Finding the Rhythm

Finding the Rhythm
Stephen Jenkenson
December 2014


"As a rule nobody asks you to do your life’s work. More often, at least in the early going, you have to do your life’s work as a self-appointed task. And in the early going you’re not very good at it. It is a learning thing, expensive, demanding, relentless. That’s how it has gone for me at least, paring down the list of reasons I was born until only a few likely candidates were left standing.


In older ways of life in other places the village drummers are there to play the polyrhythms, all the contrapuntal extravaganza they can learn, but they don’t play the Rhythm inside those rhythms. They know it – everybody knows it – but they don’t play it. That is the work of the Holy, they say, to play that simpler, steadier Rhythm.


That Holy Rhythm is the time signature of life itself, sometimes a loping cadence that drives whole villages down to the river to pray, and sometimes a thrum that carries someone out to walk solitary in a snowy field at day’s end while the light is dying and the shadows go violet, without witnesses, staring out.


And so your life might go, as you quicken to your purpose: you get far enough into the sway of it to learn that you’ve been playing everything around the Rhythm, everything but the Rhythm itself, trying all the possibilities you found until all that’s left is to be played by the simple, ragged syncopation of your days. That’s when the Rhythm finally is able to have its way with you. That’s how finding what you were born to do seems to be, like answering at last someone who’s been calling your name faithfully for years.


You play the rhythms and you learn the Rhythm, and you move accordingly: the ancestors of us all would have known that as the way of human being."


Stephen Jenkinson, from his forthcoming book Die Wise. Pre-order online