Cottage cheese and grunge music

I’m originally from New York, but I live in Seattle now where grunge rock originated. It has always seemed like it’s almost a law that you like it when you live here, and Kurt Cobain and Nirvana are played all over town on heavy rotation. It’s been frustrating, because I’ve never gotten it. I disliked the music when it came out. I wanted them to enunciate. I was tired of hearing how brilliant it was all supposed to be—until this week. I was out and about and once again I heard “Come as You Are”, and I realized I liked it. I went back and listened to their other huge hit “Smells like Teen Spirit” and decided that now I liked that one, too. It was confusing.

My friends teased me that the flannel I wear had made me appreciate the music. Others claimed that it’s all the rain, or that I had simply evolved better musical taste. It could even be that sheer repetition has worked its magic and my brain has given up resisting. Maybe, but I think that it’s something different. I think it’s all part of being fully awake and present.

When I was going to Zen retreats the food would be served in silence and you would accept and eat whatever you were given. Most of the time you didn’t even know what you were getting until it was in your bowl, and this is how I was served cottage cheese. At the time I wasn’t lactose intolerant, so I was able to eat it, but I didn’t want to. I had always hated cottage cheese, and had decided years ago that it was nasty. Consequently I hadn’t tasted cottage cheese for at least ten years. In the silence of the zendo, knowing that I was to eat what I was given, I took a hesitant bite and tasted the cottage cheese. It was delicious, and I ate it regularly after that until my stomach started to rebel.

I think it’s much the same with Nirvana. I hated it instantly when it came out and decided right then that it was nasty. At that point I dismissed it with a label and moved on every time it played. I didn’t listen anymore.  It plays so often here that I’ve started to actually hear it, and my tastes may have changed a bit. I have been listening to those two songs all week, and now I find them musically delicious. It makes me wonder what else I need to taste again for the first time.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

231. Pick something you know you dislike—a food, a song, anything you’ve truly made your mind up about. Try it again without preconception—try to experience it fully as for the first time. Has your perception changed? Sometimes it won’t—I tried again with bananas and I still hate them—but sometimes you’ll find you love cottage cheese and Nirvana.


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