“Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.”
Music is something that is hard to define.
It is more than a technical definition of notes on a page, expressed through instrument.
It is almost tangible, as strong as a lion, and as soft as a lamb. It rises above cultural constructs, and geographical borders. It’s something maybe we shouldn’t even try to define as much as consume and enjoy.
It can evoke a wide range of emotion. It can be shallow and light, or fraught with meaning and messages.
For instance, I cannot listen to Cats in the Cradle without immediately contemplating what kind of mother I want to be. Will I be present, and will my actions guide them to be the same? How do I want our story as a family to read?
When speaking to my followers about music, the word “healing” was consistent in replies. “Music is soothing and calms us when we’re agitated,” one said. “Music expresses ideas & feelings that are at times difficult for us to say,” said another.
There are also messages I would rather not consume. I would go so far as to advocate against them. For all the impactful, meaningful, fun songs in existence, there are also songs, and artists, that condone violence, self-harm, and suicide. I’ll never be okay with that.
Yesterday, I woke up to find that a great evil had been committed on the other side of the world. Innocent young people went to see a singer they loved. Full of excitement and adrenaline, they witnessed what, for some, would have been the experience of a lifetime.
There is something beautiful about a group of fans enjoying something that brings them together, out of shadows. I should know, I’m part of a wonderful fan group.
All I could think about yesterday was, “what if this was us?” What if we were at a concert, and one of us was harmed? I speak to these people on a daily basis, and losing one of them is such a horrifying prospect to me, that I’m struggling to type through my tears.
I don’t even want to think about what it would do to the artist that brought us together in the first place.
When something unfathomably evil happens, as humans, we react in diverse ways, but sadly, we often react in divisive ways. Helplessly, some grope for, and enter, the door marked ‘blame.’
Within that door, they create an image to point and sneer at. This image may be a religious figure with dark skin and outer religious clothing. It may be the singer, whose pain and apologies were not enough for some people. It may be someone clad in the colours of an opposing political party.
But people, like music, are complex. Any kind of blame, or hate, only serves as a temporary fix for deeper pain. It halts vulnerability. It halts being able to open ones heart to embracing the love peeking through very dark, confusing clouds.
Just because music with horrific messages exist, it doesn’t mean we should stop listening to, and appreciating all the wonderful music available. Likewise, evil, harmful people exist, but we should not let fear, and despair stop us from embracing each other. If we restrict ourselves to a small circle of people, we miss out. We miss out on sharing not only our common ground, but our valuable differences.
We need music. We need connection. We need to unify.
One of my favourite stories in recent years, is that of St Francis of Assisi, the man in the simple brown robe, breaking the yoke of hate through song. His message was one of love and inclusiveness.
While laid out on a stretcher, dying, he came before the large, divided crowd. On one side, Bishop Guido threatened excommunication, with his followers close behind him. On the other side was the mayor of Assisi, likewise supported, threatening prison.
St Francis chose to sing Canticle of the Sun in place of a speech or sermon, and as he sang, a change came over the crowd.
Bitter diatribes were replaced with embracing and forgiveness.
Whether the story is true or not, I believe in the power of music. It can change more than mood.
Do me a favour, and put on something, anything you enjoy. Maybe something catchy and relevant, like We Can Work it Out or upbeat and epic, like Don’t Stop Believin’. Let the pain wash away for a while. Let it drown out the evil. Let it give you the strength to go on. Let it give you the strength square your shoulders, and to believe in goodness of humanity once again.
Don’t stop singing. Don’t stop writing. Don’t stop sharing your form of “music” with the world. We need your light right now, and we will keep needing it.
(And for goodness sake, don’t stop believin’…)