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ironiya • this career-oriented blog—published on biweekly Wednesdays—looks at the positive and sometimes ironic sides of a kaleidoscopic range of workplace and life issues, from education and employment to discipline and discord •

shared experiences: risk verse reward

Is your spiritual life all that it could be? Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion”

Have you or one of your friends been diagnosed with AIDS? Springsteen’s “Philadelphia”

Have you lost a parent? McCartney’s “Let It Be”

Are you the child of divorced parents? Papa Roach’s “Broken Home”

Do you have financial problems? AC/DC’s “Down Payment Blues”

Do you feel an oppressive sense of loneliness? Schubert’s “Winterreise”

Every one of us must confront painful setbacks, difficulties and mistakes. For each such life-changing event, music offers profound balm. Listen to each verse.

Recognize that your reactions and individual suffering have been experienced countless times by your neighbors, friends, family… and much of the planet. Listen to each verse.

Seek out those people who have lived through similar experiences. When you have a broken leg, those around you will be sympathetic, they’ll offer to help, they’ll give support, but then they’ll leave without broken legs of their own, unable to truly understand. Music speaks to widespread human circumstances from a position of innate comprehension. Listen to each verse.

Music provides lasting rewards, and has done so for countless years. The risk is to remain closed, to be unresponsive to common experience and ready fellowship, to allow yourself to become frozen when life sprays its inevitable snowstorms. Open yourself. Become receptive. While there are often no easy answers, comfort abounds through shared encounters in the company of those who have had to confront the very issues you’re dealing with. Your MP3 player contains abundant solace and wisdom upon a single touch. Listen to each verse.

As Nicholas Bachalar reports in the New York Times, an optimistic attitude makes a tangible difference:

"In 2004 and again in 2008, researchers used a well-validated questionnaire to rate 70,021 women on their optimism. The women were asked to indicate their degree of agreement with six statements (for example, “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.”). Researchers also collected information on educational and socioeconomic status, smoking, alcohol consumption, cancer, hypertension and other diseases and behavioral characteristics. The women’s average age was 70 at the start of the project. The study, in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found significant associations between increasing levels of optimism and decreasing risks of death from cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and infections."

Listen to each verse.