The Music of Life: Concerto for Mankind
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Every person is born with a set of natural talents – their inner composition. Knowing this composition explains why they think, feel, sense, believe, act and live the way they do. Ignoring your natural talents can make life difficult and frustrating; living in harmony with your inner composition makes success and happiness easy to achieve. Using a musical analogy, this book explains, based on the theories of Carl Jung, Myers-Briggs and David Keirsey, the ‘why’ of our inborn differences (compositions) and how they account for all our human conflicts: Why some people feel “not good enough”, in need of therapy, or judged, and why arguments happen between family members and friends despite the best of intentions.
From: The Music of Life: Concerto for Mankind, by Nonen Titi
Music is “an art based on the organization of sound in time”… Sound is the vibration of a medium (air) caused by an object being moved, banged, blown, or pulled… Musical sounds have four properties: pitch, dynamics, tone color, and duration.
Just as a person who has never heard or seen music played needs to learn what an instrument or an orchestra is to understand how somebody can make beautiful sounds come out of a piece of wood or metal by relating it to the different black dots and lines that make up a written score, so the human psychology needs to be understood, and we will start with the very basics.
Each person is born with an instinct that assures him a place in the collective, like a musician’s talent for a particular instrument predicts his place in the orchestra. This natural instinct exists of two properties, perception and justification, which, together, are responsible for who a person is; how he acts, what he finds important, what he is best at doing, and who he gets along with. In short, a person’s attitude to life and the way he functions both depend on how he perceives and how he justifies.
Picture this: You are a messenger in an ancient war, sent home to report that although the battle was won, the king has died; this is your function. Having observed the events (perception), and, being aware that bearing bad news is a risky job, you now have the entire journey to decide how to explain it (justification), since your life may depend on how you express yourself.
Will you relay the message exactly as you were told it or give a general account of the loss in your own words? How will you arrange your sentences and which parts will you emphasize? Do you omit the part where the king cried like a baby or do you say it was a battle cry? These elements refer to the content of the message.
Similarly, the response you’ll get may depend on the intonation of the message, the pitch and emotion of your voice, thus what worth you give the content. Should you express sadness about the king’s death or happiness that the war is over? Or will you bring the news detached and factual, as if you cared nothing for either the king or the war?
Then there is the question of your attitude to the job itself; how important is that king to you? Do you consider it your duty to go back home regardless of the risk, or will you impulsively decide to flee the country? (What is your orientation?) Or maybe this is a good time to announce that this job wasn’t your calling after all, since you don’t like to travel alone or because you don’t like meeting new people (your focus).
We can apply this same example to music, since a message can be musical, although the performer of a musical message is less likely to lose his head if playing a sad song.
A musician in the concert of life needs to know his function; thus, which piece of music he will be playing (the content of the message) and what instrument he will use to play it (intonation); thus what position he takes in the orchestra. He needs to be able to hear the music (perception), read the notes (justification) and translate that to his instrument (expression).
He also needs to decide how important his place in the orchestra is to him; in other words, what his attitude is. Does he perform to impress the audience or is the music for his own pleasure – is he the conductor or the composer (orientation)? Does he play ensemble or is he a soloist (focus)?
Like music, the inborn personality of every person comes with attitude and function, which are indicated in his four-letter typename. This brief overview shows how the musical components of the analogy correspond to those of our type and how they will be discussed.
Note that the attitude is to do with the musician himself, the person who interacts with the world. The function has to do with the sort of music one plays; in personality type these are the skills and strengths the person has (inside) – his talents and gifts.
These two systems interact. Thus, a musician who is best at rhythm may prefer to improvise and play for a live audience (play improvisational jazz), while an étude, a technical piece of music, needs to follow the score exactly and may be better when rehearsed or recorded in a studio. Thus his function plays a role in the attitude of the musician; what he is best at determines where and for whom he plays.
The same applies to the functions and attitudes of the human personality types; the natural talents you are born with affect your attitude to life. The more you use your preferred talents, the more developed they become – even a born musician will not know how good he is until he actually picks up an instrument and tries it. I am not talking about specific talents, like whether somebody is better at singing opera or playing the violin, and not even about painting or music, but talents that follow naturally from how you experience your “Self” in the world.
Some people are born to experience themselves in the world (the world is home to me; its features are obvious to me) and others experience themselves as part of the world (my relation with the world; the world through my eyes). This difference is difficult to explain, since it is impossible for a person to take on somebody else’s inborn personality. We all assume that everybody experiences life the same way we do, but this isn’t true. How could Mozart possibly imagine what it must be like to be tone deaf? Even Beethoven, after he became truly deaf (when his sensory organs failed him) still had the instinct inside him and could experience the music in his head. Music was part of their lives, always and everywhere.
A note is “something noted”, as in a mark, character or written symbol, so as to indicate what is not itself immediately noticeable (perceptible). Musical notes are written symbols that indicate the duration and pitch of a tone by its shape and position on the staff.
As stated in the Overture, we all have a value relation with the world around us. This relation exists of:
1. Awareness of the environment, where you focus your attention: E or I.
2. Perception (information intake), what you notice: S or N.
3. Justification (information processing), what worth you give it: T or F.
4. Implementation (information output), how/to whom you express that worth: J or P.
Let us look at these four aspects of our relation to information a bit closer, both with regard music and with our environment.
1. Some musicians are aware, always and everywhere, of the music that surrounds them; whether the chirp of a bird or an entire symphony, it influences them. Others follow the beat of their heart to project their internal mood onto the world, they influence it. Either we consider the world as real and objective, or we consider our own perspective as influential on how it appears to us. Whether we focus our attention on the world around us or the one within ourselves influences everything we experience. If you naturally look around the whole room, you perceive differently than when you focus at a corner.
2. Music is usually perceived through the ears (sensory organs), but we know that deaf people can distinguish rhythm and melody through their tactile sense and we know that some people hear music in their head that was never played before. Perception is about the content of the message, whether that message was given to us by the tangible environment (senses) or by non-tangible insights (intuitively). We perceive a dark shape in the corner, regardless of whether it is really there or we imagine it.
3. Justification has to do with the worth we assign the perception. Do we like the musical style? What instrument or key do we prefer to hear it in? Do we think about the technique or do we feel the mood it evokes in us? In this way our inborn personality processes the information our perception gives us; we give it a value, a worth, a judgment. We decide whether the dark shape in the corner is dangerous or friendly, and whether it is real or not.
4. Implementation and expression follow when we pass the information on to others; our orientation. We can write a new composition and then persuade people to listen to it, or we may direct how others play, like a conductor directs his orchestra; we either try to influence the audience or we simply play to please ourselves. Depending on what we have perceived, what worth we gave it, and how much power we assign the object, we will express our words or implement our actions differently; either we stick with what is known or we deal with life as it comes. We shoo the dark shape away or we see it as an opportunity for an adventure.
Thus, our attitude consists of the focus of our attention (awareness, and the energy we spend looking) and where we orientate ourselves when we pass on our information (expression or implementation). Perception and justification are functions that determine the content and worth of the message, and these two are so closely linked that they appear to come to us as one. Thus, the moment I see (perceive) a particular white shape, I immediately ‘know’ (judge) it as a car. I even know how fast it is going, all in the fraction of a second since it appeared in my field of vision. This ‘conceptualizing’ is part of processing the information (exactly like a computer instantly processes the commands we give it), and so two functions, one perception and one justification (worth-assigning) function, work together and become our preferred method of handling information. But which perception function and which justification function is preferred differs per person, and so they become different personality types.
Our inborn personalities influence our use of language and learning style, which, in turn, are perceived by the people around us when we communicate with them. Consequently, our method of communication (and thus, how well we understand others) depends on our typename. This name exists of four letters, one of each of the above pairs. All combinations make for a total of sixteen different personality types.
A continuum can be seen as a line between two extremes, somewhat like a musical scale. And just like a note can have a place anywhere between high and low, so a person’s typename-letter can be located anywhere between the two extremes.
E (extravert)__________*__________ I (introvert)
A person can be very extraverted if the focus of his attitude is close to the left end of the continuum (having a lot of E). This person will act differently than one who is also extraverted, but whose E is nearer the centre of the continuum.
The same goes for the scale between each of the two opposites in orientation of attitude (J or P),perception functions (S or N) and justification functions (T or F).
Thus, every person has varying ‘amounts’ of letter-matter that puts them on different places of each of these four continuums and, thus, two people with the same typename may still be different.
Since everyone’s functions develop from very young onwards, it is unlikely that a person would end up exactly in the middle of a continuum, but it can happen, and the closer to the centre a person’s letter is, the harder it may be to recognize. Nevertheless it is possible, using these names, to understand people a little better and it may help all of us if we don’t mistake a name for a label. Every person is different and that is a good thing.
The problem for people is that the faculty we have that helps us share our differences, our conceptual language, falls short when trying to share things which surpass this verbal mode of communication. Thus we cannot experience another person’s sensory or intuitive perceptions, or their emotions; these can only be conceptualized, but the meaning given to the concepts are always based on our own perception, which means that even words can be misleading. We use the same words but attach a different sense, intuition, emotion, or definition to it.
Obviously, the more letters two people have in common, the more alike they are, and this is not limited by social or temporal boundaries (which do rely on concepts and language); therefore you might be able to understand a person of a distant culture or time better than a member of your family.
Within a family, being too similar may even become a weakness when trying to deal with life. It is no accident that ‘opposites attract’; it is better for the offspring if their parents have as many different skills as possible, in exactly the same way that an orchestra consisting of only trumpets would not be able to teach children very many kinds of music or entertain an audience.
It is important to always keep in mind that each of the letter pairs concerns a slightly different aspect of how we deal with information. To put it in computer language, E-I and S-N deal with incoming information, in which E-I are websites and S-N are the information contained therein (the content).
J-P and T-F deal with outgoing information, in which T-F is the choice you make as to what is worth saving or printing, and J-P deals with whether you want to keep that information for yourself or forward it on to others.
Thus, S-N are the functions of what is incoming, and T-F are the functions of what is outgoing (the ‘what’), while E-I and J-P refer to the attitude; where a person looks, how much time he spends surfing, and to whom he sends it (the ‘where’ or ‘who’).
A great number of our (western) biases come from beliefs that are never questioned; for example, that thinking is something that is always objective, so that all our thinking leads to knowledge, and that conceptual thinking or “reason” constitutes a higher step on the evolutionary ladder than emotion, intuition and sensation. But those are mistaken assumptions: We use and need all of our functions and they all are (differently) important.
And so we need to remember that we are not merely an accumulation of four different value relations with our environment, each signified with a letter, but that these relations influence each other, so that a personality is more than the sum of its typename-letters.
In the following sections I will discuss first the musician (the person’s attitude to life) and then the musical elements (the functions of the inborn personality).
Each attitude and function deals with two letter continuums and each will be discussed separately with short descriptions, followed by a comparative example.