Tonight I am sitting in front of my computer, consuming my usual daily dose of media, and I notice it, again. The music sounds better, the pictures all delight, the essays all inspire. This happens once every few weeks, always at night, and it’s wonderful. I call it the receiving feeling. As an extension of my stimulus vs. context thread, I wonder what it is that gives rise to this mindset. Perhaps it’s the whole wheat pasta I ate for dinner, or the marathon of work-related sleep deprivation I just emerged from, or this especially comfy pair of jeans. I used to think it was the music that set the tone – that if I was moved by what was coming out of my speakers, the rest of my receptors were somehow primed to perceive everything else as more interesting, more meaningful, more beautiful. And so I have made it a hobby to collect music that makes me feel a certain way and enhances certain activities. For example, I have music that I think makes me retain more of what I’m studying, other tunes that improve my writing, music that makes me a better cook even. Sound silly? I have music that I select to go with different foods. Anyway tonight I was browsing these unbelieveable monkey photos, just blown away by the awesome digital photography (and wicked flash) coming out of this studio, and then I noticed that this band I was listening to, that I hadn’t heard before and wasn’t all that into when I first put the album on, had started to sound great. Was the album getting better as it progressed? I put on one of the early songs and, sure enough, I liked it much more than on first listen. Of course there are a lot of confounders, no doubt that once you buy into a band, all their music sounds good, but I think it’s clear that any media can push me into the receiving feeling, which is a self-reinforcing sort of mania that keeps me up to six in the morning, like right now. Once upon a time I could jump into this mood by smoking a joint, but, sadly, marijuana no longer has this effect on me. Perhaps I’m attaching undue complexity to just being in good spirits, after all the hallmark of depression is not feeling bad (as most people think) but rather the inability to find joy or interest in anything. I’ll keep looking for stimulus-heightening contexts.