Music: Now More Than Ever

Four thunderous roars crack the silence.

Cacophony ensues. The noise begins to settle and so does the dust…as the tragic symphony progressively unfolds.

The first movement is easily discernableæ New York, Washington D.C. and rural Pennsylvania. The second is far more complex and extends across nations and continents. The key changes from day to day as the orchestration ranges from bold, aggressive and eruptive to somber, peaceful and reflective.

Long and complex, the international composition encompasses vast ideologies, cultures, religions and personal perspectives. From a distance it is agonizing and painful, disappointing and disdainful.

Close up it is revealing. Some players are infuriated – screaming threats of Armageddon. Others are fearfully silenced as they flee for their lives. Soliloquies abound as the song of war vs. peace echoes with sharp contrast.

While retaliatory threats are unnerving, a nation silenced is far more unsettling. I recall a United Nations diplomat discussing an eerie feeling pervasive in his early career. He described it beyond a mere sense of discomfort or unease. At first it actually seemed more ominous and unsettling than the very real prospect of personal danger.

What the diplomat described was a haunting and painful sense of emptiness he always sensed in war-torn countries. After struggling to understand the basis for his feelings, he finally realized the essence of his personal unrest – all music in those countries had disappeared.

That void is the hallmark of a nation beaten down and hopeless. It is a devastating emptiness that reveals overwhelming despair.

Yet amidst the calamitous uncertainty we face these days, the song of America has never been silenced. From our legislators in Washington to the entertainers who have dedicated themselves to raise money for those in need, America continues to sing with gusto.

Our song of freedom is heard and felt by every peace-loving person on the planet. Music resounds from schools and communities to fund-raising events and prayer vigils. Our music is powerful beyond words.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks, a prayer service was held at Yankee Stadium. Religious leaders inspired support and hope for a city and a nation in shock. As television cameras panned across the audience, individual expressions combined to reveal a uniform landscape of loss, fear, remorse and apprehension.

Yet within minutes the canvas changed considerably.

A woman marched to the podium. She didn’t deliver a sermonæ not in the traditional sense anyway. Instead she bellowed the song, Wind Beneath My Wings, written by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley.

With incredible resolve, conviction and heart-felt appreciation for our nation’s heroes, Bette Midler pierced the hearts and souls of everyone in the stadium. People didn’t just cry – they wept incessantly and held onto each other for dear life. Millions of viewers throughout the world did the same.

I couldn’t hold back the tears streaming from my face as I sat in the kitchen and experienced the first real release since our world had changed. These weren’t just words of heart-felt appreciation – they were far more:

It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
but I’ve got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it.
I would be nothing without you.

Did you ever know that you’re my hero?
You’re everything I wish I could be.
I could fly higher than an eagle,

for you are the wind beneath my wings.

These poignant lyrics upon which the music emanated evoked a chord in every person proud of who we are, and what we stand for as a nation. This song was a gift, and she was the vessel through which the message we needed emerged. This incredible woman brilliantly extolled the hero in each of us. She guided us to a sacred place within ourselves where words alone cannot enter – where mind, body and spirit harmonize to create inner peace and healing.

Despite this experience I had difficulty placing my thoughts on paper. For weeks I was engaged in a personal battle. How could I write about music amidst other seemingly more important issues such as war, loss of life, ongoing terrorist threats, biological and chemical weapons and economic disaster?

A composer by the name of Julie Gold shifted the balance within me. While you may not know her name, you will recognize her song. Her universal perspective served as the inspiration for this column.

From a distance you look like my friend
Even though we are at war
From a distance I can’t comprehend
What all this war is for

Last year at an awards ceremony in New York, I listened intently as Julie explained how this song transformed her life. From a Distance beckons each of us to step back in an attempt to comprehend the larger picture. A desperately needed healing message is revealed in the following words.

From a distance we are instruments
Marching in a common band
Playing songs of home, playing songs of peace
They’re the songs of every man
God is watching us, God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance

I’m convinced music is now more important than ever. Our songs must be sung, played and fully experienced in order for individual and collective healing to begin.

Ethereal music and lyrics empower us to carry on in these uncertain times. For music enables us to reach deep within ourselves to a place where mourning, grieving, praying, supporting each other, standing tall and persevering begin.

The following words are especially meaningful in our time of need:

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

While you may not recognize the verse, this introduction by Irving Berlin precedes perhaps the best-known prayer of our nation. God Bless America has united generations in a never-ending quest for enduring peace and freedom.

Let us not allow terrorism to silence our songs that bring strength, unity and unrelenting support to every man, woman and child in an uncertain world. Music is now more important than ever – Mind Over Matter!

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Written by Barry Bittman MD

Explore Wellness in 2021