Otis Redding, Pharrell Williams and G-d.
I love music disproportionately.
Music cuts to my core and moves me faster and more effectively than any other kind of therapy, medicine or prayer that I know.
It could be a drum beat, a fiddle, a full symphony, or just a single voice – if that slice of music speaks to the particular cadence of my soul, then I’m in.
I’m all in.
There are people out there called “artists” who are born with a special kind of pulse. They learn to play with that pulse – to mix it – to strum it, bang and to sing with it. More important than the actual gift of that pulse are the labored steps these artists take to practice and develop their craft; to study the pulse; to explore it; and to produce something with enough power to enter even the hardest of hearts.
That’s holy work in my book.
My experience of music, in its purest form, is an expression of G-dliness; a meeting of this corporeal world to worlds beyond. Music bridges a gap between heaven and earth and helps me connect to places in my own heart and soul that I can’t always access on my own.
Sometimes I hear a song for the first time and I know that my life will be a little different now. That I learned something; that something in me has changed.
I remember the first time I heard Otis Redding’s voice, for instance.
Something in me shifted – like spiritual plate tectonics – and things that were hidden to me, were suddenly revealed. An understanding about myself and my place in the world developed; in particular, what it is to want and to need, and what it feels like to be heard. Often when I read psalms, it’s Otis’s voice I hear super-imposed on a young, red-haired King David’s lyric.
Neither my soul or psyche finds any contradiction in that.
My inner playlist hosts thousands of musical pieces that have done this great kindness for me; music that runs the gamut from folk to metal to jazz and a whole lot in between.
So, I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to the development of my own kid’s musical palates. The guiding message in our house is: “stick with the winners” (both with musical friends and actual friends). We listen to music that uplifts us and promotes positive vibrations, both Jewish and secular music alike.
There are many G-d fearing people that stay away from secular music all together. They recognize the inherent power of music and fear that their soul will co-mingle with elements and emotions they are uncomfortable with. With energies and ideas that don’t speak to their mission in this world.
I respect that.
But I also know this:
Elevation is a choice. Within the realm of what is permissible, (i.e. kosher, legal, moral and in accord with our core values) we have the ability to elevate and raise simple, ordinary things to a level of divine service.
We have the G-d given ability to take something mundane and make it holy.
In other words, listening to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams can help you serve G-d better.
It doesn’t have to, but it can.
I want to know what your inner soundtrack has done for you lately…
What’s on your playlist today and how are you better because of it?