What I Hear

I am a relatively new podcast listener. I went walking with my sister on vacation last year, and between sweltering humid melting through beachside South Carolina sidestreets, we learned (among other things) how soda works from a podcast she listens to.

It was probably several weeks after that, I actually started listening on my own. Right now I have a pile of podcasts on my device (or more a collection I suppose, since one can hardly pile up something that exists in digital format… but I’m not so much collecting them as saving them up for future listening.)

With the exception of the one news-related podcast I hear daily, that’s my pattern. I listen to American History Tellers only when the entire topical series is on my device, so I can binge-listen to the whole thread and keep the context together. I did not listen to season two of Serial (or later, S*Town) as a serial, but as a thread, while I walked in the evenings. More recently Presidential filled that role, and I’m now down to the last 3 episodes of its follow up series, Constitutional.

In between, while a series piles up, I’ll save up a few episodes of Part Time Genius, Stuff You Missed in History Class or Stuff You Should Know for the long commute. Two or three episodes are usually enough to get me to the office in the morning. Maybe four for the busier ride home.

I have a hard time waiting to listen to Revisionist History for more than a day or so. I gobble that up like the original recipe McDonald’s fries (ha, who listened to season 2 with me?) – best served hot – while episodes of This American Life and The Way I Heard It are meted out carefully, waiting to be savored, like a rich dessert I’ll let myself have as a treat.

I don’t know why that’s so. It just is.

This morning, for example, I listened to an episode of This American Life called “Break Up.” It hit my device overnight on Sunday-into-Monday but today was the day; a little treat to get me to face Friday morning.

The first Act explored breakup songs in particular. As the protagonist talked about all the feelings and how breakup songs suddenly capture all these emotions that seem flat or silly on paper but perfectly capture the sentiment in the moment… and how she wrote her own breakup song and that, yes, she would want him to hear it, I found myself thinking about …

  • how much of the music I have in my library would qualify;
  • how whatever over-the-top lament that perfectly captures my current pain is totally cheesy and laughable to the currently unheartbroken;
  • how in that moment while I’m still mid-wallow, kind of hoping the other person hears the song and knows that is about them, to me, while simultaneously wanting to pretend (to them and maybe at moments to myself) that none of it matters and I’m not feeling any of it;
  • how I want them to hear and recognize themselves and us, even while there’s a part of my brain that knows beyond all knowing that that song probably doesn’t register for them at all (because they aren’t the heartbroken one), and even if it did affect them they would be thinking about someone else who hurt them, not me/us — and really, are there songs I ever hear that I wonder if someone is thinking of me having broken their heart when they hear that? Of course not. And is that because I’m not self-centered (in that particular way), or because I am?
  • how really most of the guys I might have been heartbroken over, in the course of my surprisingly long life to date, don’t listen to the same genres of music that I do … so even if they might have realized it on a listen, they would really never have heard the song of the moment that so captured how I was feeling. My soft-rock/pop/alternative mix was not at all the taste of the college boy with heavy metal tastes, or the Jazz-musician ex, or the country boy at heart.

And while I’ve listened to something that’s taken me down a rabbit hole about listening, I hear my alarm tell me I really must stop all this, and get to work.

So what do you hear?

2 thoughts on “What I Hear”

  1. Lots of true crime stuff, particularly Sword & Scale. I came in late to the show there, and there are currently 114 episodes, so I’ve got lots more to listen to still. I also love Radio Lab, The Inquiry, Spilled Milk, and The Sporkful.


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