Frankly Anything


A blog about, frankly, anything

What Makes Someone “Gifted”

I’ve been on and off the drums over the last 8 years, ever since buying my first, and only, kit. Don’t let the “eight years” mislead you. As pilots log their “hours in the cockpit”, if I were to do the same for “hours on the throne” it’d probably total up to somewhere between 6-12 months (and my lack of proficiency on this instrument proves it).

A while back I picked up a copy of John Riley’s excellent drum technique DVD “The Master Drummer”. John is an authority on modern drumming, esp jazz drumming, and has a number of devotees. His speaking style is a little on the stiff side, but the quality of what he was to say on drumming is without peer.

In the DVD he pauses for a moment to reflect on the idea of “The Gift”. i.e. why do some people seem “gifted” when it comes to playing the drums (or any craft really) and others not?

I found his response to this question really powerful. It applies not just to drumming, but everything.

My Paris Run – 7:00 am, Sunday June 13, 2010

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Why Life Is A Struggle

The area encircling the set of actions we're comfortable performing intersects slightly with the set of actions most rewarding.

Thanks to garry's posterous

Fish, Water and Why Am I the Center of the Universe?

"State Hospital" by Edward Kienholz

If you haven’t read David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement address to the graduating seniors of Kenyon College then you should. In addition to being a fine piece of writing by an author who went on to kill himself, it’s an interesting meditation on consciousness. In it he talks about how each of us is born with a “default setting” of being wired to believe that:

“…everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realist, most vivid and important person in existence.”

This is an observation that most people make early on in life, usually around the same time you realize you’ll one day die. But, as illustrated in DFW’s fish/water parable, it’s so obvious that you pretty quickly forget it. Periodically remembering it tends to cause huge shifts in perspective that then spring right back to your normal, day-to-day setting.

It’s interesting to think about this in evolutionary terms. i.e. why did we develop this particular perspective as opposed to my-neighbor-is-the-center-of-the-universe?  The armchair-evolutionist answer is that the best way to equip an organism for survival and reproduction is to confer upon it the belief that it is the center of universe.

What better way to ensure you get all the food, water and sexual partners you need to survive and thrive?

In the ancestral environment in which we evolved this turned out to be a really good strategy. Back then, living another day, much less reproducing, was far from a sure bet. So all resources had to be marshaled to the goal of survival. However the environment most of us live in today is nothing like that of 200,000 years ago. We’ve since built structures and institutions that, at least, minimize the risk of death by most anything but natural causes. Yet we are saddled with brains that are still wired for survival. For examples of how this manifests itself in the context of 21st century life see the examples DFW cites in his commencement address.

The part that’s interesting though is whether or not that can be changed. i.e. can our brains evolve such that this enabler of the survival instinct is bred out of us and a more compassionate, holistic perspective takes its place? A few things would need to happen for that to occur. For starters, our environment would need to reward people who think this way with more opportunities to reproduce. I don’t think this evolutionary mechanism of natural selection is operant anymore, for reasons having to do with modern life, the moral codes related to creating offspring and the raising of them, etc. i.e. back in the day, if you were considered reproductively fit, you could spend all your non-surviving hours having sex with as many partners as you wanted, with little thought to the consequences. Today we don’t approve of people who go around siring children without taking responsibility for them.

Is there some other benefit that’s confered by the ability to hold this it’s-not-all-about-me perspective, such that it might be passed down genetically? Or is it more like the idea of equality, in that it’s not something that’s inherited but instead a cultural disposition that emerges and gets passed down to future generations. A meme, in effect. Is this mindset to our moral and cultural development akin to what the notion of equality was in the Iron age? i.e. in the year 3009 will we have laws that are underpinned by the notion that each of us is not the center of the universe? In the same way we have laws against discrimination that are underpinned by our collective subscription to the notion of equality?

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//02/25/2010 - added Tynt tracking code to try out Tynt