Music as Spirituality
Jeff Tweedy, lead singer of the band Wilco, sings on the nineties indie anthem “Sunken Treasure” that music is his savior.
Looking back on my first recollection of something infinite, I think back to my father’s record collection. Dad had crates of records that seemed to be never-ending. Not just records, but in between each groove another story. These records were symbolic of what the spiritual life might actually be. Our experiences were perhaps, not one and done, but something that could be played over, and each time, if you listened carefully, often with more wisdom than before, couldn’t you hear something brand new?
The songs on an album didn’t teach statistical information, like the subjects in school. They sounded like they could be about me, and prepared me for wisdom. I learned about what romance was like, what loss was like, what standing up for what you believe in is like, and what it’s like to feel cool. In my life, music was the best medium to prepare me for those experiences.
In his “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman speaks of the child who pulls a handful of grass from the ground. The speaker asks the child what he is holding. Whitman admits to himself that he knows no more than the boy might. The grass is a metaphor for life; it cannot be fully known or explained, it must be experienced. Just like a record, you can’t show it to Dad and ask him what it is; he has to play it for you, and you yourself must come to know the music.
At the heart of Dad’s collection were his Beatles records, which alone seemed never-ending—The U.K. and U.S. versions, the bootlegs and 45’s, and the solo stuff too. These were the most praised and revered.
Music became a sort of spirituality for me because it was expansive and to fully grasp it required devotion. It expressed love, hope, fear, included birth and death, and repeated listenings offered the opportunity to be inducted into life’s most important undertakings. When participated in with equanimity, music is not unlike a religious ritual; transformational and putting one into contact with what is most sacred in life.
John Lennon got in trouble for saying that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, but was he wrong? No offense to Jesus, but could Lennon’s comment be a statement that rock and roll was starting to overtake religion as the central way in which people were sorting out the questions of life, morality, and love?
Commandment 1– Can’t Buy Me Love
Commandment 2– Think For Yourself
Commandment 3– Tomorrow Never Knows
Commandment 4– Nothing is Real and Nothing to Get Hung About
Commandment 5– All You Need is Love
Commandment 6– Don’t You Know it’s Gonna be Alright
Commandment 7– Ob-la-Di Ob-la-Da Life Goes On
Commandment 8– Come Together
Commandment 9– Let it Be
Commandment 10– And in the End the Love You Take is Equal to the Love You Make
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