Work and Life Don’t Balance – Without Music

Work-life balance. It’s a tireless topic and one that continues to make headlines and herald attention. I’ve always associated it with remote, home-based work. Virtual teams and video chats. Cross-continental conversations as a function of a finely tuned art known as time-zone planning.

Of course it’s not limited to this scope. The concept of work-life balance is applicable to anyone (and apparently, imperative to everyone) –  which explains for its ostensibly unlimited buzz-worthy potential.

It would be unreasonable to explain and reference it in all its uses. For additional information on work-life balance please refer to your favorite search engine. I suggest Google.

To be sure, I’ve written my own fluff about work-life balance.  Here, I aim to overturn all of it. Here’s why:

Work and Life Are Better Off Apart

It’s fundamentally simple. Mechanical, even. “Things,” like work and life, are less efficient when meshed together.

There is good content out there that hints at this. Mostly disguised as indispensable advice about attention and calls to action pleading with us to focus more. Another well received angle is comparing multitasking with mono-tasking. What the hell is mono-tasking?

If only we could work on one thing at a time in our work. If only we can better keep life from work and work from life. If only we could live in the moment, from one to the next more fully. If only, then! Then, we achieve balance!

Sounds great but I don’t buy it anymore. We’re not meant to do many things at a time well. (Which is probably why we try.)

Mono-tasking is relevant when you consider juggling projects and prioritizing tasks. Our work may always amount to piles of projects. Life can be reduced to thankless chores and checklists. We can read and glean something about how to manage these things better. But, fundamentally, we’re ignoring the elephant in the room.
Work and life are separate things. You can’t consider them together without already acknowledging the hierarchy of anarchy that stems from each of them, that chaos of multitasking. Which, as we read, is very inefficient.

Hence the fallacy of our topic. It’s flawed from the start. It doesn’t matter what angle you take; you’re always sidestepping the point. Everything is optimal on its own. Just work. Just life. If you sniff the existential in this, you’re on to something.

But What About Work and Life and Music?

Writers aren’t writing much about music and work and life and balance. Except for the occasional suggestion backed by a link to some scholarly study proving that, “listening to music omits distraction and promotes concentration.”

I propose scrapping the futile search for balance and consider the melodies, harmonies, beats and bars of music. Maybe, we can even generate some buzz.

First, we must acknowledge that work and life are goal-oriented. Our complicated (unbalanced) lives demand that structure. One might even say that goals are the source of our happiness and the compass guiding us beyond survival and towards meaning and purpose.

Generally, we don’t consider music as having a goal. Of course, musicians can tell you all about measures, verses and lyrical entendres and point out that the composition itself is a goal realized.

Interestingly, what makes music so enjoyable to us on a gravitational level is its lawlessness and syncopation. Complex, beautiful music demands a reckoning of the senses. We feel good from resonant unpredictability. We don’t realize that we never actually make sense of songs. They just “sound good.”

Rewarding work and the liberation and freedom of a free life require specialization. Our time and attention are best spent on each more fully and in the present tense. We structure and schedule these human needs out of practicality.

Instead of striving for equilibrium between the two, it may serve us more to relinquish control and loosen up a little. Listening to music tunes us in to another narrative. So perhaps, we step back from the balancing act if only to delight in the sensory experience of the du-wops, bee-bops, tickity-tickity-tac, claps and pops.  And maybe we find something that rhymes.


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