The satellite radio service I listen to in my car is like my brain, in the sense that I only use a small percentage of both.
There are more than 150 full-time channels on satellite radio, and I figure I probably listen to less than 10% of them — four news channels, four or five sports stations and five or six music channels.
When this thought struck me this morning, I decided that since I had more than an 1 1/2-hour drive in front of me I would make a point of listening to other programs on other channels that I wouldn’t normally tune into.
The first one I landed on was a medical program. I listened while the host gave advice to a caller on how to get some of the charges reduced on their medical bills. I found the information useful because many times when I’m dealing with some medical issue, which (surprise, surprise) has happened more frequently in the past couple years than ever before, I just go along with what they tell me to do (diagnostically, not treatment-wise), never knowing how the whole pay thing works or even what questions to ask.
My wife pressed the button to end the call and said, "That’s something I haven’t heard in a long time."
If they tell me I need some prescription medication, and it’s more than I’m comfortable paying, I just don’t pick it up, and instead I get down to some serious self-healing and paying attention. And therein lies the basis for the difference in health care for the haves and the have-nots in this country. The have-nots have to prioritize medical, dental, car maintenance, living expenses and consider, "maybe I can take care of that next month, or next year, or whenever I can afford it, if ever."
The next channel I came to was a comedy station. I tuned into the middle of a stand-up routine by the late-great Dick Shawn, who I only knew as a comedic actor through such great movies as “The Producers,” in which he played an actor Lorenzo St. DuBois (LSD), who portrayed Mel Brooks’ hipster Hitler, and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” The piece he performed was called “The Civil War,” and in it, he showed himself to be a master storyteller and a genuinely funny guy. I found out later it was a 12-minute-and-30-second sketch he performed live on the "Steve Allen Show." (And for those reading this who have heard of but aren’t really familiar with Steve Allen, go check him out, for he was a true modern-day Renaissance man and the first host of “The Tonight Show,” before Jack Paar, who was before Johnny Carson, who was before Jay Leno, who was before Conan O’Brien, who was before Jimmy Fallon.
We would pick a cloud out in the sky, and all stare at it, and gradually but surely, it would get smaller and less dense, until it was...
I turned the dial again, and this time landed on a jazz station, just in time to catch the Miles Davis recording of “Someday My Prince Will Come,” a song that originally appeared in the 1937 Disney film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Before I knew it was that song, I checked the display on my dashboard to see if I recognized the title from Miles’ Sketches of Spain album, but as I found out later, this was the album right after that. It had the same sound and same vibe, though, which I love so much. When the sax solo came in, even before I knew for sure, I knew it was John Coltrane. I don’t claim to be some kind of expert, but Coltrane is so deeply embedded in my consciousness, and the healing was so familiar, that the sense of knowing — that it was him — was unmistakable.
When the song was over, I turned off the radio and thought, 'Wow! Is that all it takes to expand our horizons?'
And if the brain really is to be compared to the radio, does the key to using more of it come down, then, to a simple act of will? A decision — to change the channel, to break the routine, to learn something new or be reminded of something old, to hear and think and feel and open up to … something more.
Using virtual reality to treat certain phobias is nothing new; what is new is that now it’s available (or soon it will be) as an app on your smartphone.
One of the reasons we haven’t moved faster and further away from the fossil fuel industry is because of how deeply embedded and invested in it we are, and how much effort and money it would take to extricate ourselves from it, and how convinced we are that it’s not economically feasible.
As one of those 1 in 3 who are positively affected by the rain, I offer up my own private thanks — for the smells and the sounds and the green landscapes, and for giving me another column.