Sing a lullaby to your inner monster: mythology & religion on the function of music as comfort.
Arts & humanities as a self-help tool Vol.III
In these blog series I share with you how arts & humanities are a therapeutic tool always available to us.
by Eleni Denephelis
My dear seekers of truth and beauty,
For the power of music, let’s flashback to Greek Mythology. According to the myth, Orpheus was renowned and celebrated for his music. The latter was exquisite and sublime, speaking both exoteric and esoteric lingo while sending humans and spirits alike early to the dance floor and late to bed. He waxed songs that won both souls and admiration from his arresting lyrics, but somehow fate brought his wife to the den of the gods. So, she was locked down in the Underworld.
Orpheus, ever mesmerizing and entertaining, embarked on a solitary journey to bring back his wife. However, he first faced Cerberus, the hound of the God of the world of the dead, Hades. This multiheaded dog's job was to guard the Underworld's gates to prevent the dead from leaving. Remarkably, before Orpheus could reach Cerberus, his music was already ahead of him, for the melodies had deadened the severe and uncompromising Cerberus. The tunes nudged him into opening the gates for Orpheus before he could even ask, and the rest triggered the arrival of Orpheus and his wife. If not for the music, trying to convince Cerberus would have been nothing less than impossible, except he had possessed nothing less than omnipotence, and even at that, it would still require some effort. The truth wrapped in this myth is the inherent power of music to comfort and calm us, to turn our inner multiheaded monsters into kind-hearted beings.
Music, a cultural mood of understanding and expression, speaks to our innate and intimate parts. It opens the inscrutable and somewhat unreachable depth of our existence. It’s even a common saying in the Christian tradition that music is the most crucial thing pleasing to God. On His throne, countless angels sing to him in praise. When the issue at hand takes the turn for derision and dejection, music can elevate our moods for good. Like literature, music is mostly about people's experiences, who might have shared or witnessed more awful things than we could have done. Music feeds the innate desire. Through its far reaches, the mind's burdens could be lightened or be embraced, or overcome.
The truth wrapped in this myth is the inherent power of music to comfort and calm us, to turn our inner multiheaded monsters into kind-hearted beings.
There’s a deep burden that comes with sorrow and pain; it leaves a huge gap that is often difficult to plug if the right cord is not struck. Music, in its subtlety, but manifestly ennobling, power can fill that gap. A child can fall asleep by a lullaby and, as a teenager, can fall in love with a serenade. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, while Juliet was mournful with the existing mortal feud between her family and Romeo, she brooks all hindrances and pain to embrace Romeo. Romeo's overture in the form of late evening serenade had pierced her being and gripped her heart. She saw love in everything; thus, what had been a lasting feud got solved—the power of music or song.
Yes, for the power of music, let’s unfold a Hebrew myth. In Jerusalem, Saul was the Hebrew king of ancient Israel, and he had problems that only music from the young David could cure. The resonant sounds from his harp carried deep into King Saul, that he got attuned each time and then got himself whole. Were there no doctors and healers around King Saul? Perhaps, only a few or none will argue to support a claim that a high-profile King like Saul never had an array of doctors and healers, let alone not having any. Sound is the most important thing here, the lyrics even misinterpreted, but the melody or tone is a universal language. That explains why a child will become ecstatic from a lullaby even when he or she hasn’t fully understood the meaning.
Like literature, music is mostly about people's experiences, who might have shared or witnessed more awful things than we could have done. Music feeds the innate desire.
Like it did for Orpheus and King Saul, music can help one understand and explore one’s inner interest and appeal. Likewise, whatever unbecoming and challenging situation you’re witnessing, you can always explore the cultural tools available to you and derive hope and inner balance consciously -the latter is a game-changer. We’ll come back to it on a future blog post. Finding inner balance, what I call the unconflicted soul, rather often quickens healing and recovery. Your ideal, just like most people, is to live a fulfilled and peaceful life. And if it’s taking time to come, you still deserve the best in your gloomy nights. You can remain alone -since most friends or colleagues may not be useful -and explore these high cultures to gain contentment, peace, and pleasure.
Moreover, you get to understand your innermost expectations, more at quiet times, since you can listen to your emotions. Even in your pain, there’s something alluring that can encourage you. The important thing here is to identify which artistic medium brings to you more esoteric balance.
Your ideal, just like most people, is to live a fulfilled and peaceful life. And if it’s taking time to come, you still deserve the best in your gloomy nights.
It’s no news that society is moving on a fast lane, and so hardly has time for people nursing difficulties. Most people struggling with some deep-rooted pains that would have necessitated encouragement have been left in their far-removed world pending when they’ll be fine again to settle back into society. And this façade, occasioned by the modern world of impatience, has kept more people mournful and sorrowful than it would have been possible. The sense of community and commonality is increasingly getting complicated, but you can create it within the immediate environment, nature, and, obviously, works of art. I found it at the Louvre Museum in that statue. I find it in front of every Virgin Mary statue I’ve ever encountered and in Leonard Cohen’s refrains. When hardships have accomplished their transformative role -generating growth- then we can lastly express our thanks to Our Lady of Solitude.
“And her dress was blue and silver And her words were few and small She is the vessel of the whole wide world Mistress, oh mistress, of us all
Dearly dead; Queen of Solitude I thank you with my heart…”
-Leonard Cohen, Our Lady of Solitude
As Claude Debussy famously said, “Music is the silence between the notes.” It seems that we should embrace our silence first to listen to the music.