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From Cavemen to Conductors

Jenna Bauer

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Published: February 20, 2014 at 2:17 AM [UTC]

As I stuck my feet into the icy waters of a breathtaking mountain stream this past weekend, I was in a surreal place of mental purity. When I returned from the sojourn, my body was worn and tethered, but my mind was refreshed like a brand new palette.

I took a liking to anthropology in my undergraduate studies because I saw it as a way to understand music from the core of its existence in our lives. One of my professors, Dr. La Lone, would open each class with a ring from a tibetan singing bowl. The perpetual, calming lulls from the bowl captured our conscious awareness, halting our “monkey-mind” as he referred to it. This idea ties nicely to my last blog post concerning our erratic conscious, which flows like a babbling brook. After being engulfed in the natural world, I realized that my monkey mind--or wandering conscious thoughts--returned as I became engaged once again in the obligations and transactions of the modern world.

There was a long time in our history where humans were doing nothing more than gathering, hunting and procreating. Stressors came not from faulty relationships or loss of possessions, but instead from life threatening perils. Although many situations in our lives today may seem life threatening, very few of them actually are. Despite the change in perception we are experiencing through our increased access to knowledge and ease of life due to technology, the wetware of our bodies is essentially the same as it was in the paleolithic era. Take the the appendix for instance. Referred to as vestigial organs, there are a number of devices our bodies still retain which are no longer needed for 21st century endeavors. You and I are not born as modern humans: we are old-fashioned humanoids born into modern surroundings. William Starr points to this in his writing, The Suzuki Violinist:

"Babies, whether born in primitive times or in contemporary times, start at the same point and receive environmental stimulation according to their respective periods, growing up as adults suited to the era in which they live."

The hormones cortisol and adrenaline may have helped us put on pounds and run from predators in our history, but today they merely serve to amplify situations which should not be amplified. This can help us to understand why our hands shake or voice quivers when we perform; these hormones increasingly serve as detriments in our present scenario. Our bodies are equipped to deal with lions and rivers, not bank statements and violin recitals!
Keep this in mind next time you visit the concert hall: imagine yourself as a visitor from the ancient past and you may find your appreciation is enhanced that much more!

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