Better Living through Freestyle

Okay, I’ve gotta pick it up from my last post myself: Understanding that LIFE IS A FREESTYLE is based on Cycle, rather than Path, means that this metaphor isn’t going to help you get from point A to point B.

The view of life here is that of recurrences: natural cycles like days and years; the cycle of the week with work days and a weekend; cycles within a day such as preparing a meal, eating it, and cleaning up or taking your dog for a walk. Part of the insight here comes from the first comment dropped on our blog, comparing rap freestyling to improvisational cooking. Like many cycles (such as that of day and night), cooking has its build-up and release, getting the ingredients together, heating the oven or skillet, applying that heat to transform the food from its raw state, and putting it on a plate. But it isn’t like a grand journey, where you complete it and you’re done. You need to eat again—the cycle continues.

The FREESTYLE that I’ll talk about here draws on both common understandings of freestyle in rap: The idea that it’s a rapper’s own, unconstrained style, and the idea that it’s spontaneous or off the top. The LIFE that I’ll discuss is a human lifetime that has cycles of recurrence within it.

Here are my mappings:

The freestyler is a person living their life.

The context of freestyling (for instance a cypher) corresponds to the context of life. An entailment of this is that because freestyling is social, relying on listening to others as well as putting out words, life is this way, too.

The indefinite length of a freestyle maps to the indefinite length of a life.

The freestyler’s ability to deviate in beautiful ways from form, tradition, and expectation maps to a person’s ability to do the same as they live their lives.

The beat to which a freestyler raps maps to the progress of time during our lives, which like the beat is external to us and not directly under our control.

A beat provided by a beatboxer* or by a DJ* who extends a breakbeat indefinitely maps to some unit of time we can control with the help of others: The duration of a project we and others decide to work on, for instance.

A beat provided by a track or playlist, or by a DJ who is antagonistically changing up the beat, maps to some unit of time we cannot directly control, such as a week or a schedule imposed on us.

A verse (or one single run of bars) maps to a higher-level cycle of accomplishment, with build-up and release, within life. For instance, a whole project or a year with plans and resolutions.

A bar (or a pair of rhyming bars) maps to a lower-level cycle of accomplishment, with build-up and release, within one of life’s higher-level cycles. For instance, a day if the larger framework is a monthlong project, or a month if the larger framework is a year.

Dropping a gem* maps to a particularly successful lower-level cycle. If this recurring part of your life is cooking a meal, you cooked a really awesome meal this time!

Reading the room* and figuring out what types of topic matter, tone, flow, and rhymes will be best appreciated by the people around you maps to our contextual and situational awareness in life.

Keeping the dice rolling,* even if some rhymes are better and some worse, maps to persisting through life’s cycles and routines, even though each day (for instance) may not be equally good.

Blacking out* maps to having a powerful intuition about how to live your life, moment to moment, that allows you to take ethical and effective actions without thinking about it.

* These of course are all their own metaphors! Actually if you go deep enough, even “verse” and “bar” probably have a metaphorical basis. More on all of that later…

Finally, handing the mic (almost never literally!) and letting someone else freestyle—but also asking someone else to freestyle—maps to generously listening to others in life, but also to asking someone else to help out during the next low-level cycle, to participate in that social process of life. I told you what I think, what do you think? I cooked us dinner last night; will you do it tonight? I wrote a blog post today—will you write one tomorrow?

[Cycles in the night sky photo by Patrick McManaman on Unsplash, thank you!]

A Modern Global Pandemic: The Turning Point?

sun peeking from behind cloud

It’s possible that this is a once in a lifetime scenario we’re in today, with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the planet. Perhaps what it’s ‘sweeping’ is our complacency with the way the world we’ve built together (but mostly at the whims of dictators and capitalists) operates. Clearly this is not advanced civilization if a disease such as this can do so much damage in so many disparate places, but it’s got it’s shining moments. Underneath it all is a self-correcting mechanism that has begun–likely sometime around 2012, and well before this new coronavirus.

We were apparently warned by the ancient Mayans that the world was going to end around what we called ‘2012,’ but of course that number was agreed upon for nefarious reasons I won’t waste your time with here. But even since 2000 with the Y2K crisis, we’ve seen swells of political unrest, dramatic climate change, social adaptation to digital methodologies, and many other phenomena that we could list under the category of ‘the end of the world as we know it.’ Some people may think that the ‘end of the world’ means that the planet would be hit by some kind of space object or that somehow things would just blow up. Still, more see biblical apocalyptic scenarios with winged, horned, red demons with pitchforks swarming the countryside, slinging fire and brimstone. However, while we’re still here, and it’s not quite Armageddon (the movie or the prophecy) outside, we have a unique opportunity to shift the arrow (or, since I’m a rapper, Turn the Point) of human progress away from the fear, despair, and doubt about our future.

A magnifying glass has been placed over so many aspects of society in the last decade–but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown–that some long-awaited, severely painful healing processes are beginning to happen now on a personal level, a social level, and even all the way up to a civilization level. Our collective existence is a little too easily threatened for MY personal liking, but regardless, human beings have shown that we’re capable of unifying against a common threat. We may not know exactly how we’re going to get through the next 10-50 years together knowing that we were almost wiped out by a lack of pandemic preparedness, but I’m confident that there are enough people formulating and activating better systems, infrastructure, and plans for the future despite the shade of this dark cloud of negligence currently hovering over our livelihood as a species.

As it’s been alluded to before, one of the missions that the team here at LIFE IS A FREESTYLE wants to strive to achieve is the mental flexibility to problem solve in situations when it seems like all is lost. And if there’s anytime to test out your mental flexibility, it’s at a time like this when social distancing, raging debates over the validity of pandemic vaccination, and political absurdity is the new norm. Constraints are only filters of expression. Now is the time to peek behind the veil of constraint and see what one’s true makeup consists of. Many people are hitting the reset button on the lives they once led, whether it be because they’ve lost their previous jobs, or because technology is allowing them to learn a new skill while at home, or because they are beginning to reassess what their choices really are in the grand scheme of things.

As long as our freestyles are coming from a place of love, we just might be okay after all.