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Our lives unfold in action and thought. Acting and thinking are fundamental modes of human being. They are also in some respects mutually exclusive. Reflection requires a suspension of action and action requires a suspension of reflection. Reflection and action, however, nevertheless inform each other. Their harmonious balance is necessary for action to be effective and for reflection to remain relevant. Musicians are not naturally led towards thinking and reflection as they tend to be actively creative in an extreme way. Performers in particular must often make decisions in an instant relying on instinct, habit and committing to unreflected risk. However, their performance nevertheless incorporates a form of reflection. This silence of activity is called listening.

Musical performance cannot accommodate conscious or sustained critical reflection. In the moment of performance, sustained reflection distracts and undermines a compelling performance. The performer captivates her audience through her conviction. Conviction, however, is directly undermined by reflection. Conscious reflection progresses from perplexity, doubt and scepticism- attributes that would question a musical performer in the moment of her performance. Reflection requires a silence of activity and a suspension of actual renewal. Activity and renewal are central features of intense music making. While the musician is familiar with the phenomenon of reflection through listening, her active engagement in performance must suspend critical reflection and submit to the rule of conviction. In some cases conviction can reach levels of narcissistic absorption – this can prove successful in sustaining a performance but will also arrest development and disable the musician to develop their artistry over time.

A synthesis between action and reflection is achieved in musical performance through rhythm and through the silence of rests. The determining factors guiding the interplay between action and reflection are similarly timing and intentionality. Reflection cannot directly guide action if there is no time afforded to it or if it does not occur at the right time. In addition, reflection cannot determine action if we are not directed to it at all but are instead caught up in a vortex of activity. Considered action requires time for reflection and the capacity to suspend action in time for reflection or until such time as reflection is considered to be completed. In addition reflection requires a competency, an organisation and a discipline which is authentic to itself. An incontinent, loose assembly of ideas does not constitute thinking. Thinking requires internal cohesion, direction and a consistency of principle. The steps of the process of reflection must evidently and clearly suggest themselves. We refer to this cohesion as “logical” progression.
Decisions to act or to reflect are made continuously by people and by organisations without necessarily stopping larger contexts of activity. Like musical performers, organisations need to develop rhythms synthesising critical reflection and action. A conscious organism will thrive if the switch from reflection to action flows easily and effortlessly and if the co-ordination of intention, reflection and activity is organic. Ordinarily such a switch and transition is the responsibility of “leadership” which gives the impulses for reflection or action and determines timing. In the case of a leadership that is rhythmically incontinent and incapable of switching organically from activity to reflection or alternatively is incapable to engage in either with sufficient ease, a harmonious reality cannot be achieved.