Born to Groove: Up from Mud and Back to Our Roots

by Bill Benzon

I don’t remember exactly what I was saying – this conversation took place over a half century ago – but perhaps I was explaining why I choose to become a scholar rather than a musician. What I remember is Gren’s reply: You ARE a musician. After awhile he convinced me.

That is, we had to talk about it. I thought of a musician as someone who made a living performing music. I didn’t do that. To be sure, I made some money playing around town in a rock band and I’d spent years learning the trumpet. I’d marched in parades and at football games; I’d played concerts with various groups. But I wasn’t a full-time, you know, a professional musician, a real musician. Gren insisted that I was a musician because I played music, a lot, and was committed to it. That’s all that’s necessary.

He was right of course. I was a musician then and I’m one know. Three decades after that conversation I published a book, Beethoven’s Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture, in which I argued that music is what transformed groups of very clever apes into human beings. In THAT sense we’re all musicians. It’s our heritage.

Alas, too many of us have been robbed of that heritage and have been bamboozled into thinking that only special talented people should be making music. Nope. It’s time to flip the script. We’re born to groove. Read more »


JoyTis the season…this time of the year we throw the word Joy around a lot. But really, what is joy? Happiness seems to be a pretty consistent lack of depression and a state of bliss is usually only achieved by yogis. Isn't contentment really one step away from the acknowledgement that you're actually miserable? Joy though, well joy seems to be something that is fleeting for most of us most of the time, but that is realistically attainable. Joy is that spring in your step, the gleam in your eye, the new love in your life or the pleasure of finding yourself surrounded by your loved ones and, for at least a short time, truly enjoying each others company.

I find that as a middle-aged adult, joy is something that I have to work on; if I'm lucky it sometimes comes to me unbidden, sneaking up behind me and shouting “boo!”. I've come to realize that, while I'm lucky to be generally happy with my life, it's those moments of joy that are truly energizing and inspirational. Recently, I've tried to come to a better self-awareness of what really brings me joy and attempt to seek those things and experiences out.

One realization that I have come to, better late than never, is that for too long in my life, I have settled for a career that was satisfying enough, but not joyful in any way. I made a change, and now, I am able to find true joy in the creativity my job affords me and the wonderful colleagues I get to interact with day in and day out. I work for bosses who appreciate me and let me know it–people I trust, respect and have a deep affection for. Given how many hours a week I spend working, I now realize what a huge gap it was in my life that those hours used to be joyless.

And these musing about the nature of joy, and how important it is for me to feel it in my life more than I have in the past, make me think about my daughters and the joy they have in their lives. Children truly have a capacity for joy that most of us seem to lose as we get older. Most children, at least in the western world, have enough of a carefree existence that, even if their parents are burdened by worries, debts, frustrations, they manage to find enormous joy in their friends, their toys, their pets, their music. But do they find it in their schools? I spend the majority of my life working and children spend the majority of theirs learning. Now that I've realized how important it is that I find joy in those hours of my life, I have to ask the question, shouldn't we give our children this as well?

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My memory is not the greatest there is but, someone once asked me the question “Why did you and your wife decide to have children?” What I can remember is that I thought it was a strange question at the time and I was somewhat taken aback and didn't quite know how to answer it. I assumed that basically it was just what all of us did if given a choice and if we were capable1. This is the answer I gave and I wasn't very happy with the explanation at the time. Since then I've had time to think it over but it wasn't until recently when reading an article about “the technological singularity” that I was able to formulate a much better answer.

Raymond_Kurzweil_Fantastic_Voyage This technological singularity is easily described as being the point in time when artificial intelligence becomes self-aware and able to reason as well as or better than humans do.

It will essentially be a point in mankinds' existence where everything prior to that time was known and more or less followed Moore's Law2 and everything beyond that time will be unknown due to the fact that we can not know what super intelligent beings will do. 3

In my opionion, the inevitable outcome of the technological singularity will be the creation of more complex artificial beings by their predecessors. In other words, we will create intelligent artificial beings who will in turn create more advanced artificial beings and if we were to extrapolate that process there would be no end to the creation of beings so advanced they would resemble nothing we can possibly imagine (I am in no way receiving any form of retribution for recommending “The Age Of Spiritual Machines” by Ray Kurzweil but that book should be required reading for all kindergarteners. Ok, maybe second grade. If you haven't read it, go get it).8

I came to this conclusion based on the need for life as we know it today to reproduce. It would stand to reason that life, whether artificial or real and tangible4, has a need to create more life. I will take that one step further and state that life has a need to create more advanced life.

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