During the month of January 2023, my fiancé and I unplugged from many things. Social gatherings, social texting/calling/facetime, social media posts unrelated to my business, etc.
It has been a quiet month of reflection, and I'm so happy it's not over yet. There has been no binge-watching a favorite show we have on DVD (we'll never go back to that), no frequent movie nights during the week (again, hard pass), and instead an increase in reading (a keeper!), spending more time with one another (definite keeper!), being more intentional about how (and how often) we spend time independently (a necessity).
This experiment reminded me of something I wrote a few years or so ago regarding self-feedback loops, and how important it is to step away from the mic. I'm sharing that post with you here.
Comments are open. I'd love to hear if you've ever done anything similar, or how this concept resonates in your life.
Songwriter Andrew Bird gave a TED Talk in February of 2010 to debut a new song that I will always remember.
In writing the song, Bird challenged himself to merge an idea with a melody and that idea was "the sound of self destruction." Dubbed a "feedback loop", Bird went on to explain how in the music world, a feedback loop is when the mic gets too close to its source. The result is a piercing sound that radiates through the ear drum.
The talk is only 19:05 minutes long, and that includes a few tunes played here and there. The music is fantastic, but it's the message that will keep haunting you. Bird compares his idea, the self-destructive nature of feedback loops, to mad cow disease, saying "there seems to be a rule in nature that if you get too close to where you came from, it gets ugly." Autoimmune diseases, incest, you get the picture. (Or how about the incredibly annoying, insomnia-inducing past time of trying to see the back of your eyeballs as you're falling asleep?)
The point of his talk isn't about inbreeding or cows, and it isn't even really about music. It's about someone who has such an iron wall up defending themselves from vulnerability and heartbreak that they are "left to do the deed themselves." In other words, they are their own feedback loop.
In case you're wondering, I'm not bred from incest nor have I ever personally eaten human brains. And though I honestly cannot tell you the first thing about making music, I feel confident saying I do know very well the person Andrew Bird is talking about, and I know a lot of people who can also relate. We have put walls up higher than Bob Marley. We have self-destructed. We have gotten too close the mic.
Like Marcus Aurelius said, our time in life is limited and I want to use it to free myself and hopefully help others free themselves in the process. This is why I make art. Not to "sell jewelry" or "design postcards." I do it because it's a practice of stretching myself, to explore uncharted territories, to test new and healthier versions of myself and what my mind has to offer as solutions to global problems so much bigger than my own.
It's a way to create from a place that is simultaneously being created inside me, and as I do that I build further distance from where I came from; further distance from the mic. Worth noting, I'll never forget where I came from, and many of those elements will always be a part of who I am and instruct me on my path. But I don't want to stay stuck there.
I regularly recall the beautiful mantra, "You drown not by falling in the river but by staying submerged in it." I don't want to become my own echo chamber or my own feedback loop. This is what drives my creativity behind East Ruin, and it's what I hope I will bring to a community of followers of my work: with time, an ever-evolving body of work, ideas, solutions, and inspiration focused on building the new.
Originally Written 2019