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Music: Now Additive-Free

Music: Now Additive-Free


Positive thought, unlike the chemical remedies for malaise, is completely harmless. You can't get addicted to meditation or music. No one ever died from singing in church.  Today's New York Times, in a piece about music therapy, notes:

In general what has power to heal has potential to harm. In the case of music, the truism appears not to apply. Allegations of adverse reactions, addiction or overdoses, to cite some of the most serious dangers, are rare, and those that might be cited seem either flatly incredible or specious in the extreme. In Wagner’s time some predicted that “Tristan und Isolde” would drive people insane, but where were the mental cases? And in our time we hear of military interrogators administering music nonstop at deafening volume as a form of torture lite. But surely the torture lies in sleep deprivation, repetition and trauma to the inner ear, not in exposure to the music as such.

Music, in fact is a terrific way to tap into the brain's link with the body, creating good health through good will.  This particular technique is a little newer and less well-understood than meditation and prayer.  But it has just as long a history as those other techniques as a part of religious practice, whether or not its practitioners understood its scientific underpinnings.  Like drugs, musical religious experiences can be euphoric in the short term; unlike them, it is healthy in the long term.  Music ecstasy may be attached to musical performances that are non-religious.  But these experiences lack the institutional and ideological focus that religion provides, which can enhance the musical experience beyond the joyous and into the realm of a component of a legitimate life philosophy.

As noted, this type of ecstatic musical experience is often tied to religious practice, which is a source of potential harm. Wars of one faction against another, torture of nonbelievers, and hatred and persecution of deviants are only some of the terrible effects of religion. To the extent that music promotes traditional religion, it can be harmful.  An ideology that holds central disciplined positive thought but rejects theism, supernaturalism, and the phenomenon of revelation is not vulnerable to these horrible and divisive tendencies.  Such an ideology can make use of music risk free.

Emphasizing our evolutionary heritage has the opposite effect of religious division: we are encouraged to think of ourselves as part of a larger family, including all life on Earh, instead of a smaller tribe of believers within a hostile global population.  Because we are all part of the same family, torture cannot be justified by otherizing. Our natural sense of sympathy, which we feel for all members of our family for evolutionary reasons then extends to everyone, and all life.  We are not at risk for persecuting nonbelievers, because our imperatives are not derived from any divine source. Our approach is always open to revision, and so rather than squelched, opposition is welcomed as the road to discourse and progress. So when compared to either the vices we might choose to ease our existential pain, or the religions that pose as the only alternative, a secular third option is best.




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