Friday, April 1, 2016

Why Western Science Doesn’t “Get” Music – and Why We Should Care

We Westerners want to get it right, don’t we? The notion that we belong in this or that pigeonhole that gives us the magic answer seems true for things as diverse as Western medical diagnoses, Cosmo’s latest advice, even horoscopes. We think that, if only we figure out exactly what IT is, then we can cure it, fix it, own it, have it, date it. Bullshit.

As I write this, there are 7.4 billion of us, give or take a few thousand, ready to be classified, organized, understood, partnered, satisfied. That many individuals with that many unique desires, issues, plans and ideas…and yet some of us expect Western science or research or the latest how-to book to what makes us more attractive or more relaxed or more intelligent or more wealthy or who our ideal partner might be? As the song says: something’s wrong.

Let’s get real.  And let’s talk music – the universal food that feeds spirit and psyche. Music Therapy is doing a great job with clinical “interventions:” music for autism, chronic pain, memory loss, and behavioral disorders. But you and I are in the “real” world, right? And in that world, you and I like different kinds of music, and for different reasons. You, me, and the other 7.4 billing of us….

Music and Science

The chance that any kind of science can put any two of us into the same music box is about as good as matching two snowflakes in a blizzard. Not that Western science will ever stop trying to predict our responses to music – the magic potential is too great! – but what if this whole science thing is just exactly backwards?

Instead, what if this really is all about diversity? What if the music I like is just as intriguing to you as the music you like BECAUSE each of our tastes in music are so uniquely distinct, instead of homogenous? What about celebrating THAT diversity? Does my love for metal make me a bad person, or indicate some sort of brain problem? Does my love for Classical music make me boring? 

What can’t a white guy like me really love hip-hop or rap, even though pop culture claims I’m not supposed to? Why have we learned to think that way?

“But wait but wait!” I hear you say. “What about top-40 radio and platinum-selling albums?” OK: I’m in; but “popular” doesn’t mean “universal” AND album sales are no indication of identical physiological response across millions of listeners, even listeners of the same song. We want to take this beyond “like” to the realm of “understand” because that’s where the real work of music takes place. The combination of “I get it” and “I feel it” is where music becomes bio-identical soul fuel.

But I Like the Music I Like!

OK, it’s cool that you love the music you love. But that’s as limiting to your physical/emotional/mental even sexual well-being as saying you only want to hang out with people of a single race, or religion, or social/economic status.

It’s easy to dismiss art we don’t like. We do it all the time. But behind that art was a living breathing human being with something to tell you, and the art that person made is the message. Will you ignore that just because you don’t like it? If music triggers a physical response in you that’s uncomfortable, don’t you WANT to know why? What part of your soul is crying out for attention at that moment? What part of YOU responds so deeply to music that you feel intense anger, or grief, or happiness or fear? What part of you responds viscerally to music. What kinds of music make you do that? Do you have music for each of the four basic human emotions: happiness, sadness, fear and anger?

Your Balanced Musical Diet

You could eat an all-sugar diet, but there’s a good chance you already know how that would feel after a while. What goes into your body is who you are, sick or healthy, and that includes what you put into your ears – what you hear. If you’re a one-genre music consumer, you might be missing nutrition your soul needs.

One day, when you’re bored with all the horoscopes and self help and relationship advice and tell-all crap about other people, and you really want to get to know your own self more deeply, put on your headphones and find a playlist ‘way outside your wheelhouse.

What About Music I Don’t Like? Or Music That’s New to Me?

Music we have never heard can sometimes echo the private and personal stuff we guard inside ourselves in a way no other art can. Once you hear those inner melodies, resonate them. Let them unlock the unknown scary parts of your human being – the guts of who you are; when you know yourself like that, the scary stuff loses its terror. Let your grief find a song to support it. Let your rage rock you hard. Do this in safety – use headphones (not earbuds please!) and a comfortable chair without distractions – and practice it often. Spend the rest of your life in wellness supported by music – a powerfully transformative way to do so.

Western science can’t touch this!

Once you know your own musical diversity more fully, take that skill with you into your life. Let your music animate what you do, how you speak, the way you think, what you feel, how you respond. The other 7.4 billion of us want to experience you this way. We’re tired of the same old boring you, flat-lined on the same old tunes every day. We aren’t interested in what music you like or don’t like and why. What we care about is how your music got into you and made you who you are.

You Are Who You Are – and That’s a Beautiful Thing

You are, I hope, much better than an all-carb dieter. So bring that diversity to your playlists. Many of us use music to get back to our “normal” – to transform the stress, depression or anxiety that erodes us. No prob. But fighting the “bad” feelings, or stuffing them under our powermusic, isn’t the same as letting them go. The beautiful, complex person you are deserves beautiful care and it’s in your hands to give it.

If you’re full of rage, you need to flush some of that before it leaks out and hurts somebody…maybe somebody you love. If you’re full of grief or fear, let that pain go before depression immobilizes you. Chronically happy people feel the “bad” stuff too – and locking it up under the disguise of a positive mental attitude isn’t a great long-term strategy for health and wellness. A single song for each of those four emotions can be your key to a more authentic experience of life, health and well-being.

What are Your Four Songs?

Do this now! For each of the four basic emotions, pick a song that helps you feel it fully:
Fear:   __________________
Anger: __________________
Grief:   __________________
Joy:      __________________

Those are your go-to songs for fully experiencing those feelings. Practice listening to them, even when you feel just a tiny bit scared, or angry, or sad or happy. See how they work for you. Change them as you explore new music and notice feeling in it. This is beyond science because it’s personal – it’s about you in a way no generalized research study could ever be, even if it sampled all 7.4 billion human beings alive today.

Are you ready for transformation? Contact me: I mentor music lovers like you for a living. You are right on the verge of the rest of your life: grab that opportunity now!

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