Music helps facilitate self-reflection

“No Drum And Bass In The Jazz Room” is the only album by instrumental math-rock/post-rock band Clever Girl, who split up less than a year after recording it. With ringing guitar chords, ethereal saxophone melodies, and driving yet meditative rhythms, the album finds a particular emotional space, simultaneously melancholy and hopeful and, at times, almost fun. I’m not here to tell you this album is good or bad; that’s for you to decide. All I can say is that on long days, when I’m lost in my own thoughts, this album has given me a profound sense of comfort and belonging. I hope it can do the same for you.

In my philosophical musings, I ask myself: What am I afraid of? I’m afraid of living a life that lacks meaning, of living a life based on a false or inadequate meaning. I’m afraid of losing the people close to me; I’m afraid of accidentally doing something that hurts them. I’m afraid of losing myself to the mundanities and complexities of everyday life, of losing my curiosity, my self-reliance and my sanity. I’m afraid of needing other people. I’m afraid of not knowing what lies in the future. Most of all, I’m afraid of living with regrets.

Subsequently, I also ask myself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid? I think that if I weren’t afraid, I would be more open to other people. I would be more willing to accept possible meanings of life, despite their immediately apparent flaws. I would be more decisive. I would be more accepting of other people’s flaws as well as my own. If I weren’t afraid, I would be more accepting of my own ambiguous future.

Post-rock band Clever Girl’s only album, No Drum and Bass In the Jazz Room, is quiet and meditative. Photo courtesy of Mondo Tunes.

Although philosophy may often seem abstract, abstruse and somewhat pretentious, it, in truth, studies how humans ought to live and, in its optimal form, provides a framework for making everyday decisions. Ultimately, every choice from what we eat for dinner to what career path we pursue boils down to each person’s personal philosophical framework. When examined in this light, philosophy can provide guidelines for how to live a productive and meaningful life.

Imagine that every single person is a philosopher and everyone has figured out his or her own path to living a good life. In this scenario, would everyone look back on their lives content with the decisions they had made and sure that they had fulfilled their purpose? The obvious answer is no. Humans cannot all be expected to find purpose in their lives, let alone make their every action an extension of that purpose. Humans make mistakes all the time, and what’s more, we only get one chance at being alive. Considering how hard it is to get anything right on the first try, to expect more than a select few humans to live “good” lives seems like an unrealistically high standard.

While I think it is important to hold myself to a high standard in all areas of life, I also believe that lowering my standards to live a meaningful life can assuage most of my fears. I have to accept that as a human, I will make mistakes. I will hurt people without meaning to. I will do things that lack purpose, or that go against my self-constructed meaning. I will do things that I regret. But that’s OK. This is my first and only time being alive and I’m trying to figure it out as I go, just like everyone else.

Jatin Chowdhury is a senior majoring in electrical engineering. He is also the jazz director at KXSC Radio. The rotating guest column, “KXSC Radio,” runs Thursdays.