06 July 2012

like spinning plates

it's been about a week or so since i've posted anything on here.

in the 'blogosphere', that's like seven lifetimes (or 49 lifetimes for a dog).

all the 'unofficially official rules' i've learned about blogging include one major action that must be observed. AT ALL TIMES.

'the blogger must post content of some kind every single day of their human existence.'

even if it's somebody else's piece. or pictures of your neighbor mowing their lawn. or stupid pet tricks.

so i guess that 'eternal, cardinal rule of blogging' has been broken seven times over. and i'm here to serve my 'penance'.

another 'rule' for writers is that, if you're going to be a 'writer', you need to write. EVERY DAY.

and you need to PRODUCE something. EVERY DAY.

even just a paragraph. two words. a cough.

well, in the throes of my current existence, there have been some days where i just don't have anything to say, or so it seems. and so, i opt for silence rather than subjecting my dear, faithful handful of readers to whatever non-thoughts may be running through my empty head.

so i guess that 'eternal, cardinal rule of writing' has been shattered by yours truly as well.

but it's not like nothing's been happening in my life. actually, there's been a lot of activity.

places to go and people to meet.

employment listings to check and conversations to have.

forms to fill out and emails to write and respond to.

windows to wash and lawns to mow (and mowers to break ;).

relationships to nurture and hopes to keep kindled.

even in a 'transitional' season of life, there are a lot of 'plates' to keep 'spinning' in the air.

and sometimes, to stop and write about any or all of those things is to have managed to keep the 'plates spinning' simultaneously for long enough that you can step back and take a picture of them.

and the truth is...i've never been able to keep multiple 'plates spinning' in life.

heck, i can't even juggle.

and in the 'circus' called 'life', that skill could really come in handy sometimes.

case in point: even when i sat down to begin writing this piece, i suddenly remembered that i needed to vacuum the steps and upstairs before a houseguest arrives this evening.

the moment i think the 'plates' are 'spinning' fast enough that i can stop and capture the moment in words, one of them starts wobbling and begins its hasty descent towards the ground.

so i dove out of my chair and grabbed it before it crashed. and set it back on its pole. and gave it a good whirl that should keep it spinning for about another...oh, 90 seconds or so.

until the next one starts wobbling.

and the next.

and so on.
and so on.
and so on.

there are gifted people in this world who can literally keep multiple plates, bowls and other flat objects spinning on poles, to the amazement and entertainment of the world. the world record holder for plate spinning once was able to keep 108 plates spinning simultaneously.

more symbolically, there are those in our society that can manage dozens, even hundreds of tasks at the same time. we call them 'multi-taskers'. they can split an atom, weld a jungle gym, compose a symphony, create a cure for cancer, bake a soufflé, make a new element for the periodic table, take down the rotting drywall in the bathroom, put up a chandelier, reconcile Israel and Palestine, discover a new planet, add a third nostril to their face (one-handed), and brew the world's best cup of coffee all in the time it takes Martha Stewart to get out her baking supplies.

in their hands, plates and tasks are spun into art (and in some cases, gold).

in my hands, they are a momentarily thrilling prelude to an impending disaster, a catastrophic crash.

the irony in all this is that while i truly cannot juggle (literally or figuratively), when i sit down at a drum kit, a very different picture emerges.

with hardly a thought in my mind or a care in the world, all four of my limbs begin doing rhythms independently of each other that combine into a percussive paradise of polyrhythmic propulsion.

i may not be able to spin plates. but i CAN twirl sticks.

why IS that?

you would think there would be some kind of correlation between the two skills. both require the ability to concentrate. both require a kind of symbiotic connection between thought and action, instruction and instinct. both involve entering a space that is kind of neither 'here' nor 'there', a contemplative center out of which a multiplicity of motion emerges.

both involve balance.

both spinners of plates and drummers of drums depend on balance in their bodies and brains, their senses and spirits. it is when this balance is achieved internally that it can be expressed externally, in their art. and there is actually a moment that happens in plate spinning and percussing where the moving objects reach a certain speed and fall into a kind of mysterious balance on their own, and their motion becomes essentially self-propelled.

the plates appear to spin of their own accord.

the music seems to 'play itself'.

and the spinner, the drummer, is simply and beautifully 'in' the moment, beyond conscious effort, thought, even feeling.

i've experienced this sensation only a handful of times. occasionally it's been in the midst of making music. other times it's occurred while i'm speaking to a group, or engaged in a conversation that goes in a direction more surprising and meaningful than i could have imagined.

sometimes it even happens when i'm writing about how disjointed and disconnected my life is...
and how i can't maintain all of the details and stay on top of all the tasks that await me...
and how I'm unable to keep all the 'plates spinning'...
and how life seems to be crashing down all around me. 

and what i'm writing starts off as one thing, but then heads in an unexpected direction, and lands me in a place of insight...
and clarity...
and peace...

and balance.

(a moment of such balance...
and the song from which i nicked the title of this blog)


  1. I really like this and can of course relate!!! For myself, I like to think of the sound of crashing plates as rhythmic counterpoint, maybe.
    One really useful idea I learned from some biologists recently is that of "dynamic disequilibrium"-- which seems a lot more realistic and real to me than the oh-so-elusive "balance." :)
    (I don't post every day either and I sometimes feel guilty about it and then I remember I'm not, in fact, obligated to. :))

    1. thanks for that, grace...great point...i was reading a bit about 'gyroscopic precession' (or something like that) this morning, which basically alludes to the fact that the elusive 'balance' comes as a result of a combination of 'dissonances converging'...wish i had read that before finishing this piece...could have added a whole other dimension to it...oh well, live and learn, eh? and in the best case scenarios in my life, the crashing plates do create a kind of rhythm...trying to discern what that 'rhythm' currently is for moi ;)