is talking to you – literally. There are clues about the past everywhere. And if there’s a knock on your door and you decide to open it and take a look, who knows what you will find? Who knows where you will go?”  

~ Robert Krulwich, from "Detective Stories," Radiolab, Sep. 10, 2007

Being Lost

Cutting Loose
by William Stafford

Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason,
you sing. For no reason, you accept
the way of being lost, cutting loose from all else and electing a world where you go
where you want to.

Arbitrary, sound comes, a reminder
that a steady center is holding
all else. If you listen, that sound will tell where it is, and you can slide your way past trouble.

Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path—but that’s when you get going best, glad to be lost, learning how real it is
here on the earth, again and again.

*     *     *     *     *

See also:

Lost & Found (1/25/11) -- “In this episode, Radiolab steers its way through a series of stories about getting lost, and asks how our brains, and our hearts, help us find our way back home.”

 

Listen to the Music of the Traffic in the City

“The song written by an Englishman about an American city whose promise of togetherness really yields loneliness sung by a white Parisian woman everyone thought was black.”

~ From “Pop Music: Songs that Cross Borders,” Radiolab, April 21, 2008

When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go - downtown
When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know - downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?

The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown - no finer place, for sure
Downtown - everything's waiting for you

Don't hang around and let your problems surround you
There are movie shows - downtown
Maybe you know some little places to go to
Where they never close - downtown
Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova
You'll be dancing with him too before the night is over
Happy again

The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, where all the lights are bright
Downtown - waiting for you tonight
Downtown - you're gonna be all right now

[Instrumental break]

And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you
Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand to
Guide them along

So maybe I'll see you there
We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares
So go downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown - don't wait a minute for
Downtown - everything's waiting for you

Downtown, downtown, downtown, downtown ...

 

Time Standing Still

Excerpt from “Time,” Radiolab (February 25, 2005).

Robert Krulwich: And to you, I guess, the joy of time—the deepest most ecstatic version of it—is when you lose it completely.

Jay Griffiths: I think that’s absolutely right. And I think that’s something in prayer, in meditation, in art—and in love, actually— is that people lose that very fretful, ticking-off-sense of clock time. And what you fall into is something transcendent. All that you have to have done is loved somebody to know that. And to hold them for half an hour and you can know that half an hour has lasted an eternity.

Robert: Time standing still at a moment like that is like a really swollen now.

Jay: Yes! Exactly. Exactly. And that in a sense that’s when the moment meets the eternal. That is all that matters is just this moment that you’re holding in your hand. 

The Self is Really a Story

Into the Silent Land "I would suggest that the notion that there is this immaterial soul—which some people might believe departs the body at death and some people might believe takes on another body in a future life—that’s an illusion, I think. Other people take a different line on this. Other people do believe there is self-stuff or soul-stuff somewhere. But the question is, Where is it? How would you when you found it? What would you be looking for? I have no idea what you’d expect to find…I have the same body, more or less, from day-to-day. I look in the mirror and it’s me. But essentially what I tell you, if you were to ask me about myself, I tell you a story…The extended self, which is what we normally think of when we think about ourselves, is really a story. It's the story of what's happened to a body over time."

~ Paul Broks, author of Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology, from “Who am I?Radiolab (January 15, 2006)

A Strange and Hidden Relationship

 

“In mathematics, the parabola is a conic section, the intersection of a right circular conical surface and a plane to a generating straight line of that surface. Given a point (the focus) and a corresponding line (the directrix) on the plane, the locus of points in that plane that are equidistant from them is a parabola. The parabola has many important applications, from automobile headlight reflectors to the design of ballistic missiles.”

To Be Able to Sing

An excerpt from a Radiolab conversation between Jad Abumrad and musician Juana Molina (May 4, 2009):

Juana: I usually feel that the sounds tell me what to do with them. Every sound has its own behavior. I’m just feeling like a driver of those sounds. Little by little, my ridiculously small universe becomes huge. Anything that has a note or a rhythm, you can make music with.

Jad: Are you inspired more by a thought, like I want to say something?

Juana: No. Never! There’s absolutely nothing that I really want to say.

Jad: Really?

Juana: Really.

Jad: Well, you have lyrics sometimes.

Juana: Most of the times.

Jad: So when the song pops into your head and you develop it, you’re not thinking of  a story per se.

Juana: No. Never.

Jad: But you put the story on afterwards, why?

Juana: In order to be able to sing.

Un Día

Un día voy a cantar las canciones sin letra y cada uno podrá imaginar si hablo de amor, de desilusión, banalidades o sobre platón.

One day I will sing the songs with no lyrics and everyone can imagine for themselves if it's about love, disappointment, banalities or about Plato.

Constantly Keeping Track

Excerpts from "Sleep," Radiolab, May 25, 2007:

sticky-notes Robert Krulwich: Robert Stickgold has the theory that as you go through your day, your brain is constantly keeping track of emotional content. Your brain is going to flag that stuff, It says, Oh, I need to remember so I can work on it later. I’m going to put a sticky on this one.

Robert Stickgold: So if it puts a sticky on everything that’s hard during the day, then all the brain has to do when it’s creating a dream is go and grab stickies.

Jad Abumrad: Stickgold thinks he’s seeing the outline if the dream-making process here. It starts really simply at the very beginning of sleep, right after you fall asleep, with the replay. This, he suspects, is just the brain emptying out its stickies.

Robert Krulwich: Are you at all puzzled by the super-duper, Technicolor, extraordinarily cinematic qualities of some of these [dreams]? Because if it were just an everyday brain function to sort of make sense of the world and allow you to make new connections, you wouldn’t really need quit the movie quality.

Robert Stickgold: When we talk about dreams, what seems to come into dreams are memories, concepts, relationships, associations that have a strong emotional flavor and — I’m guessing from the data — need a full-blown orchestration to be properly processed.

“Sleep is the annihilation of consciousness, so it’s a terrible time in which everything disappears — the universe and yourself with it. I think if people didn’t sleep and didn’t have the unconsciousness of sleep, they possibly wouldn’t even realize that consciousness is an enormous gift.”

~ Dr. Giulio Tunoni

Both the Problem and the Solution

Listen to this short, remarkable story about a clever strategy which a nursing home in Düsseldorf, Germany came up with to address the problem of disoriented residents wandering away.

“It’s like another thought comes up and you forget what you wanted. It’s like fishes coming up to the surface of the water and then going down again. Thoughts come up and they disappear and you don’t know that they have ever been there. You forget.”

~ Richard Neureither (translated by Regine Hauch) for “The Bus Stop,” by Lulu Miller, Radiolab, March 23, 2010

Pressure

by Company of Thieves

I'm angry all the time

No one's fault but mine

Tell me how you fashion kind

When you're out of style

And I try hard to answer

All the questions that you've posed

Tell me now how should I care

When I feel so alone

And so unloved

The pressure is rising

I mean it, it's binding

I've been compromising for you

When you come home really late at night

Ripe to pick a fight

I know just the kind you'd like

So come on and bite

And I try hard to answer

All the punches that you throw

Tell me now how should I fair

When I feel so unloved and so alone

The pressure is rising

I mean it, it's binding

I've been compromising for you

The pressure is rising

I've been compromising for you

I'm waiting at the bus stop in the morning

And it's pouring

Oh, I am waiting at the bust stop for you

Staring at walls with closed doors

The key that won't work

Sure helps the time pass by

Saying I'm wrong when I'm wrong

Knowing it's the right thing

Sure helps the thoughts in my mind

The pressure is rising

I mean it, it's binding

I've been compromising for you

You, you

I am waiting at the bus stop

In the morning

And it's boring

ddddd

Pressure

by Company of Thieves

I'm angry all the time

No one's fault but mine

Tell me how you fashion kind

When you're out of style

And I try hard to answer

All the questions that you've posed

Tell me now how should I care

When I feel so alone

And so unloved

The pressure is rising

I mean it, it's binding

I've been compromising for you

When you come home really late at night

Ripe to pick a fight

I know just the kind you'd like

So come on and bite

And I try hard to answer

All the punches that you throw

Tell me now how should I fair

When I feel so unloved and so alone

The pressure is rising

I mean it, it's binding

I've been compromising for you

The pressure is rising

I've been compromising for you

I'm waiting at the bus stop in the morning

And it's pouring

Oh, I am waiting at the bust stop for you

Staring at walls with closed doors

The key that won't work

Sure helps the time pass by

Saying I'm wrong when I'm wrong

Knowing it's the right thing

Sure helps the thoughts in my mind

The pressure is rising

I mean it, it's binding

I've been compromising for you

You, you

I am waiting at the bus stop

In the morning

And it's boring