I've often harped on about listening to a song or album over and over again. It's a sure fire way to learn something on a much deeper level and it's especially good for transcribing. However, what about the latest release that's played 20 times a day on the radio? Annoying, right?
There are certain situations where repetition can be hugely frustrating, even damaging if you have a monkey mind and cycle through the same thoughts - this tends to lead to bouts of insomnia, depression and anxiety. Repetition goes against our mental hard wiring too, as we are designed to look for new and exciting. Whether it's the latest iPhone, a new car, the latest piano method or fad diet, we crave these technological and theoretical advances; thinking that it will bring us happiness and make us more enlightened than we ever were before.
If you follow my weekly mailout (if you don't, you can enter your email on this site and you'll get the next one), you will know that I've been ploughing through some books recently. Two of which have led me to this blog post. The first is Tim Bragg's Lyrics to Live By: Keys to Self-Help Notes for a Better Life and the second is The Best Possible You: A unique nutritional guide to healing your body by Hannah Richards.
They are very different books but I guess they are both under the umbrella category of "Self Help". Now, some of you may switch off at this point as Self Help can be a bit of a Marmite subject - some people love it, others hate it. My argument tends to be this:
If you don't need to read any Self Help books then congratulate yourself on having a very happy life. If you do need some help then ask and in the meantime read as many Self Help books as you can!
Acquiring knowledge is a noble pursuit and whether this is spiritual, academic, artistic, nutritional or following a Haines guide to assembling the engine for a Mk1 Ford Escort, this should not be seen as a waste of time.
Let's come back to repetition though. As I read through the books, there are a few 'big picture' topics which I've heard before. If you decide to take on the Self Help books then this is somewhat inevitable.
"Be nice to other people", yes, I remember this from my loathsome time at Sunday School. Still, it's a very good message.
"Drink more water and add a lemon to your drink in the morning". When do we ever get away with not hearing about drinking more water?
You could say that we are bombarded with these messages and the repetition of which can be a bit preachy. Whenever the government tells me to eat '5 a day', it immediately makes me want to order a pint and a pie from Weatherspoons! I don't need to be 'molly coddled' and we don't need to live in a nanny state.
Having messages on repeat can be dangerous. Think of people who are obsessed with 24hr news channels. I would argue that those people are not happy! Propaganda and fake news through Social Media is the latest test to human nature. The social inclusion power of Facebook and Twitter compounds the messages even further as it was shared by a 'friend' of yours. If they believe it, then it must be true!
Is it not also a bit 'old hat'? Being a nice person, looking after your body and gaining insight has been a message promoted since records began. It's not exactly new. Should we still be promoting these ideas? So many other people have said the same thing so what's the point of hearing it again?
If we think of music for a second (I know, I occasionally refer back to this subject!), cast your mind back to when you first heard 'Revolver' by the Beatles or Charlie Parker with Strings. These albums are so utterly perfect that it's impossible to do any better. The Beatles were so good at writing pop songs that surely no one else should try. Parker was the master of the saxophone and no one else could ever 'out do' him.
Tim and Hannah have written books that far surpass my writing efforts and yet, here I am, writing down my thoughts in this blog post.
Hopefully, by now, you can see the point I'm trying to make. I went out yesterday and bought a load of lemons! If messages are repeated often enough then they get through and although some tend to be cliches, it's still important that these are offered to the world.
The other point I'm trying to make is that these books have a very specific and clever approach. They target the reader in a particular way and hit them with the message that they might not have come across before. They also have so many other nuggets of information to dig into. The big picture was not so different after reading these books but what I gained from their wisdom was entertaining and inspiring.
I once spent $25 + Shipping on a transcription of an interview with the great saxophonist Bob Mintzer. The book and CD wasn't popular at the time so I had to order it from the States. When it arrived I listened to the whole thing. Bob was very impressive but he didn't give me very much. One short sentence was really helpful though and it resonated with me at the time. I won't bore you with what it was all about because it was relevant to me at that time and despite disregarding 99% of the transcript, that 1% of information is still with me today. In my mind, that expense was worth it because of that one gem!
I would argue that these books must be written. These messages must be sent out to the world on repeat. A saxophonist that is not as in control of the instrument as Charlie Parker was, must produce new work. An old fable must be reworked and retold. Keep the positive messages coming as they do sink in and although I don't always react straight away, over time I build up an arsenal of positive knowledge that leads me in the right direction.
Thank you to Tim Bragg and Hannah Richards for inspiring me to write, inspiring me to continue ranting on about things like this and inspiring me to look after my body and soul.
If you have the inclination, have a look at both of these new books. You can also post your recommendations below. I'm always happy to add books to my wish list!