1. Listening to Jazz
I grew up with a variety of music around me, all of which I still listen to, including jazz. While my schooling is responsible for some of my musical inclinations, I learned most of what I know about jazz from just being at home. Last week I attended a friend’s commencement ceremony where Joe Segal was receiving an honorary degree. Segal has been showcasing jazz in Chicago for over 65 years, including great artists from Lester Young to Miles Davis. In his comments, he said young people don’t listen to jazz anymore because jazz requires thinking. I couldn’t agree more.
While it is oftentimes the prerogative of previous generations to rag-on younger generations, I can’t fault the assessment. Jazz requires attentiveness to all parts of the music at once. You have to be attentive to the rhythms, the melody, the change in pace, the introductions, the voice, etc. It is not passive music, it is intentional and requires a personal commitment in your listening or engagement. Listening to jazz is not pretentious or elitist especially given its roots, and we have great access thanks to the Internet. Let’s bring listening to this genre back, not in competition with our popular genres, but to restore our commitment to this complex musical art form. And to give some of our music, the thinking and intentionality that it deserves.
2. Dating (And Asking People Out)
Can we please stop “hanging out?” Can we please stop talking about hanging out? Has hanging out made dating easier? I think we all know the answer to that. Most things in life aren’t black or white, I get that. But because they aren’t, shouldn’t we be trying to simplify our lives rather than make them more complicated? This thing we call hanging out has honestly left a good part of our generation disillusioned as to what constitutes a relationship. Go on a date – it can be at a park, at a museum, at your neighborhood coffee shop, whatever. But let’s start dating again.
And while we’re at it, make your intentions known people – ask people out. No seriously, let’s go up to total strangers and just ask them for their number and a date. Is it hard? Yes. But has rejection ever killed anyone? No. And yes (straight) men, I am especially side-eyeing you because you are getting far too relaxed in this area. I’m all for women asking men out too. But please remember, we may potentially be the ones birthing your babies one day. The least you can do is have the courage to ask us out on a date.
3. Being With Each Other
We have all the communication devices in the world to keep in touch with our loved ones. Trust me, as someone whose family and some friends live far away, I appreciate our technology a lot. Yet I can’t help but feel we’ve all become so impersonal with each other. We’re sitting in the same room, texting and emailing and tweeting and facebooking other people, while we’re sitting right next to someone else. Stop it. Let’s talk to the person in front of us.
Nothing beats being able to look at someone’s facial expressions when they talk or the way their smile curves or their eyes lighten up. Nothing beats being able to hold someone’s hand or to sit close to them and feel their warmth. Let’s re-learn how to just be with each other again.
If there’s anything that crushes my soul, it’s when someone tells me they don’t read. In my head, I am thinking, “What does that even mean?” But the reality is there are people who have not picked up a book or downloaded one on any of our fancy technologies, since the end of their formal schooling. Nobody has time, I get it. Except we all have time for things that matter. And reading matters because it improves our understanding of each other and the world around us. I think one of the saddest aspects of being human is that we will never get to read everything that is worth reading, and a lot of things are worth reading.
Let’s especially bring back the patience to read long-form, whether it’s classical or contemporary literature or long-ass Internet articles. Let’s also bring back reading poetry, a dying literary art, that like jazz music will be relegated to elitism because we refuse to take advantage of our current access. Please, please, let’s start reading again, it is one way that we continue to be lifelong learners.
Our generation has a problem – we don’t know how to commit to things. A lot of research has been done about how we have a fear of commitment. Whether it’s a gym schedule, future events that we must RSVP to, beliefs, volunteerism, or our friendships and relationships, we are lacking in our ability to commit. The funny thing is I see this generation as having the desire to do many great things. But desire is meaningless without execution.
Commitments in the first place, require thinking. Thinking about what matters, and what you can reasonably achieve. Commitments require sacrifice but above all they require courage. Things happen that are out of our control, things will always happen, and we can forgive that. But let’s stop waiting for all the variables to be confirmed, let’s stop “waiting to see if we’ll have time.” Let’s say yes and mean it; let’s commit to things.