Better Together


I’ve Been Writing A Lot About Synergy Lately

Some of you already know that I’m a musician, and some of that subset will also know that I play percussion at a contemporary worship service at an Episcopal church.  The pianist was one of my professors in college (the first time around).  She and I have been playing together, in some form or other, for almost twelve years.  Most of the musicians among you will already know this, but there’s a thing that happens when you have played in ensembles with someone for that long.  There are moments in the music when you seem to read each other’s minds.

Now, while I do not rule out the possibility of actual telepathy in people, I realize that is most likely not what is occurring between me and her.  I know that having spent as much time in the same ensembles as we have, each of us has picked up on the patterns and habits of the other.  Those moments of “telepathy” are most likely times when, on some subconscious level, we see where the other one is going and we follow.

But that’s ok.  It doesn’t have to be magic to be extraordinary.  Or rather, it actually is magic, but not because we have the ability to pluck thoughts out of each others’ heads.

I should pause a moment to talk about the format of the service.  It’s actually very informal, and the “hymnal” — the quotes are necessary because it’s more of a songbook, one assembled by the pastor and the music director — is a collection of everything from traditional hymns to contemporary Christian music to Taize chants.  When the pianist and I play these services, we tend to improvise a lot.  It’s not totally freeform, of course; the congregation has to be able to sing along.  But it’s not unheard of for us to swing the eighth notes in a song, or to decide on the spur of the moment to play a reggae version of a traditional hymn.

So the “mind reading” thing is not itself magic, but the opportunity it affords us most certainly is.  Through whatever subconscious awareness we have of each other’s habits, we get the opportunity to create something together; a thing that is fleeting and extraordinary, and that could not have been created by either of us individually.  We get the chance to work together as if we were one mind.  And the feeling of that is like nothing else I’ve experienced.

This phenomenon is by no means limited to music.  The lucky ones among us experience it at work, and with our friends and family.  When I first spent time with the Scatterbrained Seminarian and all of her siblings together, I watched this Voltron-esque transformation wherein I suddenly understood Rachel in ways that I never had before.  It was wonderful.  Not just the understanding, but also getting to hang out with them together.  Because when you put the four of them in a room, they really do become something that is not just the four of them in a room.

I’ve experienced this with my own brother, Jake over at, too.  Sometimes when we’re talking we have these moments when we seem to be operating at a deeper, nonverbal level.  With Jake it usually ends up being more about arriving at the same joke at the same time, or understanding some nonsensical half-phrase without having to ask what it means.  We don’t generally collaborate on things (although I bet it would be awesome if we did…), but because of how well we know each other, we get to experience (and enjoy) those moments as something other than just ourselves.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of examples, even in my own life.  Anything more than just a cursory glance will reveal that it’s everywhere.  I think it’s just one of those things that’s easy not to notice because it’s so pervasive.

I’ve written about synergy a couple times on this blog, and once in the spoiler quarantine [DARK TOWER SPOILERS IN THIS LINK].  I realized the other day that the couple of fiction projects I’m playing around with at the moment both center around synergy, as well.  A look at some of my older stuff reveals that it’s been on my mind for a long time.  What can I say?  I guess I’m inspired by synergy.

And look at that!  Less than a thousand words!

A special thanks to Wesley, Rachel’s brother, to whom this post is dedicated.  And thank you all for reading.  More to follow.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Keith says:

    One question…. are you Harry Potter, or Dumbledore? If you can extract any thoughts out of Wesley, let me know. By the way, when the four of them are together I am perhaps at my happiest. (you included would be five) And last of all, seriously I do enjoy your writing.

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