[Talk given at Living Wisdom School spring concert, 4 June 2007]
At this time, we are having a musical celebration. To appreciate the significance of that better, let’s take a moment to imagine what the world would be like without any music. None at all. Think of how different the world would sound, the kind of silence that would descend on us if there were no music in our lives. Of course, it’s hard to draw a distinct line between the sounds that count as music and the ones that don’t. The world is full of rhythms, rings, pitches, and choruses.
I’m offering this thought as a way of reminding us how subtle and powerful the presence of music is. We use words to communicate, words to name and categorize things, and words to remember much of what we know. But music is a language that cannot be expressed in words. We cannot completely explain how music makes us feel, or what music is trying to say. It gives us a door of perception into a reality where words have less importance, where we seem to experience direct feelings and energy.
Rabindranath Tagore: “But there is another world which is real to us. We see it, feel it; we deal with it with all our emotions. Its mystery is endless because we cannot analyze it or measure it. We can but say, ‘Here you are.’”
This happens with music because it plays directly with the vibrations that constitute the universe. Science will tell us that everything really is energy, that the heavy matter around us is only an illusion created by innumerable tiny wave-particles that have no dimension at all. This is a reality that most of us do not normally keep in mind. The ground, after all, feels pretty solid, especially when we land on it suddenly! Music, on the other hand, exists only in that realm of vibration. The reason you can hear the violin string is that its vibration is spreading out throughout this whole room, causing everything else in the room to vibrate with it.
David Tame: “In ancient times sounds itself, the very basis of all music, was thought to be intimately related in some way to non-physical and sacred dimensions or planes of existence. Why was this? Because audible sound was considered to be but an earthly reflection of a vibratory activity taking place beyond the physical world. This vibration was more fundamental, and nearer to the heart of the meaning of things, than any audible sound.”
That is a powerful idea. The music that we make is causing everything around us to vibrate in the same way. We are changing the molecules of our seats, the electron paths in the walls, and the cells of our own bodies. Music instantly and visibly changes the neurological and emotional responses of human beings. Music is used to change people’s shopping habits and to provoke soldiers into battle. According to ancient tradition, music is not really a form of entertainment at all. It is a form of medicine. We should be careful what kind of medicine we take.
Not only with music, but with everything we do there are consequences to the world around us. To heal the world, to become positive in our influence, we must not imagine that our words and actions take place in a vaccuum. We live in universe that is intricately designed to respond to our slightest thoughts. When our thoughts become hurtful, they create pain. When they become happy and loving, they create joy. This is the basic teaching of our school.
You don’t hear many people discussing the need for good music, and maybe we should think more about that. As a teacher, I have met many parents with questions about their children’s progress in math or writing. No one has ever come to me with the concern that a child learn better how to understand music. I think this is a reflection on the values of our present world, and how they may be a little out of balance. Music (and art in general) seems like an extra, a nonessential, a pursuit for the more dreamy individuals among us. It is not that. I would say music, when used consciously, is a journey to the center of human experience. It is a way of feeling our kinship with one another. It is a way of reminding us what really matters in our own hearts. Please enjoy the music we have to share with you tonight.