Fret Less. Fretless bass.

Fret Less — Living Between the Notes

When you’re playing a fretless instrument, such as a fretless bass guitar or a violin, it’s easy to be slightly sharp or flat as the note depends on the exact placement of your fingers. While musicians are careful to play with as much precision as they can, it can be fun to play off the note a bit, whether it be in a vibrato (the rapid pulsing or wavering of a tone), in a glissando (a slide upward and downward between notes), or through an intentional (or unintentional) departure from playing exactly on the note. With a fretted instrument, the fret bars keep your playing to those specific notes for that fret.[1] They are certainly easier to play and provide more precision, but they limit the player to only those specific notes.

I recently bought a fretless bass and am having a great time playing with these dynamics. The ability to play expressively when I’m not limited by frets has given me a newfound sense of freedom and has allowed me to play in a way I’ve never played before. It has also made me think about the continuous range of tones being symbolic of how people live their lives.

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Id, ego, superego

The Id, the Ego, and the Superego Walk into a Bar

Like most people, my life is made up of a variety of competing forces. They often seem like a mishmash of drives, doubts, and compulsions, and it can be hard to get a handle on them and how much each is controlling my day-to-day thoughts and activities, my path in life, and my worldview. I try to be very intentional about my vision for my life, goals, and aspirations—I have a document that I update regularly describing all of these—but I still struggle with who’s in the driver’s seat. I do feel like I have a good, strong moral compass that helps me develop my evolving worldview and guides my interactions with people, but I can also be selfish. I try very hard to be healthy and spiritual, but many of my thoughts and actions are driven by compulsions related to basic urges. Sometimes I prioritize working toward an ideal, while at other times, I tell myself that I should just have fun. Life is, of course, a balance, and I try not to sweat these competing forces too much, but when I stay aware of these forces, it can actually be fun to watch them fight with each other.

I’ve been thinking about these forces in terms of Freud’s id, ego, and superego[1] (more here), which has been fun and instructive.

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Drinks. A couple having a cozy cup of tea by the fire.

The Symbolism of Drinks—Beveraging My Way through the Day

Many people measure their lives by their mealtimes. Breakfast is the kickoff, lunch is the major break in the day, and dinner is a daily debrief and a closing out. This can be a good way to psychologically parse out the day and mentally check off the phases of our days as they go by. But for me, it’s more about the drinks and mainly a function of alcohol and caffeine. Coffee is a key psychological ingredient for me. It kicks off the day, is medicinal, and marks a transition. Water and other hydrating drinks follow and serve to wash down lunch. Tea in the afternoon marks the transition to the final phase of the working day. Last are the evening cocktail, wine with dinner, and a nightcap, during which I officially close out the day and my time is my own (more on that later). Though it is not conscious or intentional on my part, the drinking phases of my day are a critical aspect of how my days are structured and measured. This has good aspects as well as harmful ones.

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A woman achieving life satisfaction

Achieving Life Satisfaction While Being Open to Change

Do you ever go through periods feeling that you’re just not satisfied?

We all have times when we’re not happy about the way our lives are going. Everything may be fine, or even good, but life can still seem mundane or ordinary. When no milestones are happening, when we’re in the doldrums between vacations, or when there’s nothing but routine, it can seem as if our lives aren’t special or extraordinary. Life satisfaction doesn’t mean settling for a life that is less than what you want it to be—it means accepting and living in the moment to the fullest. It means making the most of what you have while being open to opportunities and potential change. It means acknowledging and being grateful for the good things in your life and having a plan for addressing the aspects of your life that aren’t what you want. Life satisfaction means choosing to be happy now—not at some point in the future.

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Reinterpret pain. A woman is working to stop the suffering associated with her pain.

Pain Interpretation—Separating Pain from Suffering

All of us feel pain at some point in our lives.

Most of us experience moderate pain, and some of us have to endure chronic, intense pain for extended periods. Pain is there for a reason—to warn us of harm, to let us know that something is wrong, or to stop us from doing further damage. It’s generally not pleasant, and is sometimes difficult or impossible to endure. But pain and suffering are not the same thing. Pain is a signal, and suffering is our reaction to it. In some cases, it’s possible to control or reinterpret that reaction and decrease or cease our suffering. It’s certainly easier said than done, and it may not work for everyone or in every circumstance, but it’s worth exploring.

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