Monday, June 02, 2014

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 2: A Song That Helps Clear Your Head

My head often needs "clearing" and, as far as I've been able to tell, music is the only thing that can do that.  For others, the cure for a muddled mind is exercise, or meditation, or visit to church, or a good cry, or a long conversation with a dear friend... but none of those things ever quite provide relief for me.  When the space between my ears gets cluttered or out of balance, I need to reconnect with the kind of simplicity and order than is written into the very fabric of the universe. Or the sonic version of it, anyway.

You see, mathematics is the order of Nature.  And music is mathematics you can hear.  Ratios, scales, harmonies, proportions: when they're done just right, they can realign a brain the way a chiropractor realigns your spine.  When I was picking my song for today, it was important to me to find something with a simple melody, good harmonies and a steady rhythm.  The kind of song that relaxes me, that doesn't require effort or exertion to hear, that sort of sweeps one up into it, carries one along with it, like a current.  The other prerequisite was that it couldn't be a sad song.  Sad songs, as much as I love them, are not created for clearing the mind.

My pick for today is from one of my favorite artsists of all time, Bill Withers.  It's his 1972 hit "Lean on Me," performed here live (and slightly slower than the recorded version):

I've often said that emotional genius of Withers' "Lean on Me" is grossly under-appreciated.  (For what it's worth, a song can be both over-played and under-appreciated, in my view.)  It's such a simple sentiment Withers is expressing, really, but so very essential for getting along in this world.  Lean on me, when you're not strong / and I'll be your friend / I'll help you carry on.  When I find myself all-caught-up-in-my-head and unable to think my way out of whatever is clouding my thoughts, "Lean on Me" serves as a good reminder that none of can do any of this alone.  We all need somebody to lean on, indeed.

In my experience with students-- I'm displacing here, I know this is true for me as well-- I often find that once they're crying or breaking down in my office, the LEAST of their problems at that point is a Philosophy paper.  (As I tell students all the time, "Nothing of any real consequence, in the history of humanity, has happened because someone failed a Philosophy class.")  The real crisis at that moment is that they are overwhelmed, they can't see the forest for the trees, they're not strong, they need a hand.  There is a load they have to bear that they can't carry.  They need someone to lean on.

You never know what kind of load other people are carrying around with them, and we really should endeavor to lighten each others' loads, rather than add to them, as much as as often as we are able.  No one carries a load through life without help, without someone to lean on from time to time.  Withers' song reminds me of that every time I hear it, and it reminds me that there are others out there to lend me a hand.  And there is little that clears my mind better than that reminder.

Here's your quick-access link to the entire 30 Day Song Challenge 2014 prompt-list and my picks for each day.

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