Tuning In to a Different Rhythm

The tick-tock metronome of content and news drowns out the real signals of life.

Luke Burgis
6 min readApr 3


Jazz in New Orleans, where I’ll be for Jazz Fest in May.

I’ve been feeling down this past week. It might be because I’ve been listening to too much discordant music: the uncoordinated, nonrhythmic pulse of content, which is less like a pulse — which indicates life — and more like clashing cymbals (symbols!). An infinite array of them.

I’m writing this on Palm Sunday, which begins a week marked by a very specific cadence of time for me — one which transcends whatever is happening in the world: the engagement-grabbing headlines of the news cycle, the twitter timeline, the car horns in DC.

Some make crosses out of their palms.

Anyone who has entered into the life of a religious tradition that is marked by history has entered into a rhythm which is not subject to or determined by anything that a politician says; or the release of the next episode of Succession (believe me, I’ll be watching tonight); or even the traditional “work week”. If they enter deeply, they find a higher frequency to which they can tune in.

I do not mean to suggest that this “tuning in” is possible only for those who are part of an ancient tradition. All of us have special days that are marked by solemnity — the anniversary of a loved one’s passing, or the celebration of a joyous occasion (a wedding anniversary, the birth of a child) — on which the volume is turned down on whatever is happening in the world. We don’t care as much about it. Our focus is elsewhere. The noise takes a back seat to whatever rhythm it is we have tuned into.

Other events have this effect, too: becoming a parent, going to war, or becoming a caregiver for a sick friend or parent. These things thrust a different experience of time upon us.

It’s hard to describe the way that time changes when I walk down the long hallway of my father’s care facility, back to the “memory care” unit (which is called the “Reminiscence Wing”) where people are suffering from various stages of dementia. The world slows down while I am there. I am focused on his needs and his care, and also the stories that he wants to…



Luke Burgis

Author of “WANTING: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life.” Find more at read.lukeburgis.com