An Old Radio Soul

I find old radio souls now and again who seem, at least to me, to be in touch with the spiritual side of radio. I am not talking about religious programming or some weird cult, but rather they are folks whose souls have been touched by the magic of radio. It is mystical, magical, and at times seems to connect our physical bodies to the very electrons which flow through the air. It is as though our minds are connecting with the radio signals like old friends, able to hear and be heard.

Yeah, I know, I am weird. Radio is in no small part connected to me in a special way because of the role it played in my youth. Perhaps more recent generations will not be able to relate since their exposure to media has been raised by orders of magnitude compared to my generation. For me, and at least some of the “old souls” I have met, radio touched a very special place in our hearts and in our imaginations. It was “other” and yet uniquely ours.

When I discovered shortwave radio I thought I had found radio nirvana (okay, maybe that really came only after I got my amateur radio license and could talk, literally, around the world). Shortwave radio first connected me to the world, however, as finding stations on the air meant being exposed to people from completely different cultures who were both unique and yet just like me.

Music has always had a direct path into the soul, but it is not just my own culture’s music which stirs me–I find life in the music of all cultures. Shortwave radio allows me to experience this life as a welcomed outsider. The music and words are there for me to take in, offered from the hearts of those who created it. We become bound together in our humanity in those moments, much as we become bound together with nature as we listen to waves crashing against the beach or when rain splatters in the forest.

The comedian and banjo player extraordinaire Steve Martin once said in a comedy routine, “You can’t play a depressing song on the banjo,” and proceeded to demonstrate the perky, upbeat sounds of the instrument. I feel this is similar to listening to music from around the world–we cannot be disconnected from those with whom we share such intimate moments though music. I may not understand the words, but my soul understands the heart within the music.

There are those who say shortwave radio is dead because so many stations have gone off the air. Shortwave is alive and well, and evidence of this is there for all to see if they are willing to look. It is not FM, it is not audio streaming. It is radio. Signals speeding through the air, bouncing off the atmosphere, crashing waves of electrons hurtling through the ether to find expression through our speakers and our headphones.

The noise and static which may accompany the signals are evidence of the hard-fought battle waged by those electrons to reach our shores and thus our ears. “You made it!” “You made it!” The signals arrive scarred from the journey, but they are here and they speak to us. And they arrive all up and down along the dial on every band, on every day without fail. They are here, just waiting to be discovered, even if now and again they must play a game of hide and seek with us because of seasons and solar cycles and shortened propagation paths. They are here, nevertheless, I promise.

Radio is the medium which brings together all of these things for me and fills my soul with gratitude. -73, Robert

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

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6 thoughts on “An Old Radio Soul

  1. Thomas

    Robert, thank you so much for sharing this.

    How this speaks to so many of us.

    And I agree: there’s a spiritual side of radio.

    Ever since I was a kid, I often felt TV was a distraction. It commands your full attention and is often chock full of stuff you’d rather not see…loud commercials, drug ads, even overly-dramatic news and weather breaks.

    Then the Internet and smart phones came along. To me, they’re more like slot machines. And I’m not alone in believing this. A good friend recently shared an article on this very topic:

    Radio? Radio is like a good cup of coffee or tea with a friend.

    You can’t consume radio too fast–it sets its own pace. It’s not as distracting as other forms of media. You can walk, hike, bike, wash the dishes, mow the lawn, drive or lie in the dark listening to radio. With radio, it’s all good. It’s theatre of the mind. More akin to reading a book.

    What’s more, radio leaves room for serendipity and discovery.

    Even when I listen to music–and I listen to a lot–it feels more meaningful over the radio. Even if it’s in a language I don’t speak. It speaks to me. And I’m okay with not being able to fast-forward or skip to the next song.

    I’m comfortable with my old radio soul.

    Radio has been a constant companion throughout my whole life and has lead me to meaningful friendships with other old radio souls.

    Thank you again for sharing, Robert. Nurture that old radio soul of yours.


  2. Kire

    I am a younger soul, yet i will always remember the magic of true radio, from a kid in the 70’s, playing with grampas old tube radios (often broken, they’d give em to me to take apart) to Art Bell thru today, where i have found my home on the shortwaves. Real nice sentiment!

  3. Robert Gulley Post author

    Well said, David! As a person constantly learning I avail myself of tools which help me learn. But nothing has even come close to the magic which is radio in terms of pure joy and feeling a sense of connection to others.

  4. David Bley

    I too am an old radio soul. Radio is magic. Like someone said, the pictures on radio are better than the ones in movies, and TV and now YouTube.


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