“In the most ordinary ways, we have lost the guidance of nature to live in accord with the rhythms and cycles of the soul. … Accustomed to control, we forget that our physical and emotional life is musical, with all sorts of sensations, fantasies, and feelings coming and going like the flighty motifs of fugues, sonatas and canons. … The soul exists in cycles of time, full of repetition, and it has equal portions of flowing temporarily and static eternity. Responsive to the soul, we may easily drift out of literal life several times a day to revisit people and places of the past or to imagine the future. These visitations are entirely different from the ego’s anxious attempts to resolve the past of control the future. They are more like a summer’s weekend at the beach, a way to get away and find a fresh perspective.”
Original Self, 2000
Our personal sense of well-being depends on how comfortably we feel woven into the tapestry of life: our family, friendships, community, species, nature, and the cosmos. This orientation involves perceiving ourselves as integrated entities living interdependently within the web of creation. When we feel reasonably comfortable with our place in the world, we are more likely to release our human propensity for self-centeredness. When we accept and appreciate ourselves, rather than succumb to self-inflation and self-serving behavior, we have the potential to experience more meaning out of life. At the basis of this is a willingness to care about others, as well as, ourselves. This takes courage because the thrust into altruism is risky. It involves surrendering the protection that indifference, fear, and lack of awareness provides.
“It’s not easy to let your guard down, open your heart, react with sympathy or compassion or indignation or enthusiasm when usually it is much easier – and sometimes much safer – not to get involved. But people who take the risk make a tremendous discovery. The more things you care about and the more intensely you care, the more alive you are. This capacity for caring can illuminate any relationship: marriage, family, friendship, - even the ties of affection that often join humans and animals. Each of us is born with some of it, but whether we let it expand or diminish is largely up to us.”
A Touch of Wonder, 1996
Music which aids us in this realization is healthful because it provides us with the vision and the courage to risk. It also offers comfort which sustains us in the process, especially when we face rejection, grief and loss. This kind of music allows us to blossom and grow our human potential. Our personal musical preferences, which satisfy at least a majority of the seven healthful effects of healthful music, make it possible to find the sounds that best nourish our quest.
Pursuing personal fulfillment, while living in harmony among our peers, is celebrated by many religious and spiritual traditions. Music that promotes thoughtful perspectives toward self and others enhances the quality of human life, both individually and socially.
While technological innovation offers many worthwhile benefits, in the form of personal electronic devices, social media, and video games, it creates challenges in meeting our basic human need for meaningful relationship and well-being.
“[Research] … identifies five elements that … are highly significant contributors to well-being. They are: positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. When you think about these five elements in the relationship with technology – the dopamine hits, the fun of social networking or screen games that reward growing competence, and the instant gratification of getting what you want online, … it would explain why all that connectivity can feel like well-being. And why, in moderation, it can be. It also may explain, however, why excessive texting, Facebooking, and other tech connectivity that replaces authentic, embodied human connection erodes the basic foundation for well-being.”
The Big Disconnect:
Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, 2013
The general effect of music may be perceived in terms of its impact on self and others. Two flows of sound energy suggest themselves in this regard. They are expressing (separating) and accepting (engaging).
Much of popular music today falls into the expressing mode which promotes activity and egocentric thought and behavior. Expressive music tends to prompt us to personally identify with a musical selection in terms of our life situation without particular regard for the concerns of others. It is primarily inflating in nature and often interferes with introspection or contemplation about our behavior. This does not mean that a certain amount of expressive music is objectionable. Some amount of expressive music can provide wholesome enjoyment as long as it is balanced with accepting music.
Accepting modes of music allows us to harvest the fruits of sounds and lyrics which prompt thoughtful consideration and reflection regarding our place in the world, our destiny, and our relationships among others. Healthful music provides altruistic engagement with ourselves, as well as, with others.