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Saturday, November 12, 2016


The last topic to be discussed in this blog is the subject of music, its power, limitations, and dangers.  The key to understanding the importance of music in the spiritual life is to understand the relation between emotion and reason as guides.

We begin with the assertion that music speaks to both the rational and the emotional mind but more to the emotional mind.  No long discussion is needed here, because it is self-evident.  For example, consider that music can be either cynical or naive.  It can be sentimental, nostalgic, wistful, bitter, joyful, peaceful, sorrowful.  And it can be beautiful.  Music creates mood.  Music also tells a story and can create ideas, but the primary focus is that music relate ideas to emotions.  For that reason alone it carries a great weight.

Music's mathematical nature should not be mistaken for reason and listening to it should not be mistaken as a rational exercise.  Enjoying patterns is not the same as rational activities like analyzing patterns, developing new patterns, elaborating on existing patterns, etc...  though it may help.  Music may even occupy a space in the mind, suppressing certain thought processes.  Listening to music is an activity that can suppress the inner dialog and captures the listener.  This is evident in the fact that the listener is not content merely to hear the music, but is impelled to sing or hum along.  I can not think of any other art form that engages the audience so naturally and universally.

Music can be both good and bad.  Music can be prayer, it can be meditation, it can serve as a backdrop for reflection.  It can lead us towards a proper mindset, increase our sensitivity to the needs of others.  Rationally chosen, music provides relief to Falzhaefengilt by greatly reducing the complexity of the spiritual life.   As such it soothes and dulls the pain of self introspection.  To this extent, music acts as a medicine.

The danger is music can also act as a drug.  Music can provide distraction, it can make us turn inward, it can cause despair, frustration, and mistrust.  Modern musicians sing with most meaning when they sing of their own emptiness, longing, and regret.  Music offers a kind of commiseration but it does not offer a cure.

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