Benjamin has been setting down Rules For Life Soundtracks, and he’s up to 12 at this point. The idea of a soundtrack for my life did not enchant me at all; it has the feel of asking people what kind of animal they would like to be or taking a magazine test about what kind of friend you are. These things are the province of the young. Yet I understood what Ben was trying to get across with his rules, trying to elevate the craft and prevent at least some of the flow of idiocy.
Half-caught is all-caught for me, and I have actually started thinking about the soundtrack. For someone of my era, 14 songs should be the maximum, because 33 1/3 rpm LP’s would usually have 7 songs to a side. “Toad” or “Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida” would go one song to a side, but they were just showing off with that.
Once started, I considered whether it was presumptuous for young people to do a whole soundtrack at all. You’re 25 – isn’t putting in more than 5 songs a bit grandiose? What I would have put in at 25 is not what I would put in now, even for those first 25 years.
But that’s the use of it, I suppose. At any given point in your life there are threads that are continuing through the years you are in. All of these threads trace back through your personality and the events of your life, so that none of them pops up ex nihilo. I trace back the threads now, and as I pass certain years I see that there were other threads then, other possibilities. Other parts of me that I chose to let go in favor of favored things that required my attention. Some threads just end, and you can’t always see in advance what those might be. The use of the soundtrack is in the making and remaking, not the listening.
So lists of more than 5, even when you are 25, make sense. There are still many threads, and it remains to be seen which will break off. It is a good illustration of how retrospective can deceive. The threads which continue to the present day look inevitable to me now, emblems of what I was always meant to be. The child is father to the man, and all that.
I am 53. Whatever I put in the soundtrack now might look not-quite-right in 20 years, as a few more threads just leave off for no predictable reason. My life took a huge turn in 2000, which I would never have predicted in 1997. Yet I can no see in hindsight that even that did not appear out of the blue, but was a product of decisions made years earlier. My conversion to Christ in 1975 I now place farther back in my own history. There were events in 1974 and 1971, and 1968 which make it seem inevitable. Once you start doing that, it’s easier to dimly apprehend the doctrine of election, seeing God’s movement back into your childhood and your baptism, and perhaps even before you were born and before the foundation of the earth.
That may be a retrospective illusion, of course. Free choice and fate don’t look so incompatible in retrospect, nor do they look contradictory looking into the future. Only in the current moment do they seem irreconcilable.
I’m going to have a go at this soundtrack thing. I’ll think about it during my trip.