Guest Post by Jordan Goodman, MS
There’s an early scene in the movie “Her,” depicting a probable reality of the not-so-distant future. Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is riding the subway, communicating only with his empathic “smart” device. And so is everyone else. We have never had the ability to be so connected. We have never been so isolated.
This profound irony will continue to crystallize as new generations are born into an increasingly advanced Smart Age. With this, a growing hunger for more authentic connections will continue to manifest. Something deeper and more meaningful. We experience this in two distinct ways—and drumming can offer a solution!
1. Connection with yourself
Like many of you, I would constantly hear about the benefits of mindfulness meditation. This practice has endured in some form throughout every major religion. Modern science was beginning to catch up too.
Regrettably, it just felt so intangible and foreign to me. But when I was 20, I read something similar to “Mindfulness for Dummies” in my college library. As I sat there, focusing on the breath entering and exiting my nostrils, the intrusive thoughts immediately appeared. “What the hell am I doing?” “This is stupid.” “When will it start working?”
I kept at it though, practicing 2 minutes here and 5 minutes there—for years. And like the muscle memory you develop with an instrument, mindfulness mediation became more natural. It was no longer something I only “practiced,” but an entirely new way of experiencing myself and my world. Then it hit me — I had actually been practicing mindfulness for 2 hours everyday after high school when I rushed home to play my drum set.
When drumming, I became present.
It was fully physical, emotional and spiritual. I wasn’t thinking about my past or future. I was completely—and musically—mindful.
In “Her,” Theodore commutes and works each day while interacting with only his social smart device. He then returns home to lose himself in his completely immersive video game. In one scene, Theodore is actually engaged in a 3-way conversation with his video game avatar and his smart device. With these technologies, Theodore is never alone.
At the same time, Theodore is always alone.
You may know a Theodore in your personal life. There certainly are many out there, and the Smart Age is sure to produce more. I don’t expect every Theodore to take up mindfulness meditation. But what if each Theodore found their own entry way into themselves, much like I did with drumming. For you it may be piano—or writing, running, cooking, yoga, etc. As we become more comfortable within ourselves, our ability to more fully connect with others increases.
2. Connection with others
Leaders of a mental health agency with over 100 employees were recently planning for an all-staff meeting. It was their goal to foster new connections among employees within different areas of the company. They made two choices: they strategically assigned each employee to one of 16 large, circular tables for lunch, and they invited me to share the power of recreational music-making.
During lunch, the employees sat with co-workers from different areas of the company. This worked fine, but like any verbal conversation—only one person can speak at a time (ideally the others are truly listening).
I explained that drumming is a far more efficient and effective way of bringing people together in a meaningful way. Within seconds, the community members—from secretary to Executive Director—were connecting to something far larger than their individual selves.
As you probably know, music never lets us down.
Imagine if Theodore’s boss scheduled 20 minutes each day for the employees to drum together. Even more, what if someone stepped up to facilitate group music-making with handclaps and vocals on Theodore’s subway commute. Far-fetched or unconventional? Perhaps. But more authentic and meaningful as compared to messing with your iPhone? Absolutely.
We are on that subway—and the destination is Theodore’s world in “Her.” As social creatures, we inherently seek connection. Technology is just making it easier for us to “feel” connected to something. It’s not quite ourselves and it’s not quite someone else. But it’s always there, making it seductively convenient.
As someone with an interest in utilizing one’s natural creativity for health and wellness, I’m calling on you.
We must have the foresight to integrate technology in a way that enhances our mission, while continuing to develop our more natural relationships with ourselves and others. Drumming is just one way to achieve this. As you may know, the possibilities are as vast as your imagination.
It is our responsibility. With courage and creativity, you and I can lead the way!
Jordan Goodman, M.S. is a professional musician and mental health therapist. He consults and trains health and educational professionals, integrates drumming into individual and group therapies, and shares Beatwell Playshops for wellness and team building throughout his community. Jordan’s website is BeatWell.org.