Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Christmas Cherry in Music

This time of year, the music of Christmas fills the air - in malls, on TV, in concerts and elevators.  After all " 'tis the season to be jolly! ".  For me, since the music is an integral part of the season and, therefore, I was raised with it, so the sounds bring back memories of Christmas past.  Today, my wife and I attended a Christmas concert at OU that was delightful and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  There were even sing-alongs of some of the religious songs, with which I gladly joined.  I still remember the words to those songs (for the most part) after all these years.  What fun - I even had to wipe some tears from my eyes at times!  Music is something that can touch any living person, needs no translation, and allows the spirit to soar -  your voice breaks and your heart fills your chest.  Tears can flow, chills can run up your spine, and you are carried to places where the only thing that matters is that moment.  You lose your "self" in such moments.  That someone could compose music centuries ago that still has the ability to affect us so deeply means that some cord of commonality exists between us and that composer - who may be long dead but is still capable of communication with us! 

Some might see the combination of my forthright atheism and Christmas songs to be somewhat confusing.  In my view of things, the music is beautiful beyond question and the memories are mostly wonderful.  If you find it bothersome that I can enjoy Christmas music, then I say you're the one with a problem, not me.  I don't feel any hesitation or embarrassment in saying that I enjoy Christmas music.

What I find sad and disappointing is the extent to which many fail to live up the the lofty ideals within those Christmas songs - except perhaps for the few weeks when Christmas is looming on the horizon.  It's also the case that many people - usually those experiencing misfortunes of one sort or another - may find Christmas to be a miserable time.  The happiness surrounding them can be depressing.

That many christians "cherry-pick" their bibles is something I've noted in some of my atheist polemics:  Christians select those passages that reflect their personal views, even as they rationalize away (or ignore) passages that don't match those views.   This tactic is convenient for accommodating some of the nasty bits of biblical scripture, as I've pointed out.  But I have no big problem with someone who chooses to follow this path - after all, religion ultimately is a very personal thing and not everyone adheres to precisely the same dogma as everyone else, despite millennia of attempts by organized religious denominations to get everyone on the same page, at times using violent methods.  All I ask is that the cherry-pickers acknowledge what they're doing.  In America, this sort of individual selection of religious elements is rampant - Americans are notoriously difficult to get to march in lockstep - one of our positive traits in my book!  Every believer has their own personal spin on their spiritual beliefs.

If religious believers can cherry-pick their scriptures, it seems perfectly acceptable for me to cherry-pick the aspects of religion I prefer:  the music, the art, the devotion to charity for the disadvantaged, the call to love one's enemies, and so forth.  I see nothing wrong or hypocritical about that and nowhere is it in conflict with my atheist morality.  [Yes, atheists can be moral without the need for a deity and the scriptures associated with that deity!]  I choose to reject all the supernatural mumbo-jumbo as metaphorical at best and certainly don't see those scriptures as inspired by some all-everything deity.  The basic tenets of religious faith I reject as irrational, contradictory, and even potentially harmful.  But religion has, beyond doubt, inspired many of the world's artists to contribute their finest works.  Let anyone hearing Handel's Messiah tell me they aren't buoyed to great emotional heights by the power of that work!  Not coincidentally, this afternoon's concert concluded with the Hallelujah! Chorus at the end of Handel's Messiah.  During my junior year in high school, our Christmas concert concluded with that same piece and it was an emotional volcano to be a part of the combined choirs as we belted out that joyful emotion embodied in song.  You would have to be a dead soul not to find that inspirational, even when you're an atheist!

The power of music to reach into our psyche is not rational.  There's no logic to support that.  It's beyond reason but, rather, touches something deep in our DNA.  Most people are vulnerable to its power even if they, like me, have little or no talent for making music themselves.  Music, in my opinion, is a great gift of our existence.  That I have children who are musically-inclined is a great joy to me.  And I love Christmas music.  Anyone who has a problem with that can go eat shit.

1 comment:

Vickie Doswell said...

Too true! I loved the concert and supper! The music was very uplifting.