Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. -Psalm 98:4
Dear members & friends of the SF Swedenborgian Church,
Music is an important part of human life and regardless of individual preferences, it has a profound effect on us all. Perhaps this is because we experience music not just with our ears, but with our whole body. Music is sound created by a wave. Thus, when we listen to music, the waves don’t just hit our ear drums, but our whole body. And since sound waves travel more quickly through water than air, and our bodies are 70-percent water, there could arguably be a greater influence of music directly upon our physical body than through the cognitive and emotional processing of our brain.
The first musical instrument might have been human voice itself. After that, the oldest man-made musical instrument, which is known as Neanderthal hyoid bone, is as old as 60,000 years old. Guessing why those early humans developed musical instrument is not a hard one: listening to a piece of music is comforting, soothing, and delightful to us. That is why all world religions and many ancient rituals include at least some kind of music in their important ceremonies. The power of music was long ago acknowledged by the ancients, and has been well-used for inspirational and soothing purposes since then.
The Bible, especially Psalms, is full of descriptions like, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord!” When I read this for the first time, I thought to myself, “Perhaps, God also loves music.” Then, the next time, I thought to myself, “Perhaps, God is encouraging humans to be joyful by making joyful music.” Later, another thought came to me, “Making a joyful sound itself is a very good thing for the human spirit.” I am one of those born with almost zero musical talent, but I still remember my joy when I first learned to play a recorder; the first and last musical instrument I would even play! Of course, my joy only lasted just a few days until the music teacher told me that my playing was simply unpleasant. Nevertheless, I can imagine how joyful it must feel to produce wonderful sounds that inspire, comfort, and delight all who hear them!
If you are like me and were not born with musical talent, do not give up yet! You can still make a joyful sound to God with the best and most effective musical instrument that you are born with: your mind. As I have said above, music as sound is a kind of wave, and so are your thoughts and feeling (more precisely, the influences of your feeling and thoughts on your brain). Every thought you meditate and every feeling you reflect influences your brain to create a kind of wave, which might influence your whole body. In a very simple way, you could live a happier life by creating more positive brainwaves by choosing positive thoughts and feelings. Arguably, the teaching of God in this ancient book, Psalms, is full of such wisdom, “if you were to be happy and spiritually healthy, choose positive thoughts and feelings, and create positive inner waves within and around you.”
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee