The pleasure we feel in music springs from the obedience which is in it.

What did Henry David Thoreau mean by:

The pleasure we feel in music springs from the obedience which is in it.


This quote suggests that the joy we derive from music comes from its inherent structure and order – the "obedience" Thoreau refers to. Music, regardless of genre or style, is built on patterns, rhythms, and harmonies that obey certain rules. Even in the most chaotic and avant-garde compositions, there is a sense of order that underlies the piece. This obedience, this structure, is what our brains latch onto and find pleasure in.

The rhythm and predictability in music can be soothing and comforting. It’s why a lullaby can calm a crying baby or a familiar song can lift our spirits. Our brains are wired to seek out patterns and to anticipate what comes next. When our predictions are correct, it gives us a sense of satisfaction and pleasure. This is the ‘obedience’ in music that Thoreau talks about.

Applying this concept to today’s world or personal development, we might say that structure, order, and predictability are not only desirable in music but also in our lives. In a world that often feels chaotic and unpredictable, finding or creating pockets of order can bring us comfort and pleasure. This might look like establishing daily routines, setting and working towards goals, or even just organizing our physical spaces.

In terms of personal development, understanding the pleasure that comes from ‘obedience’ or structure can help us to create habits and routines that support our growth. Just as a piece of music is built note by note, our lives and selves are built day by day. Each action, each choice, is like a note in the symphony of our lives. By consciously choosing actions that align with our goals and values, we create a life that is harmonious and satisfying.

Furthermore, just as music can be improvised and still maintain its structure, we can adapt and change our routines as needed while still maintaining a sense of order. This flexibility within structure is key to resilience and growth. In this way, Thoreau’s quote about the pleasure of obedience in music can inspire us to find pleasure in the rhythms and routines of our own lives.

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