Sunday, December 20, 2009

suspension of criticisms

In grade 7, I was (re?)introduced to music. I wasn't curious enough to use Kazaa or care enough to download music on my own accords. In fact, I didn't really listen to music at all. That is, until I had a friend who started sharing Chinese music with me. We had dial-up back then, and I remember it taking forever.

Since I didn't listen to songs very often, I was easily distracted by the details. I told him why I didn't really like each particular song -- this part of the lyrics seemed so cheesy, that sound there seemed uncalled for, and that random bit of Japanese is weird... Oh, and please don't send me another English song! They're so awkward.

Did I know anything about music? Actually, not really. I didn't. All I knew was that the songs didn't sound "right", whatever that was supposed to mean. I was just like one of those arrogant literary critics who pretended to know.

Yet as I listened to more and more music, these details stopped bothering me. This seemed counter-intuitive at the time. Have I merely accustomed myself to mediocrity?

I'd like to think that at some time or another, I just got the point. There are different levels that I could focus on: there's the level of the individual sounds, and there's the level of the song as a whole. When I learn to suspend my criticisms (much like the "suspension of disbelief"), I learned to appreciate a song as a whole and became more forgiving. It was no longer about "how many things about this song I would change", but the appreciation of the message. I focused more on connecting with it, emotionally and otherwise. I could do that without the song being absolutely perfect.

"But the individual sounds are important!" Sure. I'm not saying that we should shun all criticisms. But sometimes, it is worthwhile to let the details slide for a moment, just to gauge the actual message being sent. The arguments might still hold regardless of innocent mistakes.

It's always easier to criticize than to create, but it's much more worthwhile to give someone the benefit of the doubt and to focus instead on the message they're trying to send.

End of Entry