human intention

In the spring I periodically join Carl Spright (a physicist and drummer) at his drum circle in Oak Park during the annual farmers market. The drummers follow my lead. In a sense, I take on a role of temporary tribal elder. I do not inflate my ego with this dynamic, but plainly, I am the most experienced drummer in the tribe. Because I swing the time, the other drummers entrain with what I lay down. When they start to entrain they can move out of their intentional drumming and find the pocket of flow. People passing by are infected by this. They dance, clap their hands, smile or take pictures of us. Carl provides a blanket for children to sit on, he also provides tiny drums and idiophones for the children to play with. Drums are greatly under-rated in the west, their power to unite is incredible. If congress and world leaders would entrain with drums, stop talking, stop selling, and learn to groove, well . . . that is only one of my hopeful, but obviously impossible fantasies to save the planet from human intention.


4 responses to “human intention

  1. I agree wholeheartedly (is that a word?).
    Reminds me of a Benny Goodman story. One of the last times he visited Chicago he was asked the question. “Do you think it would help if young law offenders were enticed to play an instrument?”
    Benny, true to form, replied “No, they should throw them in jail.”
    He was always so full of love and forgiveness.

    • None of the ideas regarding “human intention” are new, they stem from Taoist texts. The opposite of human intention is ‘non-doing’ as an un-contrived way of doing that can also be an action that is, at the same time, under ones control through years of practice, but the control is flowing instead of getting caught up in the mechanics of pushing or pulling. If I sit down behind a snare drum to produce without possessing and without regard for the results then it just happens. In other words, I let every sound find its proper place, claiming nothing, as if there is nothing to lose because there is nothing to lose. So, when people feel this kind of drumming they can’t help but be moved, and they go with the groove, smiling, clapping their hands, dancing and feeling more naturally human.

  2. Extending the drum circle to everyone on the planet is a good idea, but the inertia that prevents this from happening is great. First we need a global ‘park’ for people to enter into, but this could be accomplished remotely via appropriate tech. But more than that, there is a need for some ‘great attraction’ to get them to the ‘park’ in the first place. If your head is grounded in religious dogma, the corporate grind, or just the habitual rituals of everyday life, then you likely have the self-imposed shackles that impose that great inertia to moving forward. A ‘psychic knife’ is probably needed to sever those bonds that prevent the necessary awareness from occurring. This agent of change could be meditation and reflection on one’s state of being, but my gut tells me it will take some terrible external (or internal!) force to prompt that awareness to start the flowing synchronicity of rhythm that can bind us together. Perhaps if several million world musicians could come together as one, they could provide the starting ‘entrainment’ to provide a better way to move forward towards an awareness of our common rhythm. But then people would have to listen. Do they listen now? That is a deep question.

    • The other part I was trying to get at, but failed to mention above, is that drum circles are not all alike. Some drum circles can can be magical, transformative and infused with pure joy, while other drum circles can be an uninspiring din. Sadly, I attended drum circle at the Percussive Arts Society (PASIC) in Indianapolis that was a horror of noise led by a facilitator who was on an ego trip. Too much meddling is exactly the point. On the other hand, a catchphrase of the 1960s and 70s was, “going with the flow” and we all know how well that worked. So, I say, in drum circles worth their salt there can be a balance, a sweet spot, where everything is happening and the drumming-mind feels like it is coasting in neutral. People get hooked on that kind drumming. It has less to do with listening than with feeling and that is when people can shed their amour, clap hands, dance and get into a synchronized place of togetherness. It is only a wild and unreal fantasy of mine that world leaders could ever get into that zone. It would, but only maybe, do the planet some good.

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