The Songs We Sing…

The songs we sing help build our souls. The soul can be thought of as the bedrock sense of self, the way we see our own being and its place in the Universe. Soul, the sense of self, ultimately informs our personal values. It directs behavior toward others and to the world around us. The songs we hear and sing feed this sense of self.

As I was dressing this morning, the song Look for the Silver Lining ran through my thoughts. I recognized it as a canonic song of my youth, exhorting me to view the world in its most positive light, regardless of difficulties. For a child born during the Depression and raised during WWII, this song captured the optimism that followed those two difficult periods in our nation’s history. At the time, few of us in the U.S. realized how much worse the devastation and deprivation had been in Europe and Asia.

As the song was scrolling through my mind, I wondered about songs young people are hearing now, and what effects those soul-builders will have on the long-term relationships of youth to one another, to their culture, and to the world as a whole. I don’t listen to much contemporary youth music (my grandchildren are not yet teenagers), but I’ve heard snippets of gangsta rap and heavy metal. I recently listened to damagingly loud and raucous music played at the wedding of some young friends, and I wondered how they could think and be at peace with themselves surrounded by such screaming clatter.

Another song I’ve sung often to myself, particularly while abroad, and most especially during two years living in Korea, was Tis the Gift to be Simple… This song somehow seemed to make doing without a pleasure, rather than a trial, in a culture with less abundance than mine.

Many songs drift through my mind, apparently at random. When my children were young, they used to watch the Mickey Mouse Club on TV. One day at work (as a cell biologist) I was examining cells with the electron microscope. Surrounded by complete darkness, except for a small fluorescent screen beneath binoculars I was peering through, I begain humming the refrain, Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me? M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E. I simply had to laugh out loud. To think that this song had become so embedded in my psyche that I’d sing it to myself even while performing serious scientific observations! Perhaps I was having fun, and that was reflected in the song I sang to myself, there, alone in the dark.

Churches have always known the value of songs and chants—based on the poetry of religious liturgy—to create an internal and collective sense of self. We bind to one another and to a collective mythology and consciousness by the words we recite and the songs we sing when we’re young. Songs and poetry are much more powerful than prose, and they are more readily remembered. The music, the rhyme and rhythm, create a memory flow more easily retrieved than simple didactic sentences.

Even yet, Greeks find a great sense of identity in the poetry of the Iliad and Odyssey, and Hebrew-speaking people still thrill at the poetic content of the Torah. Hindus still recite ancient Vedic texts during worship. And for Muslims, the Koran is probably as beautiful for poetry as it is sensible as text. Indeed, the poetic form of any idea tends to be viewed as inspired – delivered to the poet by some larger spirit or muse.

The songs we hear and the stories we read, watch, and listen to, all contribute to our personality, and they help craft who we are at our deepest level, our soul. It’s important to choose carefully what we use as food for the soul, just as we would wisely choose food for the body.

About joannevalentinesimson

Scientist, traveler, woman, writer, spiritual explorer, mother, grandmother, fascinated with the world, appalled by deliberate human ignorance. Blogs include:
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5 Responses to The Songs We Sing…

  1. Mary says:

    As someone who grew up listening to music constantly, I am amazed how songs and even commercials from the past can pop up without any effort on my part. The bible talks about meditating on the Word, which means to mutter or speak out loud. The purpose is to reinforce God’s principles into our brains to retrain our thinking. What we here repeatedly in the music we listen to, and sing along with, does the same thing. In an age of songs that promote violence, hatred and bad behavior, why are we surprised at people’s actions.
    Great post and enjoyed reading it, look forward to seeing more.

    • Thanks, Mary. You’re right, it all matters, what we’re bombarded with – even the commercials. (I try to mute them on TV when they come on!)

      • Mary says:

        We have Direct TV and record most of what we watch, so I completely bypass them. When I do watch live TV, I will talk back to them and counter act the words. If it is something that talks about people getting sick, I’ll say, “Not in my house”, or, “I’m not getting that”. I don’t have to accept their pronouncement and believe their words.

  2. I love this: “Surrounded by complete darkness, except for a small fluorescent screen beneath binoculars I was peering through, I began humming the refrain, Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me? M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E…. Perhaps I was having fun, and that was reflected in the song I sang to myself, there, alone in the dark.”

    I fully believe you were having fun–and your soul knew it. That makes me smile.

    Lately, I’ve been de-cluttering and trying to live a simpler life, and that includes what I listen to and watch. Every once in a while I’ll listen to more “rambunctious” music, jump around with my kiddos, and enjoy those moments with them. But all in all, I want my essence to be soothing, calm, and at peace. Too much out there today is full of darkness and sadness. I want to be a light in that darkness and joy to those heavy-laden with sorrow.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Blessings to you,

    P.S. – Thanks for stopping by my blog. You’re welcome any time. :)

  3. cabrogal says:

    I hit adolescence in the mid-70s, so I embraced punk rock.
    I wonder if that’s why the philosophy of Buddhism has so much appeal to me.

    “There’s a problem and the problem is YOU!” – Rinpoche Johnny Rotten

    But it must be my exposure to death metal that explains my attitude to the Mickey Mouse Club theme. ;)

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