Fire is a good servant but a bad master. Once our ancestors mastered the fire, many thousands years ago, humanity started climbing to dominate this world. Fire helped humans to protect, to heat and feed themselves, and to see and make it through the dark.
What role had the arts played in those early times? The arts didn’t have any utilitarian benefit for the early humans. Or did it? And what about the role of the arts now?
Dr. Shimi Kang explains in her TED talk, that Adaptability is the one skill leading to awesome life. As an example she uses dolphins which don’t compromise the basics of life and that’s how they adapt and thrive in life.
Humans, on the other hand, have already almost forgotten the three basics of a good life. That’s the reason we are off balance. Those three basics are P.O.D. = Play, Others (or Connections) and Downtime (Relax).
And here you have it!
If we accept this explanation, then the arts has helped humans to survive throughout thousands years. Because arts has helped them to adapt.
I will stick here with my main topic, which is music. There are certainly other art forms that our ancestors mastered for the benefit of the mankind.
The first documented musical instrument is the bone flute, estimated to be 43,000 years old. This and other archeological artifacts prove existence of a developed musical tradition in those early years.
What function had played such an abstract art form as music in our past? Scientists suggest, that music may had been an important bonding factor in the social life or our ancestors. Thus music helped our species to survive and expand.
Back to Dr. Kang’s theory, music had helped our ancestors to balance their lives as it is highly suitable for this purpose. Music naturally covers all three P.O.D. basics. Our ancestors Played music with Others while having Downtime (good time).
There is nothing new to say, that nowadays many people are off-balance, they are stressed, depressed, unhappy, lonely, exhausted … the list goes on and on. One of the reasons may be, that this is because people don’t play with others anymore for good relax – they abandoned the basics.
Steven Kotler, a New York Times bestselling author, explores the state of consciousness known as ‘flow’. In his book The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance he summarizes this situation: “How many people have stopped playing guitar, writing poetry, or painting watercolors—activities packed with flow triggers—because these are also activities that do not squarely fit into culturally acceptable responsibility categories like “career” or “children”? … What’s painfully ironic here is that flow is a radical and alternative path to mastery only because we have decided that play—an activity fundamental to survival, tied to the greatest neurochemical rewards the brain can produce, and flat out necessary for achieving peak performance, creative brilliance, and overall life satisfaction—is a waste of time for adults.”
So what we have now is – music morphed into the depersonalized music industry. Players are now a highly specialized group of professionals, fabricating music recordings for listeners / consumers. Music recordings are consumed through headphones, insulating listeners from the outside world. Music performances are regularly so loud and crowded, that any social interaction is almost impossible. And if music is consumed for the purpose of relax, often it is only in a form of a more ‘sophisticated’ background noise.
People don’t play music freely anymore – they consume it. Music consumers don’t use it to bond and socialize, instead they use it to protect their privacy or solitude. Even protect their sanity.
Instead of relaxing, music is now often used to trick listeners – consciously or subconsciously. Fast music boosts consumers adrenaline and helps to walk and run faster. Walking through shopping malls, familiar tunes entice you to buy more. Classical music is piped to public spaces and parking lots to deter crime and loitering. Even torture through music is on the “menu”.
If you don’t like this situation and the way of consuming music, there is a better solution. Start playing music yourself. Not to become a famous star and make a tone of money. Just to play for the simple purpose of feeling better in your life. Then invite your friends, or make new ones, and play together. Not to start a band and become rich and famous. Just to have other good people in your life. And then spend great time together. To enjoy and relax.
How could you possibly do this? It is very simple, if you do it mindfully.
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