Wretch Like Me

Chris - Lexington, Kentucky
Entered on February 20, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: creativity

The most universal element in the world in itself is pointless. Art, in particular music, serves no real purpose in humanity and yet it is so revered. The abstract juxtaposition of noises to create a desired emotional effect and its similar artistic counterparts are nevertheless curious. I am one of the many who marvel in the sheer ecstasy of music’s divinity.

Though music has always been a driving force in my life, it wasn’t until recently that I began to marvel with awe at its true power. Oddly enough my discovery of music’s beauty came from a place that society shuns; a local adult psychiatric hospital. I began volunteer work with the hospital’s brilliant music therapist late last year and there in her room with the patients suffering from diseases such as paranoid schizophrenia, sever depression, mental retardation, and Alzheimer’s among many other ailments I observed first hand how music can affect one’s mind and soul.

The chords would rip from her piano, the record player, or even my guitar an in an instant the patients would join into a chorus, tap their feet, clap their hands, and just let the music take them. I remember many times where I would get more requests than I would ever be able to learn or perform and, at least for a moment, when I sang I was their Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, Axl Rose or any other star at their wish. I thoroughly enjoyed brightening the patients’ day and it was visible they enjoyed my company, my help, and my music. I experienced the most humbling gratitude from those patients which tore every emotion from my young mind.

My most vivid image came when one of my particularly favorite patients walked in the room visibly distraught. He sat in his usual chair and cried with his head sunk into his hands. When I asked him what was wrong he responded with another question, “Can you play Amazing Grace?” I was shocked and instantly felt useless. I neither knew all the words, nor the chords to the old folk song and I apologized repeatedly. The music therapist told me that the man’s father died the day before and then I explained to her how the only request he had was to hear “Amazing Grace.”

Much to my relief she knew the song and the whole room sang the beautiful hymn to the troubled man. He sat in that chair and his cries bellowed throughout the whole performance. At the end his bawling ceased, and that is when it hit me. As soon as the song finished he reduced his sobs, raised his head, smiled, looked the music therapist in the eyes and simply said “Thank you.” I choked back the tears but I’d be lying if I said one or two didn’t sneak out to roll down my cheek.

I learned two things that day: All people, no matter what the ability, are the same living, breathing, and emotional creatures that we associate with the human race. Also, however trivial and useless music might seem on the surface, I believe that music’s power has the ability to evoke the full range of emotions and heal any sorrow. These truths, the psychiatric hospital, and its wonderful music therapist have pushed me in a direction for life. I know I want to heal people with music’s power. It doesn’t matter to me how hard I have to work if I can affect one unfortunate soul quite like aforementioned patient then it would all be worth it. I believe in Music and her majesty.