In the 1920’s George Gershwin was always hard at work creating new music for the world to enjoy and when he had settled on a composition, he sent it to his brother, Ira, to write the lyrics. Over and over the brothers created music that many still enjoy today, but sometimes it would be a challenge for Ira to create lyrics to match the tempo or rhythm of what George had written.
One song created a problem for Ira because he couldn’t come up with lyrics that rhymed. That problem led to him writing lyrics in prose and that song became the well-known “I’ve Got Rhythm” that was first used in a slower tempo in the musical Treasure Girl. Then in 1930, it became a toe-tapping hit in a bouncy rhythm in the musical Girl Crazy. This song with its recognizable chord progression and almost all the black keys in an octave (pentatonic scale) in the first half of the tune produced a template for jazz musicians to riff on. Those rhythm changes became the standard 32-bar progression in jazz.
Music impacts us on so many levels. It sets our feet in motion, gets us up and out of our routine, affects our mood and can set our emotional thermostat. It inspires and echoes in our memory long after the music stops. Many of our favorite memories will have music associated with them and seem sharper and clearer because of them. Music has so much power that it has been used therapeutically in a variety of settings and whether you are someone with ‘two left feet’ or someone who floats on the dance floor, it can be hard to resist.
Beyond formal music and its various genres, tempos, and progressions, nearly every aspect of our lives is governed by rhythms. It would seem God set the world in motion in rhythm to help guide us along through our lifetime. There are the rhythms of day and night that point to work and sleep rhythms that help us maintain the bodily interior rhythms we need for activity and rest. There are also the rhythms of the solar system and the alignment of plants that impact the seasons of each hemisphere on our planet. Most of us are about to transition to a new rhythm and season in the next few weeks. For some it will be moving into spring and others it is a shift to autumn and a return to the pattern that sets up around weather and school calendars as we march toward the end of the calendar for the year.
You may not be musical or even love music even though that is hard to believe given all the types and options out there. Even so, you also have a personal rhythm that is uniquely yours. That tempo can be affected by the circadian rhythm that matches with you. Some of us are early risers with our minds and imaginations actively working as the sun edges over the horizon while others of us prefer a slower, later start to the day and come alive as the night sounds start with the setting of the sun.
There are other rhythms that each of us have that gives us the flow of our day. Some of us cannot even think about food in the morning and skip breakfast much of the time while still eager to grab a cup of coffee or some other favorite beverage. Others of us love breakfast any which way you serve it and how we view meals and times we have them can be affected by the culture and the season in which we find ourselves.
You may be someone who is eager to engage at some point in the day. It may be morning, afternoon, or evening and it will be good if you pay attention to that so your partner or friend isn’t at a disadvantage because that timing doesn’t match for them.
Our personal rhythm often influences how we schedule our calendars, but schedule and rhythm are not synonymous. It’s our rhythms that seem to set the habits we end up practicing over time more than the schedules we can have a love/hate relationship with. When anything or anyone interferes with our preferred rhythm to our days, we tend to feel “off” and not quite as amenable as we might ordinarily be. Add a doctor’s appointment to our day, throw in an unexpected weather event, add a crisis we didn’t see coming, and we are trying to find our balance.
You may think the rhythm of your day is not that big a deal, but you wouldn’t be accurate on that. The rhythm of our days, weeks, months, and years may vary but together those become habits for us and what becomes habitual shapes our lives and our character even if you hadn’t noticed.
A major rhythm change is when we enter school and when school ends for us, not just year by year, but when we have finished this many years cycle that guides us through childhood and into our teen years and affects every adult with school age children. Another major rhythm change is when we leave our families and live a single life or marry someone and need to adjust to a rhythm we have lived with for a long time. Retirement is another major rhythm change we notice, one that some embrace and enjoy and one that others find throws them out of sync for a bit of time.
Our spiritual rhythm is one that we tend to have as well and along with how our rest and sleep manage our health, this rhythm of worship, prayer, and reflection is one God has pointed to as significant in how our lives are shaped over time. Our rhythm either makes God and our faith the centerpiece we relate with daily or puts it as just a part where we can fit it in. Our choice will have a long-term effect on every aspect of our life.
Whether your spiritual rhythm rhymes or is guided by prose, it will little by little shape who you are with God, others, and the place in the world you find yourself. It will be one you move to and propels you to the final lines of the music your life creates.
What is your rhythm?