Posted by: rosa alba | May 26, 2009

Got rhythm?

Rhythm: my son sings a song about “Dr Knickerbocker, Knickerbocker number nine, he likes to dance and keep his time”.. and the song ends with encouraging us to get the rhythm of the number nine ourselves.

In the interactions and nexi between self and world, like clocks we need, each of us, our rhythm.   It is interesting that one speaks of losing one’s groove or one’s own  rhythm in the noise and competing rhythms of today’s world.  I wonder if noise pollution – not so much the noisy neighbours  nor the traffic (though those too) as the constancy of noise vying for attention, drowns us to our own rhythm, leaving us adrift, and ultimately without goal or focus.

Somewhere between early childhood and present, I lost my ability to focus on and enjoy the present: life becoming a series of chores full of  worries about tomorrow, next week, and the  opinions of others: always wanting.  We need our own clock and compass that sets perspectives, as much as any mariner (hopeless to connect, if you are listing continually from port to starboard, airse over elbow).  Karine Polwart, in one of her songs (on the album Faultline) sings the line “need to find joy where we can”.  Joy in the small things of life, because while the hand of God is undoubtedly present in the parting of Red Seas and the Resurrection, there is a place to see God in the glancing of sunlight on bubbles in a glass of San Pellegrino (the small perfections), or in the dancing of blossoms in a Maytide breeze, or the compliment of a stranger.  The present.  God is present (tense).  Eternal present or present continuous.

Not so much about troubles of the day – only – but also time and place.  Ironic that I would quote the lines in the picture above so often while not understanding, the phrase, “this too will pass”.  And paradoxical that I am advocating focus on the present and yet, focus on the present is the complement to sense of time and place, as God is eternal present and beginning and end.  We steal from our selves our own harmony in our lack of sense of time, as value and place.

We have our small  place in the world, our times, as spoken of by Ecclesiastes (3; 1-8) or Shakespeare,  in the scheme of things we do have our time to rejoice and our time to weep, our youth and our old age.  And in all these, connecting, first and foremost with self, lost in the brouhaha and clamours of the clashing worlds that spin us round as we try to either hop from one to another or cling on in the collisions.

Although the more proper name for it is the Divine Office, I wonder if Book of Hours gives us better sense of placement in reference to the prayers which mark the milestones of the day, as the liturgical calendar marks the seasons of the year.  We are quick to throw of the vestments and clothing of the past for all new, singing and dancing facsimiles of reality – like a Wii Fit- while the tradition of acknowledging the start of the day, the middle of the day, the closing and the end of the day with prayers, stretching back to Judaism, give not just sense of man’s place in time (as season yields to season, year upon year)  but rhythm – a compass or metronome that moderates eternity, and in whose pauses of the here and now, we can the quiet of self.  A fourth dimension.



  1. “The Book of Hours” does indeed convey a sense of order, presence, and even “belonging” – of that which belongs in this moment. If I am doing it, I belong in this moment as well.

  2. I think modern man has gotten completely out of touch with the rhythms of the day as experienced in nature. I know I am often in here on my computer and not outside, even when the weather is beautiful.

    Your post makes me think of many things:

    1. Your son’s rhyme makes me think of one we had: “Engine, engine number 9, going down Chicago line. If the train should jump the track, do you want your money back? Yes? No? Maybe so?” (My answer was always “yes”).

    2. “Somewhere between early childhood and present, I lost my ability to focus on and enjoy the present: life becoming a series of chores full of worries about tomorrow, next week, and the opinions of others: always wanting. ” So, so true! I am just discovering how UNmindful I really am. I’m trying to remember, for example, to eat outside on my sun porch and not in front of the computer, but often, the lure of the computer wins out.

    3. I enjoyed your sailing reference. Its been a long time since I sailed. I still remember sailing with my dh when we were young(er) and stupid(er). We brought no water. We brought no sun screen. I’m sure we/he had beer, though. We came back dehydrated and red as cooked lobsters!

    Love your blog!

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