Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Children's Mythology

The Mythology of Children

(All photography by Rick Doble)

This is the sixth blog that I have published on the day of my birthday. I started doing this in 2013. This year I am intrigued by our human need to create stories.

Why would hundreds of young children 
want to go to a graveyard?


In Beaufort North Carolina, young children bring toys to a grave they have heard about. It is the grave of a young girl who died at sea on her way back home to Beaufort. To preserve her body, her father put her in a keg of rum and then buried her in the rum keg around 1750.


To me, it is fascinating that young children, probably five years old to about nine years old -- judging by the toys they leave, have passed the story of this girl's death from child to child. I don't think that the children are hearing about this from adults. It is a children's mythological network, if you will. 


I took these first pictures in 2015. After storms and rain, this grave was completely cleaned off by people who oversaw the graveyard. 




This second set of pictures is from 2018. 
You will see an entirely new crop of gifts for this dead child. The grave has been wiped clean at least three times since my first photographs, probably more.





Judging from this behavior, it appears that we humans are instinctively myth making beings. We need stories and we need rituals to understand our own existence. 

There is a name for these types of stories that children make up for themselves and other children, stories that they don't tell adults or want adults to know about. It is their world and their mythology. 


It is called: CHILDREN'S STREET CULTURE

Here are some other stories that children have made up. This is from an article in Miami Florida.
MYTHS OVER MIAMI
To homeless children sleeping on the street, neon is as comforting as a night-light. Angels love colored light too. After nightfall in downtown Miami, they nibble on the NationsBank building -- always drenched in a green, pink, or golden glow. "They eat light so they can fly," eight-year-old Andre tells the children sitting on the patio of the Salvation Army's emergency shelter. The small group listens intently to these tales told by homeless children in shelters.
Miami New Times
http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/myths-over-miami-6393117
Author Ashley Cowie had this to say about ancient beliefs in hunter-gatherer societies today who believe in ‘animism' an ancient worldview in which everything is alive.
Imagine for a moment a reality ... where material and spiritual realms are simply different parts of ‘one thing.’ In that world, free of pre-scientific reasoning, our forebears projected concepts of soul, spirit, and sentience onto fern and fauna, light and shadows, thunder, wind, rain, and sunshine.It can be concluded that ... rituals are rooted in the profound belief that humans cannot live without making and ‘maintaining’ associations between the natural and supernatural elements of nature and our destiny.
https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/deer-masks-021960

Friday, May 18, 2018

Ancient Advanced Technologies

STONE-AGE & ANCIENT
ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES

Some Technologies Were Better Than Today's

For five years now I have made the point that stone-age cultures and ancient civilizations were, in a sense, no less advanced than we are today. They made the most of the technology they had -- and they were just as clever, skilled and intelligent as we who live in the modern world.

To make this point I have put together a list of stone-age and very old technologies that were actually superior to what we have today. 

This list is just the tip of the iceberg, there are, no doubt, many other ancient achievements that qualify. In this list, I tried to include a full historical range from Paleolithic to medieval and a full range of accomplishment from tools to mathematics, to materials, to structures, to timekeeping.



(Left) New stone-age men (Neolithic) have been depicted as crude barbarians (Right) However, they looked like this man on the right, whose clothes and outfit are based on historical findings.
(Left) New stone-age men (Neolithic) have been depicted as crude barbarians
(Right) However, they looked like this man on the right, whose clothes and outfit are based on historical findings.


THE FOLLOWING LIST IS IN
CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
THE OLDEST BEING FIRST 
Below this list, please read more about each technology
along with links to articles



Obsidian in different forms on the left. The long narrow small pieces are sharp blades, sharper than today's stainless steel. On the right is an antler. Bone tools were used to shape obsidian in a precise manner.
Obsidian in different forms on the left. The long narrow small pieces are sharp blades, sharper than today's stainless steel. On the right is an antler. Bone tools were used to shape obsidian in a precise manner.

#1. 50,000 years ago??: Paleolithic cutting tools made from obsidian could be much sharper than the best stainless steel surgery knives of today. Obsidian is a volcanic glass that was highly valued and that was widely traded in the old and new stone-age periods. (See below.)




Paintings on the walls of the Cave of Altamira in Spain.Paintings on the walls of the Cave of Altamira in Spain.

#2. 20k-40k years old: Cave paintings by Paleolithic people have lasted 30k+ years -- it is unlikely that any modern process could equal that record. (See below.) 



This is a view of looking up into the domed roof inside the Passage Tomb at Newgrange.
Known as a 
corbel vault, the stones fit together in a precise manner.

#3. 3,200 BCE: The Neolithic Passage Tomb known as Newgrange in Ireland has not leaked in 5000 years in spite of Ireland's wet climate. It is doubtful that a modern building could rival this. (See below.)



On the left, the 'roof box' above the entrance to the Newgrange passageway restricted the light so that it only came down the passageway around the time of the winter solstice. It was so precise that it seems likely it could indicate the actual day of the winter solstice in real time which the Greeks and Romans could not do 3000 years later.On the left, the 'roof box' above the entrance to the Newgrange passageway restricted the light so that it only came down the passageway around the time of the winter solstice. It was so precise that it seems likely it could indicate the actual day of the winter solstice in real time which the Greeks and Romans could not do 3000 years later.

#4. 3,200 BCE: It has been proven that the passageway at the Newgrange Passage Tomb in Ireland was designed to indicate the time around the day of the winter solstice. I believe that, even more, it could indicate the exact day of the winter solstice in real time -- which the Greeks and Romans could not do -- and further that no such huge precise instrument like this has ever been built other than this. (See below.)




The 360-degree world divided into 24 divisions of longitude; each section is 15 degrees. Each 15-degree division is one time zone which changes one hour from the one before and the one after it.
The 360-degree world divided into 24 divisions of longitude; each section is 15 degrees. Each 15-degree division is one time zone which changes one hour from the one before and the one after it. 

#5. 2000 BCE approx.: The Babylonians invented the mathematical concept of 360 degrees in a circle. They then applied this idea to astronomy and star positions. Later it was used for the Earth's longitude and for modern timekeeping. This system has never been surpassed -- in fact, GPS depends on it. (See below.)




The Caravan Bridge in Turkey, near the Greek town of Smyrna

#6. 850 BCE: The Caravan Bridge in Turkey, near the Greek town of Smyrna (now called Izmir), is the oldest bridge in continuous use according to The Guinness Book of World Records. (See below.)




The famous Roman aqueduct at Segovia Spain today.
The famous Roman aqueduct at Segovia Spain today.

#7. 19 BCE: The Roman Aqua Virgo aqueduct, built during the reign of Emperor Augustus, still supplies the Trevi Fountain in Rome today. (See below.)




(Left) Model of a Roman merchant ship. (Right) Picture from a Roman mosaic. (Left) Model of a Roman merchant ship. (Right) Picture from a Roman mosaic. 

#8. Early 1st Century: Roman concrete that was used in their harbors is vastly superior to modern concrete in its ability to handle sea water. While modern concrete slowly erodes with sea water, Roman concrete gets stronger. (See below.)




The Roman Pantheon, made with Roman concrete, has the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world

#9. 125 CE: The Roman Pantheon, made with Roman concrete, has the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world after almost 2000 years. (See below.)




: The Tower of Hercules in north-west Spain is the oldest continuous use lighthouse. It was built by the Romans.

#10. 2nd Century CE: The Tower of Hercules in north-west Spain is the oldest continuous use lighthouse. It was built by the Romans. It has only been renovated once in 1791. (See below.)




: The Anji Bridge in China has been used continuously for 1400 years

#11. 600 CE: The Anji Bridge in China has been used continuously for 1400 years in spite of wars, ten major floods and a number of earthquakes. (See below.)





The mathematical number zero (0) was invented by the Indian mathematician Brahmagupta.

#12. 628 CE: The mathematical number zero (0) was invented by the Indian mathematician Brahmagupta. The concept of zero completed what those in the west call 'Arabic Numerals' and now forms the foundation of business, science, and technology. (See below.)




: For six hundred years a complex astronomical clock in Prague (the Prague Orloj) has been displaying more than twenty functions about the sun, moon, stars, and time.

#13. 1410 CE: For six hundred years a complex astronomical clock in Prague (the Prague Orloj) has been displaying more than twenty functions about the sun, moon, stars, and time. It is the oldest continuous use astronomical clock that still has its original gearing. (See below.)



MORE ABOUT ANCIENT & STONE-AGE HI-TECH 

#1. 50,000 years ago?: Obsidian super sharp knives

Paleolithic peoples had been working with obsidian for at least 300,000 years. Exactly when these cultures learned to make extremely sharp tools out of obsidian is just an educated guess.
Obsidian was volcanic glass and only found around volcanoes. It was highly valued and might be thought of as the 'gold' of stone technology. Archeologists are just discovering that it was traded via networks over a thousand mile distance during the stone-age. It was used for a variety of tools.
Stone-age people were masters of stone. They understood the properties of a wide range of stones, where to find and mine them, how to shape them using a variety of techniques such as knapping and heat treating, and how to design them for greatest effect. We are only just beginning to understand that stone-technology was complex and required considerable skill.

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/03/15/593591796/scientists-are-amazed-by-stone-age-tools-they-dug-up-in-kenya
http://research.sklarcorp.com/the-oldest-surgical-instrument-in-the-world
https://www.cnn.com/2015/04/02/health/surgery-scalpels-obsidian/index.html
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/150413-Paleolithic-obsidian-weapons-arteni-armenia-archaeology/

#2. 15k-40k years old: Long-lasting cave paintings by Paleolithic people

Everything about the Paleolithic cave paintings is remarkable -- but for the purposes of this list, it is the fact that these paintings have lasted for 20,000 years and more. 
However, there is so much more to this story. As I pointed out about obsidian (above) stone-age people were masters of stone. Cave painting artists used a variety of colors along with carefully powdered stone that was used for many of the pigments. This mixture was then applied to the stone walls of the cave. With their understanding of the properties of stone, I believe these artists were quite aware that these paintings could last indefinitely. 
One particular method of painting was also quite amazing. It was essentially an airbrush technique. The painter used a number of hollow tubes such as bird bones that he blew air through to propel the powdered paint onto the walls.

https://www.britannica.com/place/Altamira
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/10/08/cave-art/16912623/
http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/intro/early.html

Read this fascinating pdf document about the sophisticated process of making pigments for cave paintings. Prehistoric pigments - Royal Society of Chemistry 
http://www.rsc.org/learn-chemistry/content/filerepository/CMP/00/004/139/A002%20Prehistoric%20Pigments%20Version%203%20PJO.pdf

#3. 3,200 BCE: The Neolithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange, Ireland stayed dry for 5000 years

To our modern eyes, the crude looking rock structures of the Neolithic do not look very exact. However, like the Paleolithic people mentioned above, the Neolithic or New Stone-Age people were masters of stone, in fact, they reached the pinnacle of stone technology. In Newgrange, these raw stones were selected and put together in such a way that they stayed in place for more than 5000 years. And the structure did not leak during that time. While the building looks crude, it is anything but. It is a masterpiece. 

http://www.newgrange.com/description.htm

#4. 3,200 BCE: The winter solstice passageway "instrument" at the Newgrange Passage Tomb indicates the day of the winter solstice in real time

The author of this blog researched the winter solstice passageway at Newgrange. He concluded that the passageway and the carefully constructed 'roof box' that baffled the light, was a precise instrument. This instrument magnified the sun's rays so that experienced Neolithic astronomers would have been able to tell the exact day of the winter solstice in real time -- which the Greeks and Romans could not do. They, instead, did a calculation after the fact. Even today the winter solstice is not determined by direct observation but rather by calculation. Furthermore, no other huge instrument of this type and accuracy has ever been constructed as far as we know.

http://www.newgrange.com/winter-solstice-newgrange.htm


#5. 2000/500 BCE approx.: Sumerian/Babylonian The invention and application of 360 degrees

The Sumerians and later the Babylonians were gifted mathematicians. They worked with the sexagesimal number system in which 60 was the base. For some reason, they settled on the number 360 (a multiple of 60) when working with circles. Each circle was 360 degrees and each degree could be subdivided into 60 minutes. While it does not seem like it, 360 is a remarkable number. It is divisible by all numbers up to ten except for the number seven -- and many other numbers as well.
The Babylonians applied 360 degrees to circles and then later to the circle of the sky which they then subdivided into 60 minutes of arc per degree (arcminute) and 60 seconds of arc per minute (arcsecond). This basic numerical and geometric system was perfected by the Babylonians and then applied to astronomy and is still used today. And it is also used today in navigation, optics, and land surveying. In addition, 360 degrees is now used for the longitude of the Earth and was essential for the creation of world time zones. There are 24 time zones, each one hour apart, which when divided into 360 (the total degrees of the Earth) equals 15 degrees exactly. So each time zone is approximately 15 degrees wide. 360 degrees is also critical for GPS.
This circular thinking affected the creation of a precise regular way to measure time. Time was seen as cyclical and circular. 24 hours was adopted from the Egyptians. Starting with sundials during the day and star charts at night, the Egyptians divided the day and night each into 12 hours or 24 hours total for a full daytime/nighttime circle. 24 hours fit nicely into the Babylonian mathematical system as well, since they liked to work with the number 6 -- and 12 and 24 were multiples of 6. But then when clocks came along and finer divisions were possible, each hour was further divided into 60 minutes and each minute was divided into 60 seconds, all of which was derived from Babylonian mathematics.

"In fact, both the circular face of a clock and the sphere of a globe owe their divisions to a 4,000-year-old numeric system of the Babylonians."
Michael A. Lombardi, Scientific American
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/experts-time-division-days-hours-minutes/

http://factsanddetails.com/world/cat56/sub363/item1511.html
https://www.nhn.ou.edu/~jeffery/astro/babylon/angle.html
http://astro.unl.edu/naap/motion1/tc_history.html


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/360_(number)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minute_and_second_of_arc
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylonian_astronomy


#6. 850 BCE: The Caravan Bridge in Turkey -- the oldest bridge still in use

"The oldest datable bridge in the world still in use is the slab-stone single-arch bridge over the river Meles in Izmir (formerly Smyrna), Turkey, which dates from c. 850 BC."
The Guinness Book of World Records

Legend says that the Caravan Bridge was crossed by Homer and St. Paul. But, aside from legend, we can say with certainty that it was crossed over by Alexander the Great. About 500 years after the bridge was constructed, Alexander came to the Greek city of Smyrna in Turkey, fell asleep and dreamt that he should build a new town next to the old one which was later done. 
Can any modern bridge even come close to lasting this long?

http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/oldest-bridge
http://www.electrummagazine.com/2012/12/alexander-the-greats-dream-of-the-nemeses-at-smyrna/


#7. 19 BCE: The Roman Aqua Virgo aqueduct still supplies the Trevi Fountain in Rome today

The huge Roman aqueduct system was extensive and worked well for hundreds and sometimes more than a thousand years. In particular the Aqua Virgo aqueduct, built during the reign of Augustus, still feeds the Trevi Fountain in Rome today. The aqueduct is 20 km long, goes mostly underground, and drops at a precise gradient of only 4 meters over its 20-kilometer distance. 

Also in the 2nd Century CE: The Proserpina earth dam in Spain was built by the Romans. It is still used for irrigation after 1800 years.

http://www.romanaqueducts.info/aquasite/index.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proserpina_Dam

#8. Early 1st Century: Roman concrete -- worked/still works better with sea water than modern concrete

"Battered by sea waves for 2,000 years, these things [Roman concrete structures] are still around while our modern concoctions erode over mere decades.
"Now scientists have uncovered the incredible chemistry behind this phenomenon... not only is Roman concrete more durable than what we can make today, but it actually gets stronger over time."
https://www.sciencealert.com/why-2-000-year-old-roman-concrete-is-so-much-better-than-what-we-produce-today

#9. 125 CE: The Roman Pantheon dome -- the largest unreinforced concrete dome

"Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheon,_Rome


#10. 2nd Century CE: The Tower of Hercules -- the oldest lighthouse still in use

Built by the Romans, the Tower of Hercules stands on a desolate rocky peninsula in north-western Spain, which the Romans considered the end of the Earth. They even named the peninsula, Cape Finisterre, which means the end of the Earth. The design of the lighthouse is believed to be similar to the famous Lighthouse at Alexandria which had stood for more than a thousand years. After 1500 years of use the Tower of Hercules was renovated once in 1791.

https://gizmodo.com/17-of-the-oldest-man-made-structures-on-earth-still-in-508293601


#11. 600 CE: The Anji Bridge in China has been used continuously for 1400 years

This bridge has continued to function in spite of a number of earthquakes, eight wars and ten major floods. Every couple of hundred years the ornamental railings have been repaired but not the bridge itself.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anji_Bridge


#12. 628 CE Arabic numerals -- a simple ten digit system runs the world of money, science, and technology.

The full development of what is known as Arabic numerals (which the Arabs call "Hindu numerals" because the system started there) was completed with the invention of the number zero (0) by the Indian mathematician Brahmagupta in 628. In the tenth century, this numbering system began to be adopted in Europe and then worldwide. No company or nation could run its affairs without this numbering system -- and nothing has proven itself any better, simpler or more useful.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_numerals


#13. 1410 CE: The Prague astronomical clock (or Prague Orloj) has been keeping time for 600 years. It is the oldest such clock that still has its original gearing and is still working today. 

More than a clock it is a medieval planetarium which has over 20 functions. This clock tells not only the time but the positions of the planets, the zodiac, the sun and the moon -- using the Earth-centered geocentric mathematics of Ptolemy who lived around 150 CE. No clocks like this are being built anymore. 

"When looking at the clock you’ll see three main mechanisms, which are: the astronomical dial (located on the top. Shows the position of the sun and moon, the zodiacal ring, the old Czech time scale to indicate the time of sunset, and other astronomical details), a calendar with medallions (located below. Represents the months), and “The Walk of the Apostles” (shows figures of the apostles at the hour, every hour, as well as the figure of death represented as a skeleton)."
https://www.globotreks.com/destinations/czech-republic/prague-orloj-legends-astronomy-clock/

https://www.prague.eu/en/articles/timeline-14397
https://io9.gizmodo.com/astronomical-clocks-were-a-wonder-of-the-medieval-world-1484069867


THESE JUST MISSED THE LIST:
I would like to have included the Roman Colosseum completed in 80 CE and The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt that was built around 2570 BCE but they just missed the mark. The Colosseum was the largest stadium for almost 2000 years until the Yale Bowl was built in 1914 -- and since then, of course, a number of quite large stadiums have been constructed. The Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest building in the world for 3800 years and the most massive structure built by humans for about 4500 years until the Grand Coulee Dam was constructed in the United States in 1942.



ABOUT THE ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES OF
PREHISTORIC AND ANCIENT PEOPLES:




This precisely crafted lamp found in the cave of Lascaux in France is about 17,000 years old. On the right is a drawing showing how exact its construction was.
This precisely crafted lamp found in the cave of Lascaux in France is about 17,000 years old. On the right is a drawing showing how exact its construction was. 

It is important to note that although there were not many technologies that were better than those of today, there were quite a few that were advanced for their time period. We now know, for example, that much of the raw silcrete used for arrows and spearheads crafted by Paleolithic 'cavemen' were carefully heat treated with an early pyrotechnology technique that greatly improved sharpness and stability. This technology began at least 25,000 years ago and perhaps as long as 60,000 years ago, 



The 360-degree circle of the Babylonians not only worked well for the circular globe of the Earth, it also described the heavens and the stars. Each star could be identified by specific numbers which indicated its location in degrees, minutes and seconds.
The 360-degree circle of the Babylonians not only worked well for the circular globe of the Earth, it also described the heavens and the stars. Each star could be identified by specific numbers which indicated its location in degrees, minutes and seconds.


We also know that the Babylonians were perhaps the first to calculate and make use of the Metonic cycle in which the solar year and the lunar cycles came into sync every 19 years. Sometime later they figured out the cyclical nature of eclipses known as the Saros cycle around 500 BCE. 



A Roman lamp on the left,; on the right, a trove of Roman lamps found in ancient ruins.A Roman lamp on the left,; on the right, a trove of Roman lamps found in ancient ruins.


While we think of mass production as a modern phenomenon, the Romans and Greeks had factories that mass-produced huge numbers of oil lamps, probably in the tens of millions over several centuries. The need for lamps was not unlike our need for light bulbs today. 

And this list could go on for hundreds of pages.


MY BASIC POINTS IN THIS BLOG POST ARE:

#1. Homo Sapiens from the beginning were just as smart and sophisticated as we are today.
#2. They got the maximum power and benefit from their existing technologies using a variety of innovative and very smart methods and processes.

-- So if you agree with the above then, I believe, the next three ideas follow:

#3. There was much more to the stone-age cultures than we know but is perhaps lost because degradable materials such as wood, fabric, skins, and leather have not survived the ravages of time.
#4. Therefore we need to make a determined effort to unearth evidence of their societies using modern forensic tools while also assuming that they may have been much smarter than we believed in the past.
#5. It is possible that we could obtain clues from modern-day hunter-gatherers about what kinds of evidence we could find -- such as microscopic or chemical evidence. Stay tuned, this will be the subject of a future blog-post.


(Left) A classic stereotypical depiction of a caveman.  (Right) A recreation of a caveman based on the latest historical evidence.
(Left) A classic stereotypical depiction of a caveman.
(Right) A recreation of a caveman based on the latest historical evidence.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Rhythm & Resetting Our Internal Clocks

Understanding Rhythm
And How It Resets Our Internal Clocks

On Saturday's I like to go out with my wife and listen to live bands at different clubs. One night as I was tapping my fingers to the music, watching people dancing and getting a bit wild, a thought occurred to me. People were not just having a good time and taking the night off, they were actually resetting their clocks to a different rhythm, different from the Monday-Friday workaday rhythm.

Everything we do as human beings involves rhythm from breathing and talking to commuting and working to eating and making love. It may not be that obvious when putting a spreadsheet together or going shopping but nevertheless, each activity has a rhythm and each environment has an overall rhythm.
While this blog-post is about contemporary society, rhythm has been basic to homo sapiens from the very beginning and to all cultures from 'primitive' to ancient to modern. It would be an interesting psychological study to see how rhythms operate in various cultures today and how they have operated in the past. 
During the week most of us are expected to be fairly rational and meet our deadlines and do our jobs. This often involves quite a bit of planning and then a follow-through that accomplishes what we planned. The work week is dominated by the clock -- be on time, deliver by a certain deadline, prepare the night before for a presentation the following day, keep track of supplies, turn your reports in on time etc., etc. The rhythm we follow Monday through Friday is the rhythm of our work played to the tune of our man-made clocks.


Charlie Chaplin's humorous take on the worker 
as a cog in the wheel of commerce in his movie, Modern Times.

On Saturday's many of us can put the workaday mental to-do checklists aside and instead live more in the moment. I believe this is not only enjoyable but essential. On weekends we as human beings need to reset our rhythms from the man-made artificial time that we live by during the week to a rhythm that feels more comfortable and more in tune with the natural rhythm of our bodies. Music, in particular, seems to have that quality. And most people prefer live music as that has the power of the moment and a rhythm that is spontaneous. 

After writing this blog about time for five years now, it is clear to me that clock time is not natural. Instead, it is manufactured time. While time always passes no matter what, the clock divides time artificially which makes us intensely aware of its passage. Since all clocks are coordinated now with a master atomic clock, they also place us on a man-made time grid. Today we are expected to know when and where we are on that grid during much of the work week.
"Clocks slay time. Time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life."   
William Faulkner
See more about our artificial time 
in previous blogs listed at the bottom of this post.

Clock time is a stern master. But most of us, after ten to twenty years of schooling, have become accustomed to its demands. (In another blog I wrote about how school teaches us to operate with clock time.) As adults, many of us have gotten so used to living by the clock that we forget how unnatural it really is. 


See more about time and school at:

Work demands that we keep an on-going mental to-do checklist that we are always updating and also checking off as tasks are accomplished. Because of this checklist we do not -- and in a sense cannot -- live in the moment. We must constantly be thinking about what we should do next. This mental checklist is essential for accomplishing our work, but it also prevents us from enjoying the 'now' moment.
"It seems certain that we do not feel comfortable in our present-day civilization"   
Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, 1930


(Left) A visualization of the brain as a kind of factory. 
(Right) But our brains are not mechanical or well organized. They are complex and organic.

Civilization demands that we know how to live and work within the confines of clock time. But our human nature demands that we get back in touch with our natural rhythms on a regular basis. Both are necessary.



When the weekend rolls around or when we take the night off and go to a club to hear music, we are reaching for the now moment. While we have been taught in school to delay gratification, there are times when we need to be immersed in the now moment, to be gratified in the moment. 

Popular or dance music might be seen as the intersection of culture/civilization on the one hand and our animal, human nature on the other hand. Music is crafted in a cultured manner but it gives expression to the primal side of our nature.

A number of songs express these ideas very clearly.


BORN TO BE WILD
Steppenwolf
------------------
Like a true nature's child
We were born, born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never wanna die
Born to be wild
Born to be wild

UNTAMED 
Song and Lyrics by Cam (Camaron Ochs)
-------------
Live for a while, for whatever feels good
In the moment, on the river, rock the chain
Untamed

The Bad Touch
Bloodhound Gang
-------------
You and me baby ain't nothin' but mammals
So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel


Music, in particular, resets our internal clocks because music flows. That flow is constantly taking us along. Work rhythm is quite different, it is more staccato. It stops and starts, and is full of interrupts. Unlike music which soothes and carries us, work rhythms make us a bit anxious and self-consciously aware of the passage of time.

About Live Music: Live music, in particular, has the power to take over our bodies, and to wash away clock time for a while. The distinctive beat of popular or dance music is quite different from the uniform slices of time that are dictated by the clock. While a musical beat can be quite precise, a live beat varies a bit in an organic way; it is not the regular beat of a metronome. And this beat can enter our bodies and become part of us. After a while, this beat can, in a sense, reset our own internal clock.

On Saturdays, however, most of us relax a bit and live by a rhythm that is somewhat free from clock time. We even have expressions that indicate this such as "taking time off" or "off the clock" or "down time" or "time out." Oh sure we might go to a movie by a certain time, for example, but movies themselves are never the same length and when we are watching a movie most of us forget about the time. Or we might sit on the couch and watch TV, but not really keep an eye on the clock as we would during the week.

I am making several points here. It is not just that the rhythm at work and the rhythm on the weekend are different, it's that we internalize these rhythms. So at work, we are more alert, more guarded, more on duty, and more aware of the clock. We move differently and we react differently. But there is another point. The rhythm on the weekend is not just more relaxed, it is a different kind of rhythm. At work, we are 'wound up' like the spring in an old mechanical clock -- which is where the expression may have come from. After work or on the weekend we unwind. Or it might make more sense to say that we go back to a more natural rhythm that has always been there.

This idea of rhythm has far-reaching implications. A person's sense of well being is often connected to the rhythms of their life. While rhythm is only one of a number of factors, it should be considered by psychologists in a person's therapy, for example. A comfortable rhythm that is in tune with an individual's lifestyle should help a person live a better more satisfying life. Corporations might study rhythm to see if they can design environments, schedules, and deadlines so that people are more at ease with the demands of their jobs.

The quality of your work will be better if you reset your internal clock every so often. Getting back in touch with your natural rhythm is important for personal health and also for being fresh and relaxed when Monday rolls around and you must step back once more into the rhythm of doing your job.


As the industrial revolution progressed and people's lives became more regimented, popular dances became wilder and more primal. In the 20th Century, dances went from the Jazz Dance of the 1900s to Swing Dance, then Jive and then to Rock and Roll in the 1950s. Each dance was seen as more 'primitive' than the one before. The evolution of these popular dances might be seen as a counterbalance to the increased control and the orderly demands of an industrial society. For example, one of these wild dances, the Charleston of the 1920s, came from a Broadway show entitled, Runnin' Wild.

 --------------------- AFTERWORD --------------------- 

There is probably a way that a psychologist could examine the ideas in this blog post and study the nature of rhythm and its effect on work, play, and sense of well being. I believe it would be a fruitful area of study.

See these blogs of mine that relate to this post:

A Revolution in Time

See the AFTERWORD about the grid:
In the blog: "What Does It Mean To Exist?"
Descartes And 'The Grid' Of The Modern World

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MAN-MADE TIME in the blog post:
The Protective Bubble of Civilization

The Dance of the *Now Moment*

NOTE: Saturday was named for Saturn, the Roman god of time. He was also the god of the end of the year when the Saturnalia festival was held -- the principal week long festival in Rome when people enjoyed doing things that were a bit crazy. So the end of the week, Saturday, and the end of the year, Saturnalia, were also celebrations about time. It is no accident today that Saturday is a time for kicking off your shoes and letting down your hair. This has been true now for thousands of years.