It was probably over a decade ago that this conversation happened, but the questions and lessons from it keep coming back again and again. I was discussing religion and philosophy with a friend. As he would ask certain things, I would respond by quoting (or paraphrasing) something I had read. I don’t even remember the specifics of the conversation, but what I do remember is his response.
My friend kept insisting that he preferred to think for himself and, by implication, the words and ideas he should use should be his own. He did not want to trust anyone else or rely on their words.
I reflected on this time and again. Now, this isn’t an exploration of faith or what I believe. Suffice it to say, what I do believe is a result of my choice to believe. But why do the expression of these ideas come from words that originated from outside of me?
To properly answer that, I need to draw an analogy to some concepts from basic high school or college physics. (Don’t worry, I don’t remember enough about differential equations to get into the math, so I won’t go there.) The analogy? When someone learns a concept that just fits them, they often say, “This resonates with me.” With a little understanding of what resonance (and the related concept of harmonic oscillation) is, I think we’ll see that this makes more sense as an analogy than we sometimes realize.
Resonance is the process that causes oscillation (either moving back and forth or up and down) in an object. This oscillation happens at a specific frequency, and there is no energy loss or dampening effect from this.
I remember a lab in my college physics class where by some basic calculations we were able to apply the right frequency to a string that would then cause a certain sinusoidal pattern. If our calculations were off, the patterns would not form. These patterns would then only happen at certain frequencies. It was one of the more effective labs for transforming the math behind the physics into application that we could observe.
So how does this relate to the discussion of ideas? Just as certain frequencies applied to this system created harmonic oscillation, certain ideas, words, and phrases introduced into my life just fit. Just as a harmonic oscillator doesn’t lose energy or dampen, these ideas, words, and phrases stick.
A great example from my life is the tools, programming languages, and libraries that I have used over the years. I found with some, it took a lot of effort to keep and understanding and remembrance of them in my head. Yet, others just fit and took little effort to maintain a level of competency in, even if I was away from their use for a while. These concepts, ideas, and languages resonated with me, and I kept them as part of my toolbox.
Further, I find this even more interesting as you look at the nature of sound and then apply how many connect with music on a deep level. There are just some songs that seem to speak to me, as if the artist was inside my head and heart when they wrote it. The acoustic harmony along with the words resonate with me.
As these ideas, words, phrases, and music are introduced to me, they resonate. They fit. In analogy, their natural frequencies match my own. Essentially, then, they have become part of me. Even though they may have originated elsewhere, it’s as if they have come from my own mind, heart, and soul.
So there are certain songs that resonate with me. There are certain stories that resonate. There are certain talks and speeches I’ve heard that resonate. There are ideas that resonate. And they have become part of the library of material that makes up who I am today. These words, phrases, musical notes, ideas are part of what makes me who I am. Sometimes I can’t tell you what attracts me to certain things. Other times, I know exactly.
Just as different harmonic oscillations happen at different frequencies, different people connect with different ideas. Different things make up each one of us. One idea is not necessarily better than another — it’s just that different ideas resonate with different people.
We each have to be true to what resonates inside of us. We each are here to be creators of life and love, to spread that to others. I am often envious of those blessed with great musical talent, to be able to share that with the world. But I know creation is inside of me. But part of that creation is taking from the world around me what resonates within my soul, taking what never loses energy and let it flow unto me forever and ever.
It is my hope to share some of those things from my world that resonate with me in later blog entries.