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the burden of bounty

I don't own an i-pod.

This is not a moral position. I am happy that music is out there, and that we can collect it and store it in vast quantities to use as we wish. I have no quarrel with the technology, either. Nor am I put off by people walking around bobbing their heads to sounds I cannot hear. Bless you all, I say, and the self-selected melodious diversity with which you surround yourselves.

But I don't want to join you.

More than anything else, it is the sense of oppression: the crushing burden of quantity. The idea of holding thousands of hours of listening in the palm of my hand puts me off. I like salted peanuts. But I like them in digestible quantities. A handful of salted peanuts is pleasant. A bowlful is delightful. But a roomful of salted peanuts is hideous. I know I don't have to eat them all at once. But the idea that I couldn't possibly eat them, even if I had a year to do it -- that's off-putting. Almost scary. To me, an i-pod is a concert hall full of peanuts. And the fact that I have selected each and every one only makes it worse. I have contributed to my own oppression. Isn't there a Chinese curse about attaining your heart's desire? Something like that.

Imagine the most exciting hockey game. Tie score, end to end action, nerve-twanging tension. Great. But what if the game lasted for a year without a break? 24 hours a day of pulse pounding drama, day after day, week after week. You'd die -- or become so blase that you didn't care any more. Hockey would cease to be a source of enjoyment for you. I'd hate to feel that way about music. Have you ever sat in your driveway at the end of a journey, listening to the last few bars of a song on the radio? Kind of a nice moment, isn't it. But what if the very next song was another old favorite. And the one after that. And the one after that. And so on. You could run through a thousand tanks of gas waiting for your i-pod to stop playing songs you loved.

To my mind, there is nothing more delightful than stumbing upon a wonderful piece of music. A gem in the middle of a radio program, a song heard through the din of a party, a single cd in the middle of the shelf. The element of chance plays a large part in enjoyment. Considering that life itself is a happy accident -- whether you're an evolutionist or a theist, or a mixture, you have to agree that we're pretty darn lucky to be here -- I think it appropriate that my pleasures are equally accidental. After all, whose children grow up according to plan? Who sets out to fall in love?


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