I woke up this morning with Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ playing in my head. Usually, when I wake up with a jones for some old track, I rifle through my collection of vinyl records, find the one I am looking for, take it out of its sleeve, dust it, place it on the mat, count the the tracks to the one I want, and gently lower the arm. I watch the stylus bob up and down, travelling along the grooves as the record turns, listening to the hiss of static before Marvin bursts into my sitting room, crooning. This ritual has become part of the way I enjoy my jazz and soul music.

Isn’t this happiness

This morning, however, I ran a search on my phone’s media player, clicked on play, and placed my phone on the dresser and went about my morning stuff. The result was the same: Marvin Gaye in the background, but for some reason today it felt….soulless.

I am not one of those people that will tell you I listen to records because music on vinyl has a richer, fuller sound than it does in digital format. My turntable is archaic. It’s a 1970 Technics SL 210 that I got off my father. My records are also from about the same time and have not exactly been kept very well. They tend to skip and often have more static than music. One can’t create a playlist on the turntable and as such, has to listen to all the songs on one side of an album, or change the record after every song, a rather annoying task.

I listen to my music on vinyl because it’s a really absorbing and rewarding experience. The record sleeves often have the lyrics, and as much as the changing and flipping records can be annoying, it requires one to focus on the task at hand.  In this multi- tasking world, there is an odd sense of satisfaction that comes from doing one enjoyable thing at a time.

Aeon Magazine ran this post on the death of artisan coffee, talking about how the coffee industry has figured out  how to make the perfect espresso by identifying what could go wrong in the brewing process, and eliminating it to create the perfect shot. As I type this, I have just come from watching Rose, the barista at Pete’s Coffee at the iHub brew a cappuccino. It’s a defined process, and one that requires practice. The image below captures the delicacy with which Rose places the product of her handiwork in front of her customer. 

Image Source – Martin Storey

Ever seen someone present software with such care? Run a hand over a finished program with the same loving look in their eye as a carpenter might a finished table?

We now focus on compressing thoughts to fit 140 characters rather than expanding ideas to fill books. We’d much rather browse five 200 word blog posts rather than one 1,000 essay that delves into a topic in depth. We are connected, but not connecting. Walking in a library between bookshelves, inhaling the scent of paper, ink, must, history and dreams has been replaced by the Amazon.com search bar, and licking fingers to flip through pages has been replaced by drying them to scroll on iPads. Long walks have been replaced by quick drives, laughter by LOL, hugs by (()). We are saving time, but for what? To spend time on more time saving tasks?

Have we lost the art of joy in our work? In life?