David Robert Jones, MS LPC

Rhythm (18)

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15 minute writing timer. Ready. Set. Go.

I remember hearing that William Faulkner played Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” over and over and over while he wrote As I Lay Dying. I don’t know if it’s true, but I remember hearing it. And it really doesn’t matter much to me if it is true because the point that was being made by the person sharing the information was this: there is a rhythm to writing.

And there is a rhythm to living and learning and speaking and being a parent and being a son and on and on.

There are times when I sit down to play the handpan and I have a rhythm or song structure in mind and then I compose from there, trusting the basic foundations to hold me enough to compose something that has fairly predictable and interesting patterns that correspond to the patterns that most of us are used to and that catch our attention and invite us into story.

And then there are times when I sit down and I play what is asking to be played as if I am already hearing what is waiting to be created.

I like both and everything in between, really.

This composing music and writing and, well, living is all kind of a great science experiment to me these days.  And that science experiment is much about rhythm. 

There is a certain music and rhythm playing in the background of this experiment and it is a combination of even and odd meters, fast and slow tempos, and filled with dynamic range.

It is a flexible rhythm that seems to be what I need it to be when I need it to be.

I’m listening more and more attentively to this rhythm, looking for it, waiting for it, playing with it, and enjoying it.

What in the hell am I talking about?

Let me paint the picture for you with an embodied story:

Tonight, we celebrated my wife’s birthday and her sister’s birthday with our families and my wife’s parents. We ate dinner at a restaurant that is one giant room with music playing in several corners of the room and truly the perfect acoustical setup for an echo chamber. Combine the many pitches of voices with the many pitches of silverware and dishes being clanked together, with the music right behind my head, with 3-8 conversations going on at one time at our table, and it was a perfect storm for triggering a whole host of my post-traumatic brain injury symptoms.

In the past, I used to fight the sound and often would just leave such a place if I ever ventured to enter in the first place. I certainly wouldn’t have been a repeat offender.

I’ve missed a lot of these kinds of gatherings with family and friends over the last 8 years.

But tonight, I channeled a certain Frenchman’s persona from a film I recently watched and sat there with a light smile on my face and a peaceful center that cannot be altered. Childish delight.

At one point, I was just hearing it all, letting my eyes go soft and then focus, feeling my heart open and close and open, feeling my breath fill my lungs and then exit, opening my ears to all sounds and then focusing on one sound, following sound into silence, and just enjoying watching the whole show and the ebbs and flows of my reactions. 

Welcoming the ebbs and flows into that peaceful Frenchman-like center of what we would call equanimity. 

It was exquisite. In fact, it felt like I starred in a movie and watched the movie at the same time.

There is a rhythm to such peaceful serenity that is also active and alert in the world.

I’m not sure it’s Gershwin, but I have been playing it over and over and over.


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