It is easy to see rhythm in the natural and peaceful processes of nature, but how about the times of upheaval and turmoil, both in nature and in human affairs? Then it is not so easy to see, especially while the disturbance is going on, and we have to make a real effort to find a larger pattern, a deep and dynamic meaning behind such tremendous change and activity. It requires our most thoughtful consideration, but the rhythmic flow can be found if looked for.
Nature has upheavals when destruction takes place — a storm in the mountains, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, breaking up of ice on frozen waters, avalanches, winds and other activities not peaceful — but always rhythmic, relentlessly and surely working towards an end. In this way the path is cleared for a new order of things to follow and is a necessary part of evolution.
And everywhere a record is left of the cyclic nature of these forces at work. We see it on the rocks along the shore, the drifting sands of the desert, the clouds in the sky, and it is a part of the fabric of all growing things. Twisted tree trunks and pointing branches have much to tell.
Of the many disturbing elements in our present civilization we have ever with us noise and confusion, which seem to follow no pattern at all. However this condition of things gives us an opportunity for observation. Indeed in self-defense we must somehow understand and adjust ourselves, to keep it from tearing us to pieces when constantly exposed to it. If we can do this in regard to some of the lesser evils, perhaps we shall be helped to see the same laws at work in the greater and more serious hazards that we are confronted with, and gain courage and intuitive guidance.
City noises definitely follow a pattern; there is an ebb and flow like the tides of the sea — times of almost complete quiet, then a rising into full tide, to subside again. This applies also to a multitude of people gathered together for any purpose, pleasure or otherwise, when, aside from the happy, angry or other undertones, there is a rise and fall in the general flow of sound. In a dining room full of people, where the hum is usually a happy one, it has often been noticed that the conversation will every so often drop down to a moment of silence, very brief, then rise again for no known reason.
Those who find themselves working in the midst of tremendous noise, as in an aircraft factory, have to make a real adjustment. Going through this experience some years ago, it seemed to me that I could not find a center of peace and calmness in which I could protect myself. As I sat at my table drawing, I began to give my attention to the noise going on in the shop below, trying to analyze and understand it. Gradually it began to take on a definite pattern, and I realized that there was a certain rhythm there, which at first was not at all apparent. As I gave it fuller attention, the noises of the different types of machinery took on a human quality. They began to sound like voices, and as I listened, they grew more and more fascinating, and I pictured them as a family — the machinery-family downstairs — making a neighborhood nuisance of themselves. A shrill, protesting voice, rising above the others; whining monotonous undertones, rising and falling, dropping to a drowsy hum, stopping briefly, as if for breath, then rising again — the mother, I fancied, trying to pacify her noisy brood. Then a deep, argumentative voice at intervals — maybe the father — interrupted by the shrill, protesting voice, rose above the clamor of the naughty children — the constant tap, tap, on metal, and the excruciating din of riveting. Other voices, dominant and masculine — the thump, thump, thump of drop hammers — aggressively demanded attention.
After all, I realized, something was being accomplished out of all the clamor and din of metal being cut, sawed, riveted, welded, pounded and stamped into shape. As it moved along from one process to another a purpose was being fulfilled. Back of the screaming, whining, pounding confusion there was intelligence at work, directing it all. There were planners and designers quietly busy; there were skillful hands manipulating the intricate machinery — many of them women's hands, beautiful to watch, as they accurately guided metal through difficult processes. There was a steady, sure, never-ceasing and very earnest working for a goal. With what result? Eventually there emerged from the assembly line a beautiful, streamlined thing, with wings and power, ready to take its flight into the skies.
So out of the turmoil and agony of the present world-condition which distresses us so much, great intelligent forces will, in time, bring forth a new and beautiful civilization which will have wings to soar to great spiritual heights. We are taught to believe and expect this. What would otherwise be unendurable becomes full of meaning, and we can find our part, however humble it may be, and discharge our duty, knowing that intelligence is at work, and directing the efforts of innumerable others, like ourselves, without which the "divine labor" could not be accomplished.
Back Issues Menu
Bright sunshine falling on the slow
Soft undulations of green fields. . .
Massed choral descants came to me,
Voices of distant flutes and strings;
But when I listened with my ear
To catch the theme of growing things,
The paeon of life's burgeoning
A silence fell and music ceased to be.
Yet for a moment I have known
A lilt the meadow grasses sing,
The laughter of brave cowslip mirth,
The spirit of the forest tree.
O gold of broom and honeyed gorse
O regal purple of the moors
The moving shuttles of the wind
Unceasing weave the Cloak of Earth.
— Eleanor M. Leech