Two Modes of Experience

John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885

John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885

I was reading through 50 things I know by Sasha Chapins.

There's one in particular I want to take note of.

27. I know that there are two modes of experience: appreciative, and evaluative. Concrete example: let’s say you’re listening to a piece of music. Are you sinking into it, awash in emotions? You’re in the appreciative mode. Are you the mixing engineer, listening to the snare hits to make sure they’re consistent? You’re in the evaluative mode. Much of sanity, and happiness, consists of finding the right mode for the right moment. The appreciative mode is terrible for debugging your business plan. But the evaluative mode is terrible for having a first date. A lot of capable, intelligent people suffer because they do not have the ability to switch out of the evaluative mode, or even notice that they’re in it.

I kept thinking about this during worship at church. For some reason, when I'm on the floor with the audience, I can never put myself in the appreciative mode, sinking into the worship mode and praising God. I keep evaluating how the pianist is playing, and whether I can pick up their unique style and flair to use myself, whether the singers are on key, whether the entire band is on-tempo, and how it the worship sounds overall, constantly evaluating, unable to switch it off.

In many other situations in my life, I can't think of many moments when I was fully in the appreciative mode. Hopefully after knowing this, I would do a pulse check to notice whether I'm stuck in the evaluating mode, and be able to just appreciate things.