The Thursday Thesis – 22/11/2018
Left, right...left, right...left, right...
You don’t even think about it – you just think “I’ll go over there” and magic happens: the teetering stack of bones, tendons, muscles and fat just goes – seemingly effortlessly.
In essence, a walking human is a collection of four perfectly synchronised pendulums, both supporting and supported by a gristle-bound scaffold of calcification: bones.
But here’s a funny thing: if I had a pound for every one of my guitar students who’ve told me that they have no sense of rhythm, I’d have a ton more dosh in my pocket.
Some of those guys (and it is mostly the guys) are serious about their condition, and some of them make a joke out of it. But it’s still there, hogging their mindspace and stinking-up their thinking – despite the evidence to suggest that they are so obviously, so screamingly phenomenal at rhythm.
Way too many of us are convinced that we have no sense of rhythm, and – as a consequence – we lose our inborn capacity to sing, dance, play the guitar, piano, drums: this is malware for your mind.
If you had a virus in your computer, you’d fire up the toughest, most kick-arse, anti-virus software you could lay hands on and annihilate the virus.
If you were ill and couldn’t sing or dance – wouldn’t you seek medical help to restore what you’d lost?
In the same way that a person who doesn’t read has no advantage over someone who cannot read:
if you don’t dance, sing or make music you are no different to someone who can’t do those things.
Here’s the thing, though: every child sings, every child dances, every child will pick up a drum, pluck a string or pound a piano key.
So why are we born with music and rhythm, but grow up to believe we have none of that good stuff in us?
We’re born rhythmic because – as far we know – humans evolved as a pack animal; something like wild dogs or hyenas.
Ancient Homo Sapiens used their natural endurance and unique ability to cool-off as they ran, chasing prey animals to the point of collapse before moving in for the kill.
It’s called persistence hunting, and it is still used in isolated places where “civilisation” hasn’t choked the practice out.
Pack animals have to communicate with one another whilst on the move, and in the absence of language or in noisy environments sound may not be an option. Thus humans became masters of non-verbal communication and rhythm as our ancestors bounced along in perfect synchronisation with one another so they could maintain eye contact and pick up on one another’s body language.
Look at that group of joggers next time they come pounding past your window – they’ll all be in step with one another. Nobody is keeping them in time: they just instinctively fall into step together.
Ever see a couple who are out of step with one another?
What might that tell you about the state of their communications or relationship?
So don’t ever tell me that you have no sense of rhythm, because you, me, and everybody else...
Well, we are all just rhythm monkeys.
It’s our ancient inheritance, our birthright, and it’s what we do when we think there’s nobody watching. We dance when we are alone, when are inhibitions are lowered by alcohol or narcotics, or we are in a socially sanctioned place where dancing is acceptable – clubs and dance classes for instance.
When was the last time you saw someone dance in the street or in their workplace?
It’s been a while...
We all have rhythm, we all have natural – effortless timing – until someone tells us how hard it is and that we shouldn’t try, just in case we make a mess of it and look stupid.
Isn’t it time we let our rhythm monkeys out of their cages?
So shut up and dance, Monkey-face!
© Neil Cowmeadow 2017
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