Living in San Francisco, I take a lot of public transit. I spend about two hours on busses and trains each day just from home to work.
I actually really enjoy taking the bus. I have always loved people watching and Muni in San Francisco is my second favorite spot to people watch - the first being the airport. I enjoy seeing the diversity and the different cultures the city encompasses. However, I am starting to feel guilty. I’m feeling guilty because most of the time, I’m sitting watching with my eyes and not doing anything about it. I’m not putting in effort to smile at people or talk with them. I’m just another person on the bus with headphones in, hoping someone doesn’t try to talk to me.
For as long as I can remember, I have put headphones in as soon as I leave the house. Whether I was walking around campus, going for a run or taking a bus, I would go with headphones in my ears. Maybe it would be different if I genuinely wanted to listen to music, but many times I do it because I don’t want people to talk to me. I’ve had two instances where I didn’t want to talk to people, both somehow forcing me to take out my dang earbuds to converse.
This is a problem in my mind. Why don’t I want people to talk to me? I love to hear stories and to hear where people come from, but simply not when I’m commuting. That’s my time, my thirty minutes to plug in and ignore. But what about the conversations I could be missing out on? What about the person who may feel lonely or may have forgotten their headphones that day? I have had some great bus conversations with friends, why can’t I make that happen on my commute too?
I also listen to music when I hike or when I go on my morning runs. Honestly, I genuinely love music. I love to connect with worship and I really find peace within the lyrics and melody of a song. But I find I’m unable to connect fully with nature when I constantly have music playing in my head. When I take my headphones out and listen to the waves crash against the sand, hear the birds sing in the trees or listen to cars whip past me on the freeway, I’m reminded of where I am and what I’m doing here. I can connect with what is around me and not live in my own world. I can sit in silence and be perfectly ok with that.
Don’t get me wrong, I think music is great. There are songs that touch my soul and give me immense comfort in times when I need it the most. I find acoustics to be beautiful and I love to find new artists. I like to think that even Jesus would plug in headphones sometimes and dance around to Michael Buble or Ben Rector (Mainly Ben Rector because he’s great) in His off time. But one thing Jesus for sure wouldn't do is put in headphones to ignore and disconnect.
I have found that I try to trick myself into thinking it’s alright if I’m listening to Hillsong or I Am They (my current favorite!) constantly. I’m still bringing glory to God by this, aren’t I? I’m still meditating on scripture, just through song and ignoring everything else around me.
Ignoring everything around me is precisely the problem here. So headphones, I’m saying goodbye for now. I actually forgot them at a friends house recently, so that is where they will stay until I can learn to enjoy the beautiful city I live in without constantly having to disconnect and retreat to myself. I encourage you to toss the headphones too. Maybe just for a bus ride, a run, or a walk downtown. Instead, fill that time with prayer, personal thought, actually talking to another human or simply enjoying the natural sounds of the city you’ve been blessed to be a part of.
I’m excited to see what I learn and to connect on a more personal level with this beauty of a city I get to live in.
I hope you’ll try too.