And then one day, a revelation: It occurred to me that it was no longer just difficult to hear all the music I’d amassed, but impossible. I mean literally, mathematically impossible: I calculated that if I lived another, say, 40 years, and spent every minute of those next 40 years — that’s no sleeping, no eating — listening to my collection of music, I would be dead before I could make it all the way through. That means there are records I own today that I will definitely never hear again. It was a sobering thought. Toward the end of David Foster Wallace’s 2001 short story “Good Old Neon,” the narrator recognizes the “state in which a man realizes that everything he sees will outlast him.” With one single calculation, made on a whim, I had placed myself in this very state.
What did I do after spending a few reflective moments reckoning with this bleak logic? I bought some records. I did so not as an ironic palliative to the grim calculation I’d just made, as narrative might dictate. On the contrary, I did so thoughtlessly, compulsively, simply because it was part of my routine. Clearly, I needed to make some changes.
I concocted a bold experiment: For the entirety of 2017, I would listen to just one album a week.