Music has saved me so many times.
Not long ago, I wrote a short story about a 12-year-old girl who was sad and lonely. She didn’t know what was what in her life, and she had already been through several heartbreaks. But she put on her Walkman and pressed Play, and the woman’s voice that sang in her ear told her she was not alone in her struggle. And at least for a little bit, she felt okay.
Some of us don’t have God in our lives, and we don’t grow up with the best models of love. But a good, heartfelt song takes us out of our pain and shows us a puzzle piece of the divine.
Musicians are our sages. Wisdom does not always come from priests, or pastors, or political leaders. But luckily, we can be lifted into the sublime when our hearts stir with the strum of a guitar or the keys of a piano. To escape and also be home, to touch the skirt of heaven, we don’t have to go to India or the Himalayas and pray for a thousand years.
All we have to do is listen to a good song.
Whatever makes your body sway, whatever makes your hips flow, is a good, good thing. Don’t the birds call to us all the time? Don’t the trees dance?
When we were teenagers, my friend Kelly and I sat on her bedroom floor and we listened to 10,000 Maniacs, and we listened to Nirvana, and we listened to Tori Amos and Toad the Wet Sprocket and the Gin Blossoms. And all the passion we felt, all the confusion, all the weirdness of life, was not ours alone.
When I drove alone on back roads at night in south Jersey, heading to my job or home from a friend’s house, I sang along to the tapes I’d mixed myself, my closest route to God.
In college, my friends and I walked to the record store and flipped through the CDs, deciding weekly on one or two we would make our own. I looked for songs I wanted to play on my radio show, or albums I could blast from my stereo speakers while a bunch of us sat in the hall, talking and avoiding homework. Those paper books of lyrics, those round discs…those were our wine and our bread.
Why have we stopped lying on our backs and letting the songs fill us? Why are we so busy as adults we think we can’t just sit and listen?
I don’t know about you, but the biggest struggle I’ve had in this life is feeling, from the beginning, as though I was alone. And it’s the truth, mostly. No one can live my life for me. Regardless of how I view it, my decisions are mine, and I’m the one that has to deal with every consequence, big or small. My life is my creation, each moment of every day. I choose and I choose and I choose it. And that can be overwhelming. Because none of us, at root, wants to be in it alone. We are not made to live that way.
Music probably does a better job than anything else of showing us we’re saved. We’re part of everything. We always were.
I’ve long had a practice of making people music mixes. It’s not as special as it used to be—me sitting on the floor of my bedroom listening and pausing songs, rewinding and forwarding tapes or CDs, cutting out little postcards as album covers. But even with digital music, a good mix can go a long way. So here’s one for you: a Janarama special for June.
Choose your venue.
Image: “Old Europe Radio” by Ian Kennedy via Flickr