Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sad Songs Say So Much

One of the first things that attracted me to my husband was his deep and abiding love of music. 

Everyone out there that happens to be currently single and looking for love, whether they know it or not, walks around with a list in their head of qualities desireable in their perfect mate.  Some of these qualities are flexible and adaptable, and merely wisps of a half-formed idea, just waiting to be fleshed out at a later date, like:  'He should have dark hair,' or 'He should love to travel.'  And then some of the items on our personal little Soul Mate Inventory Checklist are hard and fast and unchanging.  The Deal-Breakers.  The absolutely-gotta-have-it qualities that you just aren't capable of budging on.  For me, the two biggest Deal-Breaker qualities were always:

1.)  Awesome sense of humor

2.)  Love of music

(Luckily for me, the dark-haired guy I fell so hard for had both of these qualities.  In spades.  =)

For quite literally as long as I can remember, I have loved music.  And, if you watched as many cartoons as I did growing up, you too are acquainted with a few widely-accepted cartoon truths.  The greatest of these being:

1.)  If you inadvertently walk off the edge of a cliff, you will remain suspended in mid-air for several long moments before falling. 
2.)  Upon plummeting to the ground after walking off the edge of said cliff, you will create a little cloud of dust when you collide with the earth.  And, as unlikely as it seems, you will survive.
3.)  If you are ever being chased by a ravenous wolf, a furious grizzly bear, or even a dragon, the best way to react is to calmly pull a flute from your pocket and begin playing.  The beasts will either fall asleep, or instantly become docile, allowing you ample time to escape.

And so it is that at a very early age, we all learn this to be true:  Music calms the savage beast.  And it's a good thing, too, because truly, what beast alive is more capable of savagery than man?

But when you get down to the WHY is this true. . . well, that's the part that fascinates me.

Music has the power to make us smile, make us cry, or even transport us to another time.  And why is that?  Why do we like certain sounds placed together?  Why is it that when we love a piece of music, we respond so instinctively to it?  Why do certain chords, certain notes, certain tones, repeated in succession with a melody have the power to affect us so deeply, time and time again?  It is a uniquely human bit of magic that we've been experimenting with, and expressing ourselves with, for thousands of years.  And to me it is still every bit as mysterious and magical as it seemed when I was 8 years old and listening to my first radio, and pondering over the fact that some songs just made me happy  =)  And I decided right then that no matter what else I did with my life, music would always have to be a part of it.

Aside from love, pure-deep-unwavering-and-true love, I believe that music is the closest we come to touching the divinity that lies within us all.  And not only does music allow us to experience that divinity, that exceedingly good and pure face of ourselves, I think it allows us to ignite it.  To expand upon a certain form of grace until it is bigger than ourselves.  It is a form of prayer, to ourselves and to others, that we can't help but share.  A meditation between our soul and the world, and an expression of what we find.

It is, if you look at it deeply enough and with a proper sense of wonder, one of the purest forms of religion imagineable.  Unscarred and whole.  And with the power to redeem and elevate us all.  And in my life---It is sacred.  So I knew that the person meant for me would feel the same way, and that together we would make a home where, every bit as necessary as laughter or forgiveness, music lived and was loved.

(And I'm happy to report that I believe we've accomplished this =)

And while it's true that, as an art form, music is simply a means of human expression and, as such, there is no 'wrong' expression. . . I would still like to state my dissatisfaction with sad songs. 

(You might have gathered by this point in my little tirade that I take music rather seriously.  You might also assume that I feel fairly stongly about the subject of 'sad' songs.  . . .You would be correct on both counts.)

My husband has a friend who is a professional musician, and he has one of the most gorgeous, lilting, stop-you-in-your-tracks voices that I have ever heard.  Honestly---it is angelic and amazing.  And every once in a while Michael will find a video of him singing a new song and share it with me. . . and I have gotten to the point where I almost can't stand to listen to him sing, because every time I do he makes me want to jump off a building.

Again, as a disclaimer, I will say that yes--sad songs do have their purpose, and I am not entirely against them in theory.  However.  You simply cannot make that ALL you write, and here is why:

It's too easy.

Speaking as someone who has been writing down (for the purpose of venting) her most self-absorbed, hateful, and whiny thoughts into journals since about the age of 8, I just have to say that writing sad stuff is just too easy.  It doesn't really take that much effort.  It makes me think of the inscription on the locket that Pollyanna wore around her neck (and I am paraphrasing here):  If you look for the evil in man, you will surely find it.

We're all only as good as what we choose to focus our energies and our attention on.  So why choose for that to be misery?

At various points in my life, I have experienced seasons of great sadness.  Acute grief.  And I will admit that in some of those seasons, I chose to wallow in it.  And, being me, I wrote about it constantly.  And do you know what I discovered?

It is not sustainable.

The grief, the sorrow, the hopelessness. . . you can wallow in it for a while, if you so choose.  But after a certain period of time, your soul just grows weary of weariness.  Like a tender little flower arching its back to get closer to the sun, I believe we as people naturally ache for sunshine too.  And after a while, no matter how sad you were, or how completely hopeless a situation was. . . there is something inside us that starts straining toward the sunshine again.

And I find that VERY comforting.  =)

So I don't want to focus on the sad songs any more than I want to watch that Sarah MacLaughlin commercial with all the poor little sad puppies.  More than that, I don't want the writers of the sad songs to focus on them either. . .  The world has enough sorrow as it is.  You want a challenge?  Write something happy.  Write something that inspires.  Write something that gives people hope.  THAT'S difficult.

And, in my opinion, divine.