What a Weekend in the Brazilian Rainforest Taught Me About Life and Music

It was one of the most peaceful weekends of my life.

On a Saturday afternoon, I found myself in the center of a Brazilian waterfall conservatory thinking about various themes in life.  Happiness, wants, desires, pleasures, purpose, finding meaning, and how delicious a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be right now.  As I leaned back on the rock to relax and listen, the water’s trickle mixing with the various Portuguese conversations around me created this very pleasing hum.  Recursion patterns were on the mind.

The thoughts began after observing my friends leg, and thinking about all the trillions of atoms down there.  Bands of energy circulating at incomprehensible sizes and speeds to my relative experience.

The leg came very much alive.  A host of billions of living organisms, atom-like solar systems bouncing around to produce life.  If you then dial the scope down even further to examine what the ecosystem is made of, you find even smaller bands of energy called quarks that are oscillating at even faster frequencies and even further distances apart  all living, in this very moment, on that leg.

As a ray of light parted ways with a passing cloud, my thoughts then drifted to the origin of that light.  You know, our friendly neighbor, Mr. Sun!  The 1,819,100,000,000,000,000,000 billion kg burning ball of fire sitting oh-so inconspicuously in the heart and center of our solar system.

That thing must be massive, I thought.  That sun doesn’t seem to behave much differently than the atoms I was just thinking about on my friends leg.  A massive object sits at the center, and all these tiny little objects orbit around it.  And thus, life is produced.

I leaned up from the rock smiling, taking in the green bands of bamboo and ivy against the various shades of blue found in the sky.  I flashed back to a previous conversation with my uncle.  He was telling me about his favorite quote: “life is always giving.”  I hope he’s doing alright, I thought.

My mind then drifted to music, and how the atoms in our physical bodies and the orbital bodies in our solar behave in very similar ways.  I had my keyboard in the shop for repairs, so in the meantime I was learning more about frequency intervals between the keys.

When you strike a note, it vibrates at a certain frequency.  If you take the wave length of a note and either double it, or cut it in half, you get the same note at a different pitch.   That’s called an octave.  There are certain fractions where you can pinch the string off, to give it a very pleasing sequence.  Taking 1/3 or 2/3 of the string, for example, leads to the really eurythmically pleasing sounds.

The relation of music to atoms struck me as so peculiar, because it’s essentially the same thing!

Bands of energy vibrate at different frequencies.  You have a root note holding the system together, while these smaller and lighter objects move at different rates and frequencies around it.  The oscillation creates a recognizable pattern, and awesome ‘stuff’ is produced, whether that be life or music.  (Or perhaps if they are the same thing, and we let an artificial linguistics distinction get in the way!)  Here is a visualization of music for your viewing pleasure.

The system is elegantly chaotic.  A central gravitational force holds together all these elements moving in different motions.  Dancing around in the funk, soul, jazz, blues, or classical form. Orbital bodies behave the same way!

Life, then, could be thought of as this elaborate dance of things twirling and swirling and dancing around each other.  An intricate tango of solar bodies.  Even our sun has it’s own orbital period!  It takes an estimated 230 million years to complete one cycle around the Milky Way galaxy.  Who is this bassist providing this funky backbeat to life?


A large crackle of thunder echoed through the river.  That was the cue.  The waterfall picks up heavy speeds with rain, and not to mention that all of our towels and clothes were hanging out to dry back at our campsite.  We began to gather our belongings and make our way back.

Yet I didn’t feel rushed.  I made deliberate effort to slow my breathing and take note of all the things going around.  I felt the force of the wind on my face, musicians near by playing softly, the early drops of rain on my face and shoulders, the cool refreshing smell of the river bank, birds chirping, bushes rustling, and the constant humming chitter chatter in Portuguese.

The entire experience was incredibly invigorating.  Different elements of life seemingly sprang forth from every direction.  It created this mix of hues and shades in which to appreciate life.  All of which produced by bands of energy, essentially just wiggling and moving about!

Later than night, the stars gave for an incredible spectacle of dotted lights and accolades.  We were about 2 hours outside of Rio de Janeiro, so light pollution was at a minimum.  A twinkling dazzlement of lifes music, I thought.  Incredible.  That massive ball of fire (the Sun) that I was thinking about is just a single one of those notes.

So on one scale the Sun’s shear massive size and orbital period feels like the backbeat drum, but through another ocular lens, it becomes just a single note in a rift down the scale.  I visualized the stacking of different notes, and the colors and hues those oscillations produced.

All these billions of stars seem just like musical notes, bobbing around in orbital period throughout the Milky Way.  But then you extend the scope further.  Much like the suns relative relation to all the stars, and the Milky Way becomes just a single note among billions and billions of other galaxies!  All of which oscillate at even greater frequencies, and even greater distances!

Does it know an end?  Even then, you have many theoretical physicists posing that all the observable known universe could be a single bubble, in a sea of billions and billions more.  The Big Bang (and eventual Big Collapse) become a single breath when viewed on a time different scale.

I know the repetitive use of billions can be a bit hard to conceptualize.  But what fascinates me more so that trying to comprehend the distances numerically, is to comprehend that this pattern could go on endlessly in both directions.  Which brings us to todays blog post theme!


Recursion Patterns

Recursion patterns are a mix of math, art, and everyday life.  We find these repeating patterns everywhere, whether consciously aware of it or not.  The mathematical beauty of these fractal patterns is the infinite complexity formed with relatively simple equations.

The Fibonacci sequence, in conjuctured with the φ golden ration, can be found all around us.  Ferns, clouds, leaves, the Internet, lightning, snow flakes, brain cells, spiral galaxies, the formation of cities, sunflowers, population patterns, video feedback, mold, bacteria, canons, stocks, peacock feathers, sea shells, mountain ranges, turtle shells, salt flats, how social networks form—these self duplicating patterns are freaking everywhere man!

No matter which way you slice the pie, you are going to find the same self-replicating pattern.  But it gets even stranger than that.  Technically, a fractal is not even a “thing” at all, but more so a unit of measurement or ratio.  Are you ready for the weirdest part of it all?  Fractals can enclose an finite space with an infinite line.

Observe how a triangle quickly transforms into a star then snowflake by reproduction.  In either direction, it knows no end!  Newton and a lot of early scientists liked to think of the Universe as a closed off system with an inherent set of rules.  They imagined the Universe to be like a big clock, and a divine entity would create the clock and wind it up, before sitting back and observing his (or her) creation.

With Chaos Theory, endless amounts of folds, angles, and reflections exist at a given moment.  Isn’t this a more limitless way to think about God rather than someone that sits back and observes?  Instead of “God is dead” or a nihilistic view point, this creates a more limitless God, creator, or perception of reality.  The creation of the Universe isn’t a single point in time, but an ongoing process.

All these molecules and galactic clusters are continually creating new patterns and forms out of featureless chaos.

I think this speaks magnitudes about and endless potential that exists in our lifes.  We tend to think of the world in a physical sense with closed off objects in isolationmy hand and that chairbut it becomes more sophistically intertwined than that.  There is an under woven thread linking you with everything else.  Call it the fabric of the soul.

This may be plenty of stuff you’ve already heard countless times.  The analogy between life and music has been used before, and will be used again.  I, too, had read about this stuff for a while now.  But it was the first time I felt I could actually conceive and take part in it.  An experiencing of that knowingness, so to speak.

It was fully dark by now back at the campsite.  The past day had been a self-reflection and appreciation for the chaotic beauty found in life.  I laid back in a hammock, let my eyes drift up to the stars, and let the imagination soar.  I visualized the music of our quarks, atoms, host planet, sun, stars, and galaxies  the grand symphony of life playing at this very moment.  It was incredibly inspiring and uplifting of a moment.

It inspired me to attend greater care to the present, and the rhythms encapsulated in that brief passing moment.  Take part in the grand dance!  Wiggle, wobble, and move about.  We’re making some marvelous music together.

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