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  • Writer's pictureMichael Holme

The herding instinct

Updated: May 8

If you read my four-minute story on this website's About page, you may learn that I tuned pianos in the 1990s. For over a year of that time, the piano teacher there: the same man who'd hospitalised me, began giving me lifts to and from every Saturday and Sunday. His name was Ronnie, or Ronald Chadwick. He was elderly and has sadly passed away now. Self-taught on the piano, and a bricklayer by trade, he had a professional piano technique (as captured in the YouTube video I've shared), and he knew many regional piano dealers. He's clearly demonstrating for one of them in the clip. You must agree that Ronnie was very unusual, talented, and a complete one-off maverick.

Especially on the car journeys, a favourite topic that Ronnie returned to was brains, specifically, the use or non-use of them. He was certainly not academic, and despised "didactic" approaches to piano playing, as he'd say. Those included dictates in the guise of "interpretations", of great classics.

Ronnie coined the term "herding instinct" and would point out manifestations of it. More often than not, motorway drivers drove so dangerously close and at speed, that a mindless creature like the sheep and its group descriptive noun was perfect.

I don't apologise for writing so many words to get to the phrase in the title, because I'm happy for Ronnie to be a part of my website. What Ronnie made very apparent to me, was the lack of thought in the country, the evidence is everywhere. Simply put, most people do not use their brains. They follow a path of least resistance. They copy others. The positive, is that it needn't be like that. Using our brains is a habit that we can get into, even if it's a chore to start with. Any skill is easier with practise; yes, really. Anyone who has been a university undergraduate, will probably have met academical formidable people with no common-sense. That's a common stereotype. They needn't be. It's a choice to use your brain in everyday ways, you don't just do it.

This website is strong on maverick personalities, however, as daft as it sounds, you do have to choose to use your brain, even for the multitudinous tiny things. Many people are in total worlds of their own. Ronnie, for example, would make something out of knocking on a door. He would never use a doorbell if he could audibly knock. It simply saved electricity. This attitude times dozens and dozens, was Ronnie. This is what I mean. It doesn't happen immediately; you have to work at it. Eventually it is habit forming, but never without that work, and an initial choice; or you can be a capitalist drone, or similar!

Exit hell? Exit herd? I am leaving this with you.

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