July 12, 2021
Sunny and warm
A few years ago in India, I was staying at a tiny ashram in Gujarat near the border of Pakistan. We were near a Muslim village on the banks of the Shabarmati River, which flows through Ahmedabad. In the morning we could hear the chanting of the village women as they washed their clothes in the river, slamming them against the rocks on the edge of the river. “Chant – wham! Chant – Wham! Chant – Wham!.” The chanting, I am sure, made the whams much easier.
In the classic movie, “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” a chain gang is chanting as they drive the pylons into the railroad ties. There are many sea chanties used by the sailors of wind-driven ships to lighten their work. And when I put on some loud and very rhythmic jazz, my daughter says, “Wow! Housecleaning music!” and hauls out the vacuum cleaner.
Politicians use rhythmic speech to capture their audience. For good or evil, the principal is the same. They use rhythm to catch people, get them to board their train and take off with them to an unknown destination. Only the speaker knows where they are going, and often he doesn’t know either. But the force of the rhythm carries them along.
Where does rhythm come from? Is it something pre-existing which we can tap into? Or is it something we invent as we speak? The planets and stars revolve in a gigantic rhythm such that we can predict exactly when they will reappear in the same configuration. Here on earth, the rhythm of the seasons is fairly reliable. The pulse of the cosmos is always beating whether in broad, spacious beats, or in tiny, fractional beats. Our heart beats may be echoing the rhythmic beats of the cosmic heart. We are living in a sea of rhythm.
The Pied Piper of Hamlin used music and rhythm to kidnap the children of Hamlin and lead them, dancing, to oblivion. The sound of Krishna’s flute drew the respectable housewives of Vrindaban to a divine, spiritual experience in the jungles of Vrindaban. Whose rhythm are we following? The rhythm of the Pied Piper, or the flute of Krishna? Will we end up with disaster or with joy? Be careful!
May we all have joy!
What I am reading: “Life as Play” by Mark Johnson, one man’s spiritual adventures told with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Read for fun, read for learning, read for inspiration. I highly recommend.