By Brittney Chieng
Who knew cultural ignorance could lead me to a bigger picture?
Earlier this year, I threw a violent hate fest whenever I heard Justin Timberlake on the radio–dramatic huffing of nostrils, switching of stations and spitting of spite. suit n tie? sh** tied???! s*** n **IT, JAY-TEE, s*** n S***!!!! I was infuriated. Infuriated at how Timberlake croons about ‘love swinging in the air tonight’ but seconds later, says to his lil missy, “Get off your seat, hoe.”
This is where my ignorance comes into play. After a mini Beyonce/Jay-Z phase two weeks ago, I realized Jay-Z announces himself in a song by calling himself HOV. Lo and behold, it’s after JT’s “Get off your seat, Ho(v)” that Jay-Z rappity rap raps.
corner of shame
I didn’t know this earlier in the year. Spare me, you sassy people. For some inexplicable reason, I targeted JT and his song (extreme reverence for words and this [overplayed] song melding into my life at the same time.. blah blah..) Naturally, I inquired about it with my peers. Perhaps I was too passionate in my spheel but there were times when people confirmed JT said, “hoe,” yet I received empty stares, apathetic shrugs, an end to conversation and that was that. There was one afternoon exception. Expressing myself too loudly in class one day, girls sitting behind me detected the beloved JT name and piped up in curiosity. I turned to them with my question, “Does JT really say hoe before the rap part?” to which they gave it some thought and nodded. Confirmed again in my belief, I shared what I thought was obvious repulsion, “…How dare he call her love one moment and hoe the next… right??” Without missing a beat, one mumbled dismissal while the other asserted, “So what? He’s hot.”
He’s… hot? Shocked, I didn’t know what to say or think. I reoriented back to staring in bewildered disbelief at my desk.
Still, I’m reorienting in my perplexity. Whenever I think of that one afternoon or whenever I hear JT’s songs (I’m still wary in bias but lukewarm about JT now), I still can’t wrap my brain around it. A million pre-verbal questions and thoughts flood me, sometimes in worded fragments: power. power of beauty. dictated. masses. culture. mindless. daily consumption. power of culture. media. thoughts. snowball effect.
Underestimation of the power of culture, or more specifically, what we permit ourselves exposure to (popular media is only more widely accessible), has blindsided the individual of the extent of its control in his/her life. For more of the sake of the thinkers, biblical scriptures command believers to reject the vulgar and instead, to think of, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy.. (Philippians 4:8)” for “as he thinks in his heart, so is he… (Proverbs 23:7)” In Supreme Influence: Change Your Life with the Power of Language You Use, Niurka radically expatiates the dynamism of thought and words–the available power to command through life consciously or the danger to disintegrate in a hopeless void until death– all linked to what we allow spoken into our lives.
Always deeply affected by this quote by Ghandi, I remember my younger self scribbling it down when I first saw a poster of it on the wall of some unrelated workshop:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”
It’s disquieting to realize how people are so… accepting, so numb, so unaware of the influences they allow into their lives like how my peers have confirmed hearing JT saying, “hoe, ” yet nonchalantly shrug it off, or even so passionately defend JT. How will this manifest in their lives and relationships? Our music is just one part of our culture and media constantly bombards us with messages, which seem for the most part, left unquestioned and absorbed as norms. Just like how clutter negatively impacts our brain’s ability to focus and to process information and like how violent cartoons/games and porn desensitize, unsupervised clutter-influence can cloud and desensitize the mind, and can dictate choices toward popular opinion. Many picture meditation as Om-ing, lotus positioning ourselves besides a single flickering candle in a dark room but really, it’s feeding and churning in our minds the ideas, books, movies, and whatever we choose actively.
“My life–my personality, my habits, even my speech– is a combination of the books I choose to read, the people I choose to listen to, and the thoughts I choose to tolerate in my life.” –Andy Andrews
I listen to junk. There is no condemnation here. Only a call to become more awake beings.
A recent lunch with an older musician undermined a buried opinion I’ve heard before: modern mainstream music is garbage because it’s made for the money$$ and not for the music. “People put these songs in the background but really, our ears are listening to the words… Let me direct you to some Chopin and Mozart..”
Yes, let us feast on Chopin, Mozart and whatever is Philippians 4:8.
This post is reblogged from Brit’s new blog b10c.