Episode 38: Monica L. Smith – Piecing Life Through Fragments
Want to know what it’s really like to be an archaeologist?
Our guest Monica L. Smith is an archaeologist and author. Monica provides us with an in-depth look at archaeology. Its impact on civilizations past and present. Plus, what it’s like to live life as an archeologist. She teaches archeology and has written numerous books on the subject.
Discover what it means to piece life through its many fragments – past and present.
Episode 38: Monica L. Smith Piecing Life Through Fragments
00:00:15 – 00:05:01
I noticed you were messing with my grocery list again this morning. What do you mean? You know all the bizarre things that you add to my list. Oh yeah, like kangaroo milk or sea cucumbers my favorite I wish you’d pick some up. Yeah, like those. Well, at least you kept it G rated at this time. Well, you know what? I fancy myself as a brilliant writer and you’re shopping lists is one of my favorite writing exercises. Really? I thought you were being flirty. Well, I suppose in my own way, I am. Hi, everyone, and here we are, celebrating what people love to do creatively by giving them a voice I’m rod Jones. And I’m in G Jones. Welcome to the thought row podcast. We invite you to subscribe wherever you listen, and you can also go to our website at thought rope podcast dot com and listen there directly. Yeah, that’s a good idea. Yes, we would love to hear from you. And don’t be shy, you can always go there. We have a contact page on our website, so you can share with us your thoughts and maybe your questions. Yes, and we would love to hear from you. That is why our show is called podcasts. So we want to hear your thoughts. Yes. Thought provoking thoughts, which reminds me how about your thoughtful quote. Okay. Oh, my quote for this week is or this episode is archeology is the peeping Tom of the sciences. It is the sandbox of men who care not where they are going. They merely want to know where everyone else has been. And that is by Jim bishop. You know, for some reason, I suspected your quote would have something to do with archeology, seeing how our guest is going to be. Yeah, I’m so excited about her and I wanted to be in concert with what we’re doing a little later on in the interview. Well, you know what I really like that quote, I think you found a really good one. And you know, it’s not only about digging in the sand, although I personally like to do that, I think it has to do with urban archeology. Yeah. Or everything that we discover no matter where we are, what we’re doing. I guess it really gets down to seeing hearing and feeling. It absolutely is. And, you know, in the times that we found different things, it’s always fascinating to see different people’s lives and I can’t imagine digging up something from ancient Egypt or Byzantine period or something like that. Well, the two is crafting the story that goes with it. Yeah. If you’re standing there and you have a bunch of things that you found, even if it’s something you found in an old abandoned home and you pick up different I’ll call them relics. They are relics of these different relics in you hold them up in your hand and you look at them and you go, I wonder what the family did with this. And it could be a broken teacup, and then you start going, you start telling yourself a story, but we’ll maybe this tea cup was an heirloom and it was handed down by the great great grandmother and then all of a sudden it’s broken into a bunch of pieces. I know. Kind of sad. It’s a little sad. Okay. That’s a story. It is, it is. But now it’s going to be your turn rod and we’re ready for your rods motivational moment. Well, I know how motivational this is going to be, but this is something that I’ve been thinking about. It has something to do a little bit with archeologists. We are archeology. We all have histories both good and bad trapped within our minds. Some are best left deeply buried and others should be brought to the surface and celebrated. Well, I guess that’s what makes you the rich vibrant person that you are. When you have all of these experiences, the good and the bad. Well, I equate that to again a little bit of it has to do with how you feel about yourself and how important it is to maintain a good positive outlook about yourself. And if you bring up negative thoughts, they don’t necessarily make you feel good about yourself. In fact, they could be downright destructive, not to get into any kind of real psychology here. Because I certainly am not one. Right. But good thoughts are much better than bad thoughts.
00:05:01 – 00:10:25
Right. And then everyone is having a human experience and not everything is going to be perfect all the time, but you I guess you apply it to where the negative experiences, what is it teaching you? Well, that’s good. So you’re not just dwelling in the crap. No, you know what? That’s a very good point because these are all lessons in life. And we may not like some of them, but interestingly enough, when you look back in retrospect, you often say, boy, I don’t want to do that again, but I sure learned a lot from it. Yeah. And it’s really funny when I know this is probably true for you and it definitely is true for me. Some of the most trying times you learn the most , even though they really suck a lot. Yeah. Yeah, they could be pretty crummy. Then I think you kind of have to avoid people and maybe the news which can also bring on stress and anxiety. You don’t need that in your life. There’s not much you can do about it. So getting back to that last thing I said in my little quote thing is bring forth the good things and celebrate them. Right. Exactly and put the energy out there of celebrating. You bet. And then also, I think it’s about discovery when you think about it and what it means for creativity, you know? Well, creativity, any form of creativity is all about discovery. You know, you may be sitting at a piano and found out what three, three notes. Four nodes. Four now. Four notes. Four notes, which turned out to be the most famous symphony ever. Absolutely. And you had to consider the fact that Beethoven was sitting in front of his keyboard, and he clinked a couple notes out and all of a sudden look what he ended up with. But it’s also in photography. Yeah. I think photography is another thing that a person could do that really causes you to focus and when you’re looking on your phone or you’ve got a camera and you’re looking through the eyepiece. All of a sudden, all the distractions that are all around you just seem to disappear. They should be disappearing even if you’re taking a picture of a loved one. You’re trying to focus on them. And of course, you’re always trying to get the good expression from them, but all the garbage all this stuff that’s going on around them and around you just seems to disappear and it’s just kind of a one on one thing. But that’s discovery, and that’s creative discovery. So true. What were you gonna say about photography you had something interesting to say? Oh, yeah, you know, I noticed that when you photograph fraud, it’s so interesting because you pay attention to so many different things in detail and it’s amazing but lighting, the composition, the subject, but also making an interesting story. I mean, I see many people that do one of the other or a couple of things. But when you truly can bring all of those elements together, but plus bring emotion to that photo in that little tiny rectangle, that is really where you shine as an artist. As you know, that’s one of my was a commercial guitar for many years. But the thing out there is a couple of things that irritate me when I look at other people’s photographs. And that is if they take a beautiful portrait of somebody and then there’s a post behind them coming right out of their head, or they take a beautiful sunset and they don’t have the horizon strait, makes me think that the ocean is going to pour off the edge of the earth because the horizon is not straight, but yeah and seeing in any form of creativity no matter what you do, is critically important. So true, but while we’re on the subject of discovery, let’s bring on our guest. Okay, so today we’re going to be speaking with Monica L Smith and she’s an archeologist and I can’t wait for her to be excited about this episode. Monica, welcome to the thought rob podcast. I know both the MG and I have been really excited to have an archeologist as a guest. I think we both know that that is a very unique area of creativity. Yes, hi, Monica. It’s so good to have you with us today. And this promises to be a very interesting discussion. And I am very excited to hear what you have to say. So thank you very much for having me. And thank you for welcoming me into your beautiful creative community. Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. Well, you’re going to be a great guest for us. I think so. And our listeners, of course. Absolutely. And then before we officially start our interview, we always like to ask our guests, what did you have for breakfast this morning, Monica? So today, you know, this is the time of the year when I like to have what I call a Turkish breakfast, which is pita bread and honey and walnuts and dried apricots and olives and sometimes some cheese, if I’ve got the right kind of cheese around.
00:10:26 – 00:15:01
And some black tea with sugar and I like to take that outside on the balcony of our little apartment. And I sort of pretend that I’m a couple of blocks away from the Bosporus and it’s hot outside. So it feels like Istanbul. And that’s my Turkish breakfast. That sounds perfect. And that’s exactly a Turkish breath. So breakfast, so good for you. Well, you can relate. Yeah, and on the Bosporus. Yeah, absolutely. Good for you. What a lovely breakfast. I know. I think we made copy it. We do sometimes. I would definitely like to copy. Yeah. Well, moving on, archeology is an interesting field of research and science. When you were growing up, was this a profession Monica that you thought you would ever pursue? So many people if I meet them on a bus or an airplane will say, oh my gosh, I always wanted to be an archeologist when I was a kid. It’s very exciting. You must dig up dinosaurs. I saw this thing on TV and so on and so forth. So what’s interesting is that I was not that person. I was not that kid that grew up and thought they always wanted to be an archeologist. I actually came into archeology from a long and circuitous route through a number of other things. I actually started out as an English major. I was going to study European literature and English literature of the renaissance period. I started taking Latin because that was, of course, the lingua franca. And then I gradually sort of migrated into doing classical civilizations, Latin, and ancient Greek. And then it was only after I had started graduate school where I had gone to do a master’s degree in latins. Talk about a very obscure career path. An interesting one, though, I might say. Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. And so I started taking some archeology courses because pretty soon I realized that I was not going to be the kind of person who could sit around and read a dead language all day. I wanted to do something much more active and then as I started taking more archeology courses and then doing some fieldwork, I eventually completely went in that direction towards field archeology and doing digs and surveys and traveling and so that was the evolution of me becoming an archeologist. Man, are you glad you did? Oh, absolutely. I have the best job in the world. I think that if I were not an archeologist, my second career towards would have been pilot. And I do, I do think about that sometimes that I would have loved to have been a pilot. I actually took for my PhD exams when I passed my PhD exam. My husband gave me a flight lesson as a present. So nice. And that is an amazing feeling to be going down the runway and you pull back you’re in the air. And that I would have loved to do. That is not necessarily compatible with being an archeologist because I don’t know. You can fire some too locations. I don’t know. The next question I wanted to say that they discovered archeological sites from the air. What are those lascaux? The drawings that you see in the earth from the air? You can only see them from the air. That’s it. Right, right. And in fact, we’re very indebted to people who fly and photograph archeological sites because this is something that people have been doing since the 1920s. And many of those aerial photographs record landscapes that are no longer present. People have built over them. People have farmed over them. So, yes, archeology from the air, archeology underwater, archeology under the microscope. There are so many ways that we use the power of vision to be able to talk about the past. But the thing about being a pilot is that if you’re going to be serious, you have to do it very regularly. You really have to fly all the time. I mean, it’s not, it’s not like other hobbies where if you don’t do it for 6 months or a year, it doesn’t affect your skills that much, but you know, if you’re going to be up there in a machine, you definitely want to make sure that you have good practice. So I reconciled myself to the fact that I was not going to be a pilot.
00:15:01 – 00:20:02
I was going to be an archeologist. And I’m glad about that. Every single day. Oh, I can imagine, but personally, I’m so glad that pilots do practice every day. They need to. Okay, so my question is, where are you originally from and tell us a little bit about your background? So I’m originally from California and I live in Los Angeles now. So I’m back in my ancestral homeland, which I very much appreciate. And one of the things that really marked my childhood was that I was able to do a little traveling, which when people hear that, they think like, oh, my goodness, that’s so nice. It’s a bit of privilege and so on. But the catch is that all of my family was in France. My mother came to the United States as a young bride and so we really didn’t have any family here in the U.S. and it was only when I was about 9 years old and we went to France for the first time that I had a chance to meet my grandmother and my cousins. And other people of my family. And so I really think of my time in France as a kid was not about being in an exotic foreign local. It was about being the family and that really had a profound effect on me. And maybe that was where the seeds of archeology began. Definitely. The history that’s there. Absolutely. In France and other parts of Europe, I was able to travel around and go to Italy because my family was very close to the Italian border. And there, the past is just part of the natural fabric of the village and the town of the city. You see churches that are hundreds of years old. You walk down the street and they’re excavating some Roman ruins that are 2000 years old. And so the past is not a foreign concept or an unfamiliar concept. The past is just completely part of everyday life in a way that is not quite the same in a place like Los Angeles. No, I mean. In many cases even more history that they can dig up. It’s pretty incredible. Yeah. You know, you touched on this briefly, but I would like to know we would like to know what you specifically do as an archeologist, what you do. So I’m a university faculty member. So I teach courses and I also do field work. Most of my field work is in India with my Indian colleagues and many, many wonderful Indian students from different Indian university who have come to work with us. And of course, in pre COVID times, I was going to India quite frequently for research projects that involved excavations. They involve survey, they involve archival work, they involve many teams of people who were part of our research enterprise. And even though we’re not going to the field now, we certainly have many things that we’re doing with the data. So in many countries now, all of the physical materials you know the things we dig up are kept in local museums and repositories. And we’d bring back data. We bring back photographs, we bring back spreadsheets, we bring back measurements. And so that’s what I also spend a lot of my time doing here. Do you share that with your students then? Yes, absolutely. So I’m working with some graduate students and some undergraduate students who are doing their own research projects with some of the information. So for example, I’m working with one graduate student who is looking at the animal bones from the research projects that we’ve done. And is doing PhD dissertation on that. I’ve worked with other students who have looked at other components like different kinds of pottery designs, different kinds of ornamentation. So really, an archeological project becomes a springboard for many other people to have some information that they could use for their own ideas and projects. Very interesting. It was very interesting. So how does a person learn to become an archeologist? Well, I’m going to tell you that there’s no great secret about being an archeologist. It’s really about powers of observation. And many times you’ll have people come and volunteer on archeological projects. Now I’ve found that the best archeologists are really people like librarians and dentists. Why? Because they’re really good at making observations, and they’re really good at writing things down when they see something. So that’s really all it takes to be an archeologist is good powers of observation. The analogy of the dentist makes a lot of sense. Does that make sense? They’re very good at documenting.
00:20:03 – 00:25:00
And they’re very good at detailing things. Exactly. Exactly. So I’m going to turn you into an archeologist right now. Next time you walk down your street, start looking at things like just sidewalk, start looking at things like, you know, the little cuts in the street start looking at things like bolts on the sidewalk in front of the coffee shops. Look at little scars on the wall and then you realize the scar used to belong to a phone booth. It was attached to the wall. But we don’t have those anymore. And the bolt in the sidewalk used to belong to a newspaper box, but we don’t have those anymore. And the crack in the sidewalk is because, you know, there were some repairs that were undertaken there that they had to cut the sidewalk. Once you start looking for all those things, you’re going to read your neighborhood like archeological book. That’s interesting. What we often see because of where we live when we walk down a road, we say gouges and the pavement that the snow plow left last winter. Yes. Exactly. And a batch of feathers on the side of the road because somebody had their lunch. Yeah, they’re lunch, yeah. Because we live in the mountains. So there’s a lot of interesting, more rural aspects of, I guess archeology as well. But I’d like, I like your I love them. The foundation is so true. And so many people at this day and age don’t even remember that there were phones everywhere. No, they don’t. You have to watch an old movie to see somebody call up somebody in a phone booth and they go, why are they doing that? Yeah. Yeah. I have to ask you this question. You might be a little frivolous, but I want to ask it anyway. You know, there’s been some really famous popular movies about archeologists and archeology. Do you think that those movies have had an influence on people wanting to pursue a career in archeology? I think that’s definitely true. Of course, that’s true of any profession. You know, every time they come out with a new CSI, we have a bumper crop of students who want to become forensic analysts. And so having something in the popular media is certainly something that awakens people’s imaginations to possibilities and to creativities. So, yes, although Indiana Jones was not an ethical or careful archeologist. You’ll still find that, you know, posters of Raiders of the Lost Ark are hung on the graduate archeology labs of the world . Really, that’s interesting. Well, he made it cool. He did make a cool. Even though he probably wasn’t the best archeologist ever. Because I’m sure he wasn’t very careful. Monica said the ethical aspect. But he had a cool hat. Yeah. That’s true. So everybody, all the archeologists probably had to go out and buy a hat like that. Although I’m sure you cover your head when you’re out there on a date. Yeah, I would think so. Yes, archeology is a hat wearing profession. You know, and that’s something that often surprises people about archeology too. And there are many things that you don’t see on TV history channel, Discovery Channel, and so on. You don’t see people sitting in a lab day after day, sorting out, you know, little pieces of rock from little pieces of bone. You don’t see people who’ve been trudging across the landscape with a 15 pound backpack, full of metal stakes to stake outsides and then map the is a lot of difficult, heavy work sometimes that is not necessarily the glamorous part that you see on television. And probably not the weather conditions are probably not all that one. That’s what I was going to say. How do you tolerate the heat? Because India is very warm. In humid, how do you tolerate the heat Monica when you’re there? So I would say that it’s something that you get used to because it is just part of the environment. So I’ll tell you about a summer that I had once three very hot experiences. I did a summer field season in India just before the monsoon because I wanted to see what the weather conditions would have been like other than the nice times of year when we generally go and do field work. And that was really instructive because by about 9 o’clock in the morning, you did not see any living creature on the landscape, except for the archeologists. I think there’s no dog, no person, no cow, nothing. Just us out there. And that gave me a much better appreciation for what it was that ancient people went through to create their sites and to farm their land. And then second experience that same summer, I was very close to DRB cure in southern Turkey.
00:25:01 – 00:30:07
And it was suffocatingly hot. It was very, very difficult. The project director there said that any decision that you make after about ten o’clock in the morning is probably not a good decision. And then the third hot experience was in the American Southwest. And that was sort of my extra long summer archeology. And they were all unbelievably hot in their own way. But it was a great learning experience. And I guess I just tolerate heat more than other people. Please don’t ask me to go work in the Arctic. I don’t think that would be a great idea. Exactly. My goodness. That’s good for you. Yeah. Yeah. You know, I know when we had our initial conversation with you Monica, you shared with us the concept of piecing from fragments. Could you elaborate on this philosophy of yours? So one of the things I appreciate about the creative community that you have here is that you have many people who are artists or writers or painters or welders, and people who work with the earth, people who work with plants. And all of us are working with little pieces of things. Especially in archeology, we rarely find anything that is complete. We find broken pieces of pottery that somebody long ago through a way. We find broken pieces of buildings that have deteriorated since the time that they were actually lived in. And as archeologists, that’s our palate. That’s what we’re trying to work with in order to be able to understand a whole life in the past or a whole site in the past. We’ve just got these little fragments. Now, if you transfer that into thinking about the ways that we all work with fragments today, regardless of our creative professions, we never have a complete anything, do we? I mean, if we’re working with making ceramics if we’re working with making paintings if we’re working with making poetry if we’re working with making music, we start with like a little fragment. You know like a little fragment of a tune or a little doodle. And we eventually craft that into a whole story. It’s so true. It’s exactly true. I think we do that in our personal lives as well as our creative lives every second of the day, really, because we’re going on the breadcrumbs and the fragments of maybe knowledge that we’re seeking for the day. Yeah, and thank you, Monica for sharing that philosophy. Because our listeners, as you know, as you pointed out most are very creative people they think creatively. But I don’t think any one of them have ever thought about it from that perspective. That’s an interesting perspective you just shared. Everything is fragmentary. Everything is created from experience. And even people that you know really well friends that you’ve had for years or your significant other, your partner, your work colleagues. They’re always likely to come out with something that you didn’t know. So there’s some other fragment that all of a sudden explains something that you had never quite realized before. So it’s not just about physical stuff that’s fragments, but it’s also about ideas and perspectives and emotions and things that people share with you. No wonderful. It’s so wonderful. So that makes me want to ask, how does archeological research inform your daily life and vice versa? So for one thing, whenever I break something, it’s not so bad. It’s true. I get a chance to see. It’s, you know, it’s inside. And how it was made. And, you know, being an archeologist is about picking up other pieces of broken things from other people’s lives. And, you know, when I’m making garbage, I’m just passing that along in the archeological record for the future. So that’s about the little, you know, the little things that happened. I think that also it gives me a pretty long perspective on human behavior and human activities. There is certainly many things about human behavior that are sub optimal. But those behaviors have been around for a long time. And also positive human behaviors. You know, the ability to decorate things that don’t require decoration is something that goes back very far in human history. And I think that that’s a very hopeful sign. You know, if you break a figurine, it’s natural that somebody will pick it up and with their delicate hands and fingers they’ll sit there and try to piece it back together, but that is like you mentioned earlier, they have to have a keen sense of observation to see where this piece might fit to that piece.
00:30:08 – 00:35:02
They may be heartbroken because it may be something that was really a favorite of theirs. But they’re piecing it back together. Yeah. I think we all like to do that, is that true? Absolutely. You know, whenever we encounter something that we think of as broken, whether it’s an object or a relationship, we think about how it might be made whole again. We probably should ask whether or not we should bother. Very true. And in the end, you know, what you have are the memories of that object or that relationship with that person that are the ways that you put together a fragmentary set of impressions for yourself. That’s good. That’s very interesting. Yeah. Now we often see archeologists out in the field doing research and basically digging up history. What is the reality of working as a team in these various sites? One of the reasons that I became an archeologist and that archeology was very attractive to me is that it is a team pursuit. You know where I was being a historian or other kinds of fields are really a person working in an archive alone, but you can’t do archeology by yourself, which is important. You need people who are on a team. And, you know, I’d like to talk about somebody who was in a very important mentor to me, a man named bob powers from the National Park Service. And I worked for him for several seasons on an archeological survey project that had a whole bunch of different kinds of people on it. There were retirees that were professional archeologists. There were students. There were people who ended up going into very different careers. And he was very skilled at bringing people together into a team where everybody’s best capacities could be made to integrate with other people’s skills. And that’s also what I’ve tried to do in the archeological teams that I’ve had the privilege of being able to direct and co direct. And you know, that’s a really great feeling when you have people who come into a teamwork situation who maybe are not experienced, but they get the opportunity in a supportive environment to try something new and be successful. That is the best part of archeology. It’s not what we find or the weather or what we’ve been able to surmount. It’s the feelings of the people who have been working together. And it’s kind of this unique moment in time, right? Any particular archeological season has a group of people who will never be in that exact same configuration ever again. But we carry those memories forward in a really wonderful way. I would think so, you have like minds and you’re all moving towards a common goal. True. You’re working as a team. And you’ll never be there again. I mean, in that same capacity and moment. So it’s kind of a cool creative way to really express creativity amongst a team. And I’m sure great friendships probably percolating. Oh, yeah. Very much so. We often think of archeologists as camping at least as how I think of it. Camping out in some remote desert areas 15 through sand and soil and maybe broken shards of pottery, but it’s our understanding that there’s such a thing as urban archeology. Could you give us your thoughts on that? So many of the world’s great cities are in locations that are perfect for trade or economics. And so when we think of cities like London, New York and Mexico City, Paris, many other global cities, are located in places where guess what? Ancient people thought that was a great place, too. And as a result, there are many global cities where every time they dig a trench for a new sewer pipe or a new waterline or a new fiber optic cable or a new subway tunnel, they are running into archeological remains. And so for example, there is in London a crack archeological team that is deputized to go to places where they’re building new buildings or building subways in New York City and downtown right on Wall Street, you can see that there are some old archeological remains underfoot they’ve put glass over it. So you can see it under Notre-Dame in Paris. You can see the remains of the gala room in city. The big dig in Boston was all about going through the many layers.
00:35:02 – 00:40:10
Urban life that happened before. So urban archeology is absolutely something that is part of our archeological repertoire. Usually, however, instead of like that Indiana Jones, people are wearing a hard hat and they’re surrounded by bulldozers because it’s a pretty noisy undertaking. So true. Now you’ve said in your writings that archeology is an is not about old things, but it’s a way of understanding materially, the way in which people engage with objects in space, what are some of the things around us that give us an archeological perspective in our lives today? So one of the things that’s interesting about human beings is that we have a lot of stuff, don’t we? We all agree to that one. Yes, and I think most people, you know, we would be lucky to say that we have too much stuff. But all those things we bring into our houses on purpose. Nobody is coming to our House and delivering things that we don’t want. And as a result, everything about our lives is encoded in our special occasion clothing and our everyday coffee mug and the layout of our living rooms to be welcoming to people who come into our spaces. So we make these very deliberate choices about our objects and our spaces. And that is another way of being archeological. You know, like, when you go into somebody’s house, you can tell what’s important to them by what’s displayed, you know, if you catch a look in their kitchen drawer, you can see the kinds of things that they use most often you can tell something about what they must be cooking on a regular basis, which is all part of their identity. So everything about us is wrapped up in those objects, which is a very archeological way of thinking about our surroundings. You know, we know you’re a writer, and we know you’re published writer, and we know that’s one of your passions. Do you think that there is such a thing as a true writing process? Well, no. An honest answer. Yes, very well. You know, I have, I’ve looked at things about writing, very tangentially. And you see sometimes students who are like, well, I want to be a writer. What do I need to do to be a writer? And I kind of laugh because I say you can’t want to be a writer, you either already are a writer or you’re not. Because if you are thinking about words as fragments that you put together, writing, I think is the most powerful of the creative arts because it can be infinitely duplicated. If you are making something that’s physical like a quilt or a ceramic vessel or a painting, you know, you have to take a picture of it in order to be able to circulate it. But words can be repeated, copied and distributed faster than any other kind of creative enterprise. And so words are incredibly powerful, but they’re also malleable and they’re changeable. And if you speak any language, you can use that language to put together something in writing. And you might think to yourself, oh, you know, I haven’t got time to write. I haven’t got time to be creative. What about your grocery list? You know, turn that into something fun. You know, think about your other to do list. Get a fun pen. And think about that as a creative approach to something that’s mundane. I think that once you start looking for those opportunities to do something creative with what’s in your hand, even if it’s a boring yellow pad of paper and a boring, you know, stick pen. Wow, you can do something with that. And that’s what I would advocate. I like what you said about the shopping list because ninja can relate to start a shopping list and I will go add things that are so random and so bizarre that you’re like, why are you putting this on my list? Just a way of expressing myself creatively. Apparently. Absolutely. That’s an everyday opportunity for creativity and I completely endorse that. Yeah, well, thank you. Yes. And we know you have equated the writing process to the process of making music, share it with us, your thoughts on that. So I’m very fortunate in having a circle of friends that includes artists who work in multiple media and also musicians who work on multiple instruments.
00:40:11 – 00:45:07
And what I’ve realized by watching them is that, for example, an instrument can play many different kinds of music. So violin, we might think of as being associated with classical music when people first start to learn to play. But there’s also, you know, jazz two is for violin. There’s also little tunes for violin. And that same instrument can play a whole variety of different music. And the same is true for the writing process. And so, you know , if I’m writing a skull of the article with lots of jargon, I can pivot and write a LinkedIn blog post or I can write a poem or I can write a book that is for a wider readership or I can write an email to a student. I mean, it’s amazing what I do today actually. All the different kinds of writing that I do. And that to me is sort of like picking up an instrument and sort of meandering from one tune to the next. That’s an interesting observation. Yes, very much so. Because in music, people will say, oh, I only love classical music or I only love country. But when they have the opportunity to listen to a great classical work, all of a sudden it changes their thinking and they go, well, maybe that’s not so bad after all, and conversely, the opposite has become true. I know when we ask people, they go, oh, I don’t like classical music. You say, well, listen to this one piece. Let me know what you think. If they could totally stay awake, sometimes it just relaxes them so much. They fall asleep. But writing is certainly like that. I love when they come back and they go, I love that. I didn’t know I liked classical music or I didn’t know I liked jazz. It’s such a, it’s interesting how we’re so easily put into a very narrow road of what we prefer when we’re just not exposed to it. And literature is very much the same. Yeah, very much so. And, you know, when you think about music, that’s also often very fragmentary. So if you think about music that is associated with advertising, that’s usually a part of a song, often classical music or music of the movies, or if you want to think about how little snippets of music invade your head, think about the concept of the earworm from your in a grocery store and you hear a song and you really don’t like that song, but you can’t escape it. It’s going to be in your head all day or somebody walking down the sidewalk. Whistles a little piece of a tune that you really like. And that fragment and gets in your head and you have a great day because somebody took you off to that little piece of music. Yeah. That’s so true. Annoyingly. Annoyingly sometimes. But still, yeah, true. Monica in this question we like to ask everyone. And 5 words or less, what would your advice be to people that want to live or be more creative? And you certainly have a lot of experience in that area. So here is my I used up all 5 words. My phrase is. What will you remember more? And let me explain that. So sometimes when you see life advice or something like that, they’re like, oh, you know, think of your best life. What are you going to remember the most? No, no, no. This is not that thing. What will you remember more? Is the recipe for every day that you have the chance to do something that’s slightly different but not what you expected. You know, like your friend says, let’s go sit under a tree and eat our lunch and you’re thinking, no, I have to answer these emails. You know, then the question is, what are you going to remember more? Are you going to remember more sitting and answering your emails or going with your friend and sitting under a tree? That’s what I try to think about. Whenever I’ve got things to do, and something pops up, I’m like, what am I going to remember more? Or my students are saying, you know, oh, you know, I’ve got to go and study this thing and my friend asked me to go and do this or my dog wants to go for a walk or whatever. And I think to myself, and I tell them, what are you going to remember more, go and do that thing? True, we get pulled so many directions that probably aren’t always the best for us. They’re time wasters, or they contaminate our thinking, and then we really don’t enjoy those subtle little minutes that we can experience throughout the day, like just simply smelling a flower. That’s so true. So true. Okay, so now we’re going to ask you the question that we ask all of our guests, which is if you could sit on a park bench and chat with anyone from the past, who would it be? So that’s a pretty challenging question.
00:45:08 – 00:49:13
I thought about being disobedient and going to the future instead of the past. But I’ll close in in homage to my grandmother, my French grandmother. And, you know, she was a person who was always very optimistic and cheerful and she had had an amazing life. She was born in 1899, and she passed away in 2001. And in her lifetime, she saw the first airplanes, and she also saw people go to the moon. And her life was from a very ordinary background of village life, she eventually moved into a city. But the things that she saw, I don’t think any human generation will see that range of technological change in their lifetimes. And so if I could sit and talk with her again, that would be beautiful. But because of the things that she’s left behind, both the fragments of memory and the little objects here and there. I don’t have to wait for that once opportunities to sit on a bench. I feel like she’s always with me. And if you were to choose someone in the future I would go and visit the people who will be the age of my great grandchildren. I don’t know if I’ll have great grandchildren, but there will be people there. And I would love to go and see what they do and what the world looks like because even though we often think of many things happening that are not so great. There are things that are still fantastic in the future. And I would love to see what those things are. That would be exciting. It would be exciting. It could be wonderful or it could be a drill challenge. I think like most civilizations have the good and the in between and the band. It’s normal. And that’s what the archeological perspective tells us. Do you know that all the good capacities of people and all the capacities that we sort of wish we didn’t have, but that are part of our sort of intellectual emotional biological baggage, those things will continue in the future and yet they’re going to invent some new stuff. It’s going to be cool. Yeah. Definitely. A new iPhone. A new iPhone. iPhone 45. Exactly. Well, Monica, you are truly living a life filled with discovery. And we’re so glad you were able to share some of your experiences with this. I really kind of hate to end this because you’ve been doing it. Fascinating to listen to. And I know our listeners are going to really enjoy this episode. Absolutely is so true rod and thank you, Monica. And if our listeners would like to know more about Monica, we will have links for her under the show guest tab on thought rob podcast dot com. So everyone can learn more about her and connect with her on social media and please check out her website. Yeah, by all means check out her website and her book. And her book, which we will have a link to. And it also has an audio version. Yeah. If you don’t want to read something that Monica narrated correct Monica? That’s right. That’s right. Thank you so much. It’s been wonderful being here. I really enjoyed our conversation and you know, I encourage everyone to go out and pick up a little fragment of time of memory of music, thought and put it together into some language for the rest of us to enjoy. Thank you. Excellent. Thank you. Thank you. Bye bye. Bye bye. I’m really glad you tuned in today. We hope you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas we shared with you. We post a new podcast every week so remember to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts, so you don’t miss an episode. So it’s by for now from my husband rod and I wishing everyone a great day.