I just reread The Dance of Life, by E.T. Hall, and discovered how much it has influenced my thinking over the years. I have no idea why or where I bought it at some point in the 1990s, other than it must have looked interesting.

“I have come to the conclusion that the human species lives in a sea of rhythm, ineffable to some, but quite tangible to others.” (170-171)

At times I describe myself as a “rhythm junkie.” If I’m at an exercise class with music, I move to the beat, and it drives me nuts on the rare occasions when teachers don’t. If there’s music in a store, I have a hard time not moving to it. I was in a drum and bugle corps in high school — we’re talking decades ago — and still drum out the cadences. I love to watch my son play the trombone. He starts with foot tapping and is soon moving his entire body.

Hall suggests that there is a fundamental pulse driving the life of the earth. Individuals and cultures and places also have their own beat(s). I work, for instance, on a campus that is agriculturally oriented, and the pace there is remarkably slower — not in a bad way, less frenetic — than the main campus one mile to the west. I’ve told people facetiously that you can feel the deep, slow pulse of the earth while you walk across East Campus. Maybe I meant it.

Hall draws from his own and others’ experiences working with indigenous cultures. A key point is that American/Europeans (AKA we white folk, or Anglos) view music (and time) as originating externally, delivered via inspired composers or lucky bands that had a big break. In contrast, some African and American Indian cultures view music as originating internally. He also mentions that Africans tend to be aware of a much broader spectrum of communication than Anglos, who overemphasize words. And not only do different cultures have different beats; they have entirely separate concepts of time.

“Only a short step separates the rhythmic sea in which all people are entrained and some of the more contemporary theories concerning precognition.” (p 178)

The Dance of Life also delves into metaphysical observations. Hall describes the phenomenon of synchronicity, and connects it back to Jung, who is credited with first describing it. I think of synchronistic times as dropping down into a layer that’s closer to some primal Source, where patterns are a little clearer and entropy has had less effect. Non-random timing is one of the first signs of being in sync with this deeper beat, and shared thought content is part of it, too. 

A lot of people who know me have heard about my “shared field” theory, this idea that people sharing space or intent essentially log into common psychic space (cyberspace being a rich source of metaphor) and sync up with each other, like a more exclusive version of Jung’s collective unconscious. It’s not uncommon for people rooted in this common space to seemingly independently have the same idea at the same time. I often really can’t tell whether someone is picking up my thoughts or vice versa, or maybe we’re all tuned into the same intrinsic beat. Rhythm seems to be the underlying transmitter of thought, emotion and intent. And maybe emotion is a medium that allows for transmission of thought, because the phenomenon certainly seems stronger when there’s a stronger emotional connection with people.

Some scientists say that human experience is eventually going to be boiled down to a good understanding of stuff like neurotransmitters. I’m thinking binary code may be a better bet. God may not play dice with the universe, but She may well tap dance. 

If anyone knows of anyone who is following up on Hall’s work, I would love to hear about it. Meanwhile, I’ll be trying to find the common pulse that connects us all.