If someone asks me “What is the one thing you always carry with you?” Without a second thought, the answer will be in-ear headphones. I take them everywhere, no matter how big of a hurry I am in. From the moment I get up in the morning to the moment I fall back asleep, looking for my earphones has become a ritual. Since they are always plugged into my ears, it feels transgressive not to keep it closer to the place where it belongs: in my pocket.
I plug them in not only to listen to music, but also to isolate myself from an excess of noise. The feeling of someone whispering in my ears gives me the feeling of remoteness, blocking almost 100 percent of the sound I hear. The concept of “artificial deafness” was nearly about to be coined until I realized what was really crucial in my life. It was just another normal day until I found that I had not brought my earphones with me. I thought about stopping and heading back to my place to grab them several times, but my laziness prevailed. I just had to make my way to the subway, feeling uncomfortable and uneasy at the same time. Then a seemingly insurmountable, existential challenge struck me: a challenge to keep myself intact on the subway while doing nothing. I considered staring blankly to signal my displeasure.
Many minutes passed, or maybe more than minutes, and at some point, the people around me came into my vision. The people on the subway were, in fact, exactly the kind of people you would see in coffee shops, or on the streets, working through their own issues. They were no different from all the others that I had seen before. Something, however, was a little different this time. I noticed a cute couple sitting together, deep in conversation, and I eavesdropped on their conversation. “It really would better if the filmmaker was female,” and then they started to talk about the film they probably saw on that day. “Do you think the girl should have made a different choice?” One ranted, the other paused, and they ended up laughing. Their conversation was full of warmth, and nothing else could have felt this alive. I could imagine the city appeared in a movie that was all bright squalls of traffic and neon signs, and the loose crowds on every street corner, laughing and smoking.
Taking the earplugs off enabled me to hear the sound of life vividly. Not only the sound itself, I came to realize there is something compelling in people’s lives, and that we often miss a lot in our life by purposely avoiding this. Music truly makes an abundant and affluent life, but it sometimes hinders us from seeing life as it is. Why don’t you try keeping your head and looking at the things around us? This might give you a chance to reshape your approach to the most important aspects of your life.
By Moon Chae-un