Switches Versus Dials

In the new Paul McCartney documentary on Hulu, the former Beatle made an interesting observation. When recording Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, McCartney noticed a switch on the soundboard in the control room. The switch was flipped to “classical” or “pop” depending on the music being recorded.

McCartney expressed his frustrations of not wanting to be pigeonholed as pop, rock, or any other genre of music. The Beatles wanted to experiment with a variety of styles and sounds. Go wherever the Music-Muse led them. Listen to their catalogue and you get a taste for the evolution of their music from the 60s to the 70s.

The story of the switch stuck with me. Switch as a metaphor is an interesting idea. A switch says you’re either one thing or another. No room for the middle or grey areas. You’re on or off, 2+2 only equals 4.

How often is life lived like a switch? Simplistic categories. We are this or that, either for something, or against another?

We either tow the party line or not. Switch on, switch off. Our theological positions are either switched to conservative, liberal, Reformed, Pentecostal, but never a combination of theological flavors. You are either right, wrong, switch on or off.

But life lived in the real world is never as tidy. Life is hardly ever like a switch that is either on or off.

Jon Acuff in an interview on the Chase Jarvis Live podcast mentioned a conversation he had with a psychologist. He asked if there was any hope for negative thoughts and harmful self-talk? Could we ever get to a place where shutting off our minds was possible?

The psychologist said people think our negative self talk is like a switch. We can shut it off with the right practices and positive self talk. The problem is our minds never shut off, and shouldn’t, and are less like a switch, and more like a dial.

We can’t shut off the mind like a switch but we can turn them down like a dial.

The loud voices of harmful self talk often have a tinge of truth in them. Voices in culture vying for change often have truth in them. But often we treat these voices as a switch problem, and not a dial.

Switches leave little room for discussion. Switches are too final and leave no room for mixing genres and ideas. Sometimes what we need isn’t a switch at the end of the soundboard of our lives. We need a dial. Instead of turning things completely off, we just need to turn the dial down, or up sometimes.

The switch is the easy out. A dial requires attention and adjustments.

What in your life needs to be turned down, and what needs to be cranked up?

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