Every once in a while, when I’m trying to figure out something—what to write, what job to take, what direction to go—I’ll put on my headphones, listen to some music, and see what the next song tells me to do.
It’s a kind of fortune-telling, I guess, like the old practice of bibliomancy, opening the Bible to a random page and seeing what the text says. What would one call it? Audiomancy? Musiomancy (which I Googled, and doesn’t seem to appear anywhere on the web—grab that URL while it’s hot!)
In any case, it’s not really binding. It’s more like flipping a coin, which is a technique I often find to be truly definitive—not because the coin knows anything, but because if I like the result, I know what I want to do, and if I don’t like the result, I know what I want to do.
The musical version used to be more robustly random when I’d listen to commercial radio stations on the radio in the car. You could still kind of tell what was going to happen based on the station—if I wanted a song to tell me to leave town on a motorcycle, I might listen to classic rock. On horseback with a flask in my vest pocket, country and western. A musical journey that I could interpret on my own, jazz. A journey that both ended and began at the altar, the Christian station. But there was still a mystery in what song was coming next.
Nowadays, listening to music I’ve downloaded and curated on my phone (so amazing that we call them phones, because talking on it is the thing I do the least of), it’s a more closed environment, and more likely that the songs are going to be ones that align with my mindset in the first place. But still, there is a wide range to select from, from drinking songs to hard rocking breakup songs to sweet love songs to ethereal dance songs and songs of praise and worship and even those of doubt.
So this morning, on the NYC subway, idly thinking about some decisions I’m making, I didn’t even consciously put the next few songs to the test. I was just praying, putting it out there that I was going to be obedient to whatever inspiration I received from my divine source, even if the voice is hard to hear amid the din. And I heard, coming through my headphones, these 3 songs in a row, each old chestnuts of their own that I might normally skip as I look for motivational tunes on my commute. But together, they wove a picture that took me back to that day 20 years ago that I showed up in the city with nothing but dreams:
Paperback Writer; The Beatles
New York, New York; Frank Sinatra
I let them wash over me as I drifted through the crowded sidewalk. After last night’s thunderstorms, the air seemed particularly clear today, with a clear almost white light spilling over the city. Now it seemed even sharper. Write that book, feet firmly planted here in the city that is my chosen home, to the glory of God? You got it.