A terrible thing has happened. OK, maybe on the grand scheme of things, it may not seem quite so terrible. The other day, as I was opening the podcast app on my phone, I said to myself “OK, let’s fire up the pod machine!” I don’t know where that phrase came from. It just popped into my head. “Let’s fire up the pod machine!” And now, whenever I open the podcast app on my phone, I think it of that phrase, every single time. “Pod machine”. It sounds like I’m making a Nespresso (what else?)

I remember listening to an interview with the comedian John Robins where he said that he in turn was listening to an interview with Johnny Vaughan. It was back when Vaughan had first started presenting The Big Breakfast and he was asked how he coped with the early mornings and he said that the secret was to just get in the shower. As soon as your alarm goes off, you get up and get in the shower and then you’re fine. Robins said that because of this, whenever he’s in the shower, he always thinks about Johnny Vaughan. And now, whenever I’m in the shower, I think about John Robins thinking about Johnny Vaughan.

As someone who works in communications, I spend a lot of time trying to think of ways in which a message can be crafted to maximise its impact. But sometimes, this process can be too effective. The connection becomes too strong – involuntary and inseparable.

In his 1829 Analysis of the Human Mind, James Mill wrote that:

Some ideas are by frequency and strength of association so closely combined that they cannot be separated; if one exists, the other exists along with it in spite of whatever effort we make to disjoin them.

I found that slightly worrying, as it suggests that I may be stuck with firing up the pod machine forever.

J.S. Mill offers a bit more hope:

When two phenomena have been very often experienced in conjunction, and have not, in any single instance, occurred separately either in experience or in thought, there is produced between them what has been called inseparable, or, less correctly, indissoluble, association; by which is not meant that the association must inevitably last to the end of life – that no subsequent experience or process of thought can possibly avail to dissolve it; but only that as long as no such experience or process of thought has taken place, the association is irresistible; it is impossible for us to think the one thing disjoined from the other.

I just need to replace “Let’s fire up the pod machine!” with “I’m going to listen to a podcast”. Easy.

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