This started a while ago.
There was a time when I used to take walks or run with music. So long ago that these activities involved a Walkman. When I was in my early 20s, I would regularly put together killer mixed tapes and then come home from work and take long long walks while listening to them. The goal was to listen to the music, so the walks were generally to the same places. This hardly mattered as the walks changed with every new mixed tape I made. And when I ran, as I sometimes did around a track in a park along the water in Astoria, Queens, the music helped me get through the sameness of the run.
Some time passed. During that seemingly long stretch of time when the only way I could read The New Yorker was while pushing a stroller that is precisely what I did. I couldn’t wait to take walks every single day, but really it was that I couldn’t wait to read.
When I started running again, around 2008, of course I started with music. But strangely I found that no matter how often I switched the music, the runs felt strangely the same. I was often flipping between songs, never satisfied. I’m not sure what made me go out that first time without any music at all, but it was a revelation. Suddenly every single run was different. I was alone with my thoughts, which went everywhere, and there was also just the hypnotic effect of my own breathing, which, the minute you stopped noticing it, simply carried you along.
The same thing had happened to me when I was swimming. At first it would be all about getting the breathing right and all I could do was concentrate on that. And then just when I thought I couldn’t possibly get things right, I would get things right, and then the breathing came naturally, and my mind could focus on other things. It was what you might call meditative (which I believe you would have to call it, as I swam so slowly it was hardly what you would call exercise).
And so I finally made the connection between working your mind and body simultaneously. And that was fine until things went one step further. Sometime this summer, I took my car (a Prius with 1,000,000 miles on it) (in truth, over 200,000 miles, which is practically the same thing) to get some electronic sensor fixed, and during the operation (in which the plug was literally pulled), the display on my dashboard went out. So now I can no longer tell how many miles to the gallon I’m getting (a lot, people), but I also lost the ability to turn on the radio, or rather to use the stereo system at all.
I am driving in a silent car. What does this mean exactly? I thought that I might approach it the same way I approached running, but there really is no mind/body connection there as, like most people in a car, I’m just sitting there. There is something particularly cruel about not having music in a car, as I believe the point of a car, besides getting you from point a to b, is to be able to listen to music really loudly, preferably with the windows down on a gorgeous sunny day. Kind of like the days we’ve been having recently. Sigh.
But I do have my thoughts, and they really do go all over the place. Many of my thoughts tend to go like this though: Wow, so this is what my car actually sounds like. Is that actually a good sound? Is my car simply dying? I wish I were still driving in ignorance.
But other times, alone in my car, my thoughts go in a much more interesting direction. Sometimes I find myself thinking about what I might write about and this sometimes leads me to thinking that I should write about what it’s like to drive in a car that’s totally silent. I’m led there, you see, but I don’t really have any thoughts past that. I think it could take many more hours in my silent car. When the epiphany comes, you’ll be the first to know.