I believe that music is spiritual in its very essence, and serves as a unifying force between diverse people.
There are few constants in our fast paced, ever changing world for human beings to rally around, to gather strength from, and to band together in. Nature might once have been included in a list of common human experiences, but now with rampant deforestation and habitat destruction, the sacred natural gathering places of days gone by are disappearing from the lives of many. Religion, while still quite strong in a few societies around the world, is dwindling in popularity in many countries, and at the same time is becoming an institution of conflict rather than of unification and celebration.
Music is a little bit of a different story.
Music has arguably been around as long as civilization has. From humanity’s earliest days on our planet, the art form of rhythmical sound has been a part of every culture. From the gatherings of ancient tribal peoples dancing around open flames long before the dawn of Rome, to the large open air concerts of today, very little in the musical experience has changed. To have lasted so long, there really must be something spiritual about it. We are drawn to music – the beauty and order molds out of seemingly chaotic nothingness, the feeling of empowerment that it gives us, and its soothing cathartic effect.
Just go to any concert, and you will see what I mean.
I remember very clearly the concert that made me realize the spirituality of music, and its power to bring us together. It was at a little theatre in downtown Cleveland. There, I saw the usual societal lines of division deteriorate under the influence of each successive strike of a chord. There were members of several races and religions standing around me – blacks and whites, Hispanics and Asians, Christians and Muslims to name a few. Some of us were dressed in the latest fashions; others were not so materially blessed. Miraculously, none of that seemed to matter. We swooned together, sang out loud, and during one song even held hands. We became one swaying being held together by the shared human emotions the lyrics so clearly portrayed and sought to give meaning to. Who we were and what ideals we followed outside of the theatre did not matter – only the mutual passion for the music and the brief feeling of purpose it gave us. It made me, and everyone else there, feel as every religion seeks to make its followers feel.
Music is everywhere, more so than ever before. It is in cars, restaurants, and stores. It is a staple at any party, school dance or night club, all common places for gathering with others. MP3 players have made music possible anywhere at any time. We cannot escape music, and we certainly don’t seem to mind. I know that it plays a large role in my life personally. All my spare change goes towards concert tickets and new albums, and I have even met some of my closest friends at local open mic nights.
No doubt, the world is a diverse place filled with different beliefs and cultural backgrounds, but people love music and the feeling that it brings of being linked with something completely separate from their problems. It is a lasting force that ties us to our ancestors back through the ages, and a connection with something higher than we are. In the face of something as powerful as that, petty things like personal differences, race and creed cease to matter. Where religion and other spiritual practices have failed in that respect, music succeeds, for music is a response to the human condition, something that we all share regardless of anything else. I believe in it, and everything that it embodies. Music is purpose, is beauty, is holy, is togetherness, and I hope that it always will be.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.