Saturday 30 Jul 2016

Whistling
David Simmonds

As I pondered what to write for this column, I realized that I had been whistling. Then I realized the habit of whistling is not as common as it once was. In the same way, you don’t hear much about recreational knuckle cracking either. At least, that’s my observation: someone has probably already written a doctoral thesis coming to the opposite conclusion.


Whistling is mostly an absent-minded activity.

When I refer to whistling, I’m talking about the almost absent-minded habit of puckering up and whistling something resembling a tune, not the sharp whistle of command and messaging, the leering wolf whistle or the practised art of whistling. Mind you, it would be nice to pick up that the thread of practised.

Roger Whittaker made a musical career out of his whistling prowess. Roger Whittaker is a Wellington on the Lake resident.

Whistling is good for you. You apparently work the lungs and heart when you whistle. Still, there’s more to it than that.

The classical image of whistling is that of the trades person, say, the mail delivery person or the carpenter, going about his or her business in a state of relaxed, but focussed, apparent contentment. There may actually be a little science behind this conclusion.


Whistling helps us accomplish big events, as it keeps us from over-concentrating.

One study said people concentrate too hard on big events, such as the penalty kick in soccer or the short winning putt in golf, with the result that they often blow it, spectacularly. Approaching the act in a casual manner can help avoid this and whistling is one technique you can use to help you calm your nerves.

I find it interesting, that of the whistlers I know, many don’t realize they whistle. This does suggest the unconscious mind and the body do work together to relieve stress and help us focus.


Whistling, supposedly, invokes a state of happiness.

It is also said the mere act of whistling induces a state of happiness; that it is impossible to make the muscles do the work of whistling and to feel down at the same time. After all, most of the songs that feature whistling are relentlessly upbeat. Here are a few examples. “Whistle a Happy Tune,” by Rodgers and Hammerstein, from the musical, “The King and I.” “Give a Little Whistle,” from Disney’s “Pinocchio” film. “The Fishin’ Hole,” the theme music from the old “Andy Griffith,” black and white, television show. The “Colonel Bogey March,” used as the theme song from the 1957 movie “Bridge on the River Kwai.” Even set against the horrible backdrop of Japanese death marches, the “Colonel Bogey March” is upbeat; finally and of course, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown,” the recording of which on whistle and bones became the theme song for the “Harlem Globetrotters” and their goofily nonchalant style of basketball. More recently, we’ve heard Paul Simon’s, “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay.” I don’t say that every whistled song is a happy one. Still, the ratio of happy to unhappy is much higher in the whistled ones than in the sung or played ones.


Whistling has lost its appeal, but why?

Why isn’t whistling as common as it was? My simple theory is that life is generally more stressful than it used to be and our mind and body combo hasn’t quite adjusted. In the old days, the mail deliveryman or women went on his or her appointed rounds, the carpenter measured twice and cut once and that was it. Now, too many of our tasks are open ended, with no clear measure of what will constitute an adequate job completed. As a result, we worry ourselves to the point where we can’t settle ourselves down with a whistle. That’s the big picture answer. As to the small picture answer, have you ever tried to whistle that catchy rap tune you heard the other day? That’s right: in my books, music is getting much less musical, so there’s less of it to whistle.

If that doesn’t set you to whistling the “Colonel Bogey March” or the Andy Griffith theme song, unconsciously or consciously, how about I list some of the great knuckle cracking tunes. The list is so long, I guess it will have to wait till next time. How about recalling a few yodelling tunes. The scientific research says they cause headaches, but what does science know?

 

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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