After Silence, Music Expresses it Best

The power of music was the Bloggers for Peace challenge for August. It brought to mind Aldous Huxley: “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
Throughout the history of humanity, music has permeated barriers often considered impenetrable. Music unites continents, as the deeds of humanity are recounted in song. Human existence is the song of the ages written across bars of hope and measures of peace.

From Paleolithic time onward, every major tradition—Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism Tao, Hinduism—embraced song as one way to reveal the stories of human existence. Combining music and story, each of the major traditions expressed compassion for all in the community as a way of daily living. Similarly, each tradition warned of the pitfalls of hoarding riches and extolled the virtues of giving to the least among us.
Heron on Turtle Row 0213

In each verse of the song of community, all give and all receive, the song of the ages expressing the inexpressible.

For many in my generation, “We Shall Overcome” was the song for civil rights for every American as well as every citizen of the world. We are still singing this song, still committed to overcoming what divides us in order to live with what unites us–peace. Globally, it is the melody of the human heart, expressing the inexpressible. Within its coda is the constant vigilance required for compassion and thus, for coexistence.

Peace is not passive but like compassion it is alive, an aria to overcome what we have yet to accomplish in twenty-one centuries: to live with one another in the harmony of acceptance sans the labels of race, creed, color or any dissonance that divides rather than unites.

Since we began composing the story of human existence, there have always been notes of hope. Perhaps the power of music and its ability to express what we cannot will one day lead us to a vigilant, vibrant life of peace and compassion.

It is and always has been to our great credit that we sing.

If memory serves, the video clip of Joan Baez singing “We Shall Overcome” is from the 1969 movie, Woodstock.  There was a time I would have recognized it immediately. Well, I still know all the words.

Other Bloggers for Peace Posts:

Grandmalin: The August Post for Peace

Rarasaur: One Little Candle Burning Bright

The Seeker:  Music That Will Make You Smile

Rohan Healy:  Alien Eyes

Electronic Bag Lady: Music and the Brain

13 thoughts on “After Silence, Music Expresses it Best

  1. Joan Baez was here in New Zealand last week – still singing, in her 70s. I was a kid when the 1960s protest movement was in full swing here; I am convinced it fed into the popular anti-nuclear attitude here of the early 1970s – which was mainstreamed to the point where it was made law in 1985.

    It seems to me that war and conflict has always been a part of the human condition – this is certainly true of history. But we have the power to change that for the future; the onus is on all of us to remind each other of the duty of care that we must have for each other. And what better way to do that than subtly, positively – through music?


    1. Joan Baez is amazing, isn’t she? I was in my teens when I got involved; my first protest was when George Wallace came to Wyoming. I like to think he was surprised that we even knew how to protest for we did shout him down a few times but you know how reliable memory is. That the turbulent times of the ’60s actually produced real, positive change is not always remembered–great to hear about the effect of the movement in New Zealand. Often, the entire movement is so romanticized/misrepresented that it does not seem real, at least to me.

      I agree about war and conflict, and the longer I live, I believe compassion is key to the human condition. If we will learn to develop it for ourselves, we will be able to enrich the world in which we live. It all starts within each one of us, a song of our self, if you will, and as you suggest, music is subtle, positive, and as we have seen through the ages, quite powerful.

      As always, thanks, Matthew.


  2. Love the compassion in this piece. There is so much to guide us in this post. The Huxley quotation, “We Shall Overcome,” your wisdom, “a vigilant, vibrant life of peace and compassion,” the Joan Baez video. I am overcome with gratitude for this post this peaceful Sunday morning, especially the reminder that “Peace is not passive but like compassion it is alive.” Preach on, Sister. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo


    1. Ah, thanks, Kozo. Perhaps if we will welcome peace as a way of life, vibrant and ever changing, we will develop the compassionate vigilance that freedom requires. Thanks, again, Kozo, for Bloggers for Peace.


  3. I am one of those people who stands up and sings in public, but when I do I feel as if I represent everyone in the room. Music corrals all of us in the moment. It stills the whirring of individual thought as we are charged with a collective emotion that can be as frivolous as having a good time or as empowering as the fierce conviction that we shall overcome.

    Thanks for writing about one of my favorite subjects Karen.


    1. Yes, Adrian, it “stills the whirring of individual thought” is exactly what happens and as you say, we are all charged with one connection, the music. Your music always pulls together the audience, and every time, I come away renewed. Thanks for that.


  4. what a great post, and reminder to keep on working for peace. as we see in the news, we have more yet to do, so much more, and yet there is always hope.
    I really liked the Aldous Huxley quotation too, as I hadn’t come across it before. Thanks for sharing it 🙂


    1. Glad you enjoyed the post and yes, as you say, we have so much to do but in some ways, I am more hopeful than ever but then, I am, and have always been, such an optimist. Thanks for stopping by.


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