Lesson 32- Summary and Conclusions [part 4]
I ended my last program with a song by Randy Travis entitled “Points of Lights” that is just one of the negentropic songs that I love to collect. I think that we greatly underrate the impact that music has on us and others, especially our children. Plato said that music was the most powerful instrument for training the human soul because different types contained different spirits that invaded our beings unimpeded. Thus, there is music that is gentle, peaceful, loving and uplifting and other that is wild, raucous, bombastic, and degrading. In other words, if there is music that is negentropic that inspires us to seek that which is higher in our natures, there is also entropic music that pulls us towards that which is lower. The music alone, because it reflects a mood or spirit, is powerful enough but when lyrics are added that carry a specific message, then that which was subtle and subconscious becomes explicit and conscious thereby increasing its total impact. The philosopher Schopenhauer once said that all Art was a reflection of God but music was God. Or perhaps, we should say music was “a god.” What else should we conclude when we witness a stadium filled with tens of thousand of people swaying in unison with their hands raised, their faces expressing a desire to be in total union with the source of the music. Any objective observer would have to conclude, like Plato, that we were witnessing the most powerful device for capturing the human soul and uniting people.
The Black Community was right when it dubbed the music that united them culturally as Soul Music but they were wrong, if by this they meant that it alone appealed to the human soul. All cultures contain a Soul Music that unites them and, at the same time, separates them spiritually and culturally from other groups. I witnessed this personally when my Polish father-in-law heard a polka, my Puerto Rican mother-in-law heard the Spanish guitars and my Irish relatives heard a jig. All of these different musical expressions in the past sprung spontaneously from the soul of the people and were rightly dubbed “folk music.” However, in more recent times, music, like so many other things that were natural and spontaneous, became commercialized and was manipulated by those whose primary motivation was profit.
The result was that music that once united parents and children and other members of the community with a common spirit, now divided them into separate and often contending groups. Parents began to discover that, although their children were an extension of their genes, through the music they listened to, the children were becoming an extension of somebody else’s spirit. And that which should have united them as a family was now dividing them. And not only the family. Music was dividing the community as different groups of people separated themselves spiritually from other groups through the music they shared. There wasn’t just a “generation gap” between parents and child, but an “inter-generation gap” as the music, with its rapid stylistic changes, separated siblings who were only a few years apart. And, if Plato is right about the spiritual dimension of music, then we may be witnessing the beginning of something with serious spiritual consequences.
Jesus, in Luke 12:51-53, said, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace in the earth? No, I say to you, but rather division. For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided; three shall be divided against two, and two against three: father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
And “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” has a line which states:
“He, (meaning God), has sounded forth a trumpet that will never call retreat
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seats…”
Is it possible that we are viewing the beginning of a great division between the “sheep and the goat”, the “wheat and the weeds”, the “saved and the damned” and the competing styles of music are playing a major role in dividing one group from another? And, if this is true, then many of us sit idly by as those who are nearest and dearest to us, our children, are pulled into the army of entropic forces through the spirit of the their music. At the very least, it’s a great gamble that may have eternal consequences.
And, yet, we act like the type of music that we or our children listen to is of no great consequence. Scientists tell us that there are two types of bacterium: those that enter our body and perform useful tasks, like those in our bowels that digest cellulose, that helps us to survive and those that threaten our health and life. If we viewed music as an invasion of our spirits comparable to the invasion of our bodies by bacterium, we would be a lot more careful to what we and our children listened and would even consciously promote that which led to spiritual health and life while resisting that which promoted spiritual sickness and death. Thus, a major question for both us and our children is “what is the spirit of the music to which we listen?” Does it uplift our souls or does it drag us down into what is lowest in our nature?
It’s a question that my wife and I seriously considered while our children were growing up and we made a conscious decision to expose them to our music, which was negentropic in nature, and to deter them from other music, that was entropic. Music was a constant part of their environment and when we went on trips, they were not allowed to have a Walkman that allowed them to enter a separate musical world of their choosing. Rather, the whole family listened to the same music that we played on our tape player. It wasn’t religious music. It was just good music and today it continues to be the music that they like and choose for themselves. In fact, my oldest grandchild, who is seventeen, dislikes the music of most of his peers and loves a lot of modern Christian music and artists like Josh Grobin, John Denver, Randy Travis, Celene Dion, the Irish Rovers, and much of the music from the 40’s and 50’s. This suggests that we come to love the music to which we are exposed and if parents expose their children to the wrong music or are neutral about their listening habits, they have exposed or surrendered them to one of the most powerful forces in shaping their spirits.
Like all Art, music is aimed at the nonverbal right hemisphere of the brain and, because of this, it enters our being without any check or resistance. There was an experiment conducted by brain researchers in which electrodes were used to measure brain activity when a sound was introduced first to one ear and then the other. When the sound was introduced into the left ear that is connected to the artistic, intuitive, right hemisphere of the brain, the impulse was registered immediately in the brain waves on the scope, indicating immediate acceptance by the brain. When the same sound was introduced into the right ear that was connected to the logical, verbal left hemisphere of the brain, there was a delay before it registered in the wave patterns of his brain. It appears that the left hemisphere, the source of logic and possibly morality, evaluates input before acceptance while the artistic, intuitive, right hemisphere does not. What this suggest that the artistic right hemisphere of the brain, because it is nonjudgmental, is the royal path through which great goodness of evil can be introduced into our being without any moral consideration. If this is true, then Plato’s observation seems to be true and we make a great mistake when we treat Art in general and music in particular as mere entertainment that has no great consequences on us. We also make a great mistake when we fail to realize the bonding power that music has in the creation of a sense of community, witness, for example, the power Black spirituals have in bonding different generations with their ancestral roots. Anyone who has ever attended the services at a Black church, as I have, has witnessed the spiritual power of music in uniting a community. And, unfortunately, any one who has attended some of our Catholic Masses has witnessed the lack of that spirit because of the silence of those who choose not to sing. Any community, such as a parish community, needs to use the power of music to foster a common spirit. St. Augustine said, “He who sings, prays twice.” And it has been my sad experience that some uninvolved people at Mass fail to pray even once.
My focus in recent programs has been on how to create, develop, and preserve the sense of community in the Catholic parish structure since I believe that it is an answer to the problems that now face us. And, if music truly has the power of training our souls by the spirit contained therein, and if is also has the power of uniting and bonding those of similar spirit, then we should add it to the list of those things that are necessary in creating a “parish community.” It is only when this sense of unity exists on the non-verbal, subconscious level, that we will have the inclination to venture into some of the practical applications that naturally flow from people who are united around a common goal.
So far, I have talked about “self-taxation” thorough tithing, creating and supporting Church related agencies, like the Knights of Columbus insurance programs, using our schools to imbue our students with the challenge and vision of being Gentle Revolutions who are called to be a light unto the world and the creation of “rites of passage” that are designed to move our young people, especially our young boys, earlier and more clearly from childhood to adulthood. Our present practices often confuse and delay the natural transition that ought to take place by unnecessarily widening the gap between biological and social maturity. Behavior often follows expectation and, it has been my experience that young people will strive to match expectation if it is clear, consistent, and commonly accepted and supported by the community. Therefore, it is important to have mentoring groups who clearly define the expectations and models them for the young.
I know a group of young Catholic men who in order to break their own addiction to pornography formed a ministry known as “The Kings Men.” Not only do they meet weekly at various sites to support, encourage, and hold each other accountable, they also carry the battle to the rest of society by demonstrating against “porn shops” and other sources that degrade sexuality. Recently, they began to sponsor “Into the Wild” trip where nearly 100 young men camp out for a weekend to share their faith and develop their sense of manhood. For many of them, it was the lack of mentoring by their fathers, either because he was missing physically from their lives through divorce, desertion, or death or, even though he was present, he failed to understand his fatherly role as a model or shaper of his son’s sense of manhood. Or in a growing number of cases, he modeled the wrong concept of manhood.
There is a growing crisis in our nation that once was mostly identified with the Black community where, for various reasons, the “missing father” left the burden of raising the children on the mother. We used to call this a “broken family” to indicate that it was abnormal and undesirable. Now it has grown and spread throughout the society to such a degree that we have removed the stigma by renaming it “the single parent family, usually indicating a missing father and an overburdened mother.
To be sure, there are some strong and heroic women who, by themselves, manage to raise both their sons and daughters to be strong, healthy, and productive citizens. But in too many cases, her control breaks down when the children reach puberty and the rush of hormones and desire for independence challenge her authority and tax her strength. This is particularly true when it comes to handling sons who are now larger and stronger than she is. This is when she most needs the help and strength of their father, who, in an increasing number of instances, is a minor or missing influence in the family.
It’s tough enough today to get them through this turbulent period with two parents working together. Even under normal circumstances this would tax the strength and endurance of any parents. But today all families have the added problem of a culture gone wild with irresponsible freedom where some of the leading and most powerful cultural forces, such as the media, entertainment, and the schools, are actually undermining the values that parents are expected to impart to their children for the survival of the society.
It really is true that “it takes a village to raise a child” or, in our modern urban neighborhoods, “it takes a community”, with explicit and shared values, to create an environment that molds and pressures its youth to act in conformity with community standards. But, the sense of such a community has been greatly weakened or destroyed as, for reasons previously described, we rush towards an “atomistic existence” where each individual has become a world and standard unto himself. The result is that many children, lacking proper parental guidance, are set adrift in a “sea of confusion” and are forced to seek their security in the values and attitudes of their peers who are being shaped by the gurus on MTV, Planned Parenthood, liberal teachers, and a secular society dedicated to minimizing or eliminating the influence of religion.
In the Bible it says that the Hebrew people drifted away from their covenant relationship with God when each person began to act according to his own will. In other words, the “common unity” or “community” began to disintegrate and that is why the restoration of the “parish community” is the key to the solution of many of our current problems. This is particularly true in the need to mentor our children from childhood into adulthood and, even more so, our young boys into manhood.
According to some naturalist, there is nothing more dangerous than half grown males in those species that live in social groups. A few years ago, it was reported that there was a group of what might be termed “teenage” male elephants that were creating havoc in an animal preserve in Africa. They went on destructive rampages and nothing or no one seemed to be able to control them. That is, until the game wardens introduced a large male, bull elephant who quickly brought them under control. In nature this is known as the “law of dominance” and anyone who has seen Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer”, who people hire to bring unruly pet dogs under control, knows that the secret is to establish yourself as the “Alpha Male or Person” in the dogs mind. In other words, to control them according to the natural laws of dominance. That is how order is brought about in the natural world. The same seems to be true of ourselves. Until we become fully rational beings operating according to understanding and truth, we are very much like the rest of the animal kingdom, and the younger and more immature we are the truer this is. And although, as parents, we hope for that day when reason and understanding take the place of law and compulsion, much as God in the Old Testament yearned for the same thing with the Hebrew people and Humankind in general, we are stuck with this lesser technique until the greater is accomplished. In short, the younger we are the more we are shaped by outside pressures and if the community doesn’t establish pressures for positive behavior, our youth will be shaped by negative pressures. That is why I see the King’s Men’s program, “Into the Wild”, as a step in the right direction that is needed to correct the loss of those natural mechanisms and forces used by more primitive societies to shape and direct their young men. Young men need older men to guide them into proper manhood and it shouldn’t be happenstance. It should become an established and institutionalized part of the community; a sort of “rites of passage” to mark their transition from boyhood to manhood. I plan to take my oldest grandson on their next excursion.
There are other programs, such as the Boy Scouts, that sponsor similar events but what makes this special is that it is Catholic in nature and focuses on moral courage and growth and not just the physical aspects. Our young men need a call to battle that invites them to be warriors in the Cultural War where the enemy is not just “flesh and blood” but, as St. Paul says in Ephesians6:12
“… against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
As I said, this can’t be happenstance. It should be a “required event” for every young man who wants to become an accepted member of the community and share in its benefits. It should begin with our schools become more focused on preparing our young people for spiritual warfare by catechizing them better in the faith. It seems to me that the major focus now is to turn out nice people who are prepared and anxious to serve the world. What we really need is counter-culture Gentle Revolutionaries who are prepared and anxious to serve the Lord by challenging the world.
I apologize for directing my comments mainly to the formation of young men as though they were the only ones called to serve the Kingdom. Our young ladies need similar instruction and preparation too. I have focused on the young men because I began this analysis by focusing on the obvious crisis of the lack of participation in the Church by men in general and young men in particular. And, it is our young men who seem to be mostly responsible for the high divorce rate among Catholics and the failure to be involved in the spiritual formation of their sons. But whether it is our young men or young woman, the key to “parish community” is vision, expectation, and involvement and it is this area that we could learn greatly from others.
In a previous program, I mentioned that the Mormons required two years of service for the church from their young men and women. This often involves evangelization in the U.S. and other parts of the world. The fact that the Mormon religion, which is not considered to be Christian by other mainline Christians, is one of the fastest growing churches, indicates the success of this strategy. Aside from the fact that it brings converts to their faith, it also ties the young people into the church and its goals through the mechanisms of expectation and involvement. If we are losing our young people, it may be because we fail to use these mechanisms. The young want and need to be involved but if the expectation and opportunities are not present, they will drift away towards other interests. Once again, as the scriptures say, “Where there is no vision, the people, or in this case, the youth perish.” The Church is telling us that evangelization has to be a major effort that involves everyone. And, if that is to happen, then we and our young people have to be better catechized so that we all feel that we have some “Good News” that the whole creation, like a woman in childbirth, is groaning to hear. The Holy Spirit of God is a spirit of enthusiasm, which coming from two Greek words, “en” “theos”, means “God in us”. If we lack enthusiasm, we lack the Holy Spirit, and if we lack the Holy Spirit, whose job is to renew the face of the earth, then we are useless servants in the coming of God’s Kingdom. The philosopher Hegel once said that, although the universe was purely logical and rational, nothing good ever happens without “passion.”
Knowing the Truth is not enough because it remains a sterile exercise in understanding that will never impact reality until it is acted upon by the creative energy driven by passion. We must not only know the truth; we must love it. And in loving it, we will desire to serve it. It’s so simple that the Baltimore Catechism reduced it to a simple question and answer that little children could memorize. To the question of “Why did God make us?” the answer was, “To know, love, and serve God in this world and to be happy with Him in the next. And, since God is simply a name for the Highest Good, the answer to the ultimate question about existence is to devote our entire lives to the service of God, the Highest Good, by joining the negentropic forces of the universe in their struggle towards the “fullness of life.” Why it’s so simple a child could understand it. So the question is “why is it that so many don’t?
Too often our way of involving our youth is through sports with little or no connection to God, the Church, or the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We are very good at doing secular events in our Church and schools while paying only “lip service” to our Christian beliefs. I’ve seen too many CYO programs where the only clue that they are Catholic is a short prayer before the game and an occasional “sign of the cross” before or after a competitive effort. Now I am not saying that these are not good, but they fall far short of what a Church sponsored organization is suppose to be accomplishing. If God, Jesus, and the Church are not at the center of what is happening, then it is just another secular event with minor trappings of religion. If this is the case, then it will have a lower priority in our decision making and, if persecution should ever come, it will be one of the first things to be jettisoned for the sake of survival.
Something is happening right now that is a “sign of the times” and only those that have the “eyes to see and the ears to hear” are aware of it. History is getting ready for a leap onto a new level and it is yet to be determined whether it will be a leap motivated by faith onto a higher level or a suicidal one onto a lower level. Will we choose the Kingdom of God and experience life and freedom or will we choose some type of Brave New Word and experience death and slavery. God told Moses to tell us to choose life.
The whole world is yearning for something that it hasn’t been defined clearly. It’s a yearning that St. Augustine identified when he said, “Our hearts were made for Thee, O God, and will not rest until they rest in Thee.” Once again, music expresses it better than logical prose. This is the theme song of a recent Olympics. It’s title is “The Power of the Dream.”
Deep within each heart there lies a magic spark
That lights the fire of our imagination
And since the dawn of man, the strength of just “I can…”
Has brought together people of all nations.
There’s nothing ordinary in the living of each day,
There’s a special part every one of us will play.
Feel the flame forever burn, teaching lessons we must learn
To bring us closer to the power of the dream
As the world give us the best to stand apart from all the rest
(As God gives us the grace to stand apart from all the rest,)
It is the power of the dream that brings us here.
Your mind will take you far; the rest is just pure heart,
You’ll find your fate is all your own creation
(You’ll find your fate for you is God’s creation.)
Every boy and girl, as they come into this world,
They bring the gift of hope and inspiration.
Feel the flame forever burn, teaching lesson we must learn
To bring us closer to the power of the dream…
The world unites in hope and peace; pray that it will always be
It is the power of the dream that brings us here.
There’s so much strength in all of us, every woman, child, and man
It’s the moment that you think you can’t, you discover that you can
Feel the flame forever burn, teaching lessons we must learn
To bring us closer to the power of the dream.
Power of the dream; faith in things unseen …
Courage to embrace your fears…
No matter where you are, reach for your own star.
To realize the power of the dream…
To realize the power of the dream…
Well, I see that my time is up….