Rhythm of life. This phrasal coinage often suggests the captured essence of a picturesque snapshot in a postcard. A slice of life insulated in each coruscating drop at a 500-frame per second rate from a rusty faucet. Every ping of the dropped liquid conjures up an association with a nostalgic moment in one’s distant past: a memorable scene from a film or tea with the beloved on the beach with the refulgent veins of a rising sun in the horizon.
The rhythm of life can in this sense be seized fragmentally in isolation, at a remove from its on-going regulated beats. In other words, it can only be felt retroactively.
This is so because one’s daily existence is punctuated not only by one’s own regulated beats but also the overwhelming cacophony of multifarious beats in one’s domain. These external dissonances don’t crescendo to a philharmonic symphony, but by nature tend to disrupt one’s own rhythm. Seen from this perspective, one can be led to say that to maintain a certain rhythm of life means to resist being drowned out or swept along by the external tsunamis of discordances. But to resist suggests that one’s internal rhythm is hermetically sealed from external intrusions. Which we know is impossible. Because for whatever rhythm that is internally built must have brushed with the wrangles of the external world.
For those of the naturalistic bend, they will say that nature always radiates her soothing emanations for ones sensible enough to receive. Therefore to accept these natural endowments, one has to purge the tinctures of discordances from one’s systems. This is rather perplexing since it suggests that these emanations are pure and indissoluble in the vortex of dissonances created by humans. This also leads to an understanding that nature’s emanations are of the harmonic propensity, of which we know is far from the truth.
Nature as most of us understand is really a two-faced androgyny, a virago (earthquakes and tsunamis) on one side and an indifferent maiden with a mysterious smile (roses with thorns and rolling meadows teeming with lethal growths and critters) on the other end. In nature there are always found forces, weak and strong, in constant dialectics for dominance. The ensuing palpable ‘rhythms’ are in consequence the jousting cries arising from an endless tussle between disparate forces. A rhythm then should be understood not as a harmony of dissonances but rather a culmination point of discordances.
Those of the go-with-the-flow belief might find that while it’s possible to go with the flow, one can hardly survive the bruising grazes and the hard knocks. Letting go in its truest sense means that one allows oneself to be gradually disseminated.
Since we can neither resist nor let go of the external fluxes, how do we then find the rhythm of life? Some would suggest the repetition of the same. Others, an endless composition of the difference. The former suggests repetition to the point of inanity, at which point the disclosed coincides momentarily with the undisclosed externality. The latter takes into the account that a rhythm arises out of the materiality of a multiplicity of dissonances. In both cases, only at specific nodal points either in conjuncture or disjuncture will one be in tune with a rhythm.
The rhythms of life are in that sense never permanently rooted in a particular pattern. They’re not always there like the mythical music of spheres that beckons us to conjoin with it. They are forged out of our reactions to the external chaos, so that we may find a place in chaosmos.
A version of this article appeared in Now Jakarta! November 2010 issue.