by Matt Kersh
Music has saved my life. Literally. On at least several occasions. There are a handful of distinct moments I can recall in my life where I felt so broken, lost, and hopeless that I was seriously struggling with the desire to go on living. In those moments, I knew I needed music.
Perhaps, like me, you have faced things in your life that knocked you to the ground and steamrolled you in a way that left you unsure of how to get up and live another day. I think maybe we all have. Sure, the specific circumstances can vary in all sorts of ways, but there has been or will be a day when it seems like the road suddenly ends and it appears the only thing to do is continue over the cliff.
I am here to say, as living proof, that is not the only option. When
I got to that cliff with seemingly nowhere else to go, I
remembered I could call my ever-faithful friend to save me. A friend that has picked me up plenty of times before and will again. MUSIC. And at that precipice of hopelessness, music helped me to fly rather than fall.
There is a video I saw a couple of years ago that elucidates the indescribable effects music can have better than mere words could ever communicate. I watched it again today and it touched me to my core. Allow me to paint a word picture of it for you.
In the video, there is a woman shown in her wheelchair, back bowed and hunched over, with a virtually expressionless face. Her name is Marta and she is nearly 100 years old. Not only is her body beginning to fail, her mental condition is even further gone than she is physically.
As Marta sits in her chair, with a seemingly broken spirit, a caretaker puts a pair of headphones on her. Seconds later, she hears the opening notes of the main theme from Swan Lake. Within a few seconds, her body begins to straighten, expression comes to her face, in her eyes can be seen a level of focus and purpose that was not there moments ago. As the music builds, Marta’s arms go out to her sides, hands in graceful lines, and even though she is confined to that chair, she is dancing.
You see, over 60 years before, Marta danced to this same song. Except then, it was for the New York City Ballet where she was a Prima Ballerina, which is one of the highest honors awarded to a dance troupe’s primary dancer. There is even side by side footage of her in her chair and on stage many years before, a young, vibrant, talented woman at the pinnacle of her craft.
The mirrored movements between the two versions of this
same individual shows the reflection of a life where music transcends time and indelibly changes parts of us that are at our deepest core.
“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.” —Kahlil Gibran
There is much scientific data which shows the widespread positive impacts of music. These can be seen by changes in brain activity while listening to music, healthy behavioral changes, and on the visible effects it can have on people that almost seem to be shells of a human being, like our friend, Marta.
An in-depth, 4 week study on a group of individuals with advanced cases of fibromyalgia reported significantly less pain/discomfort of their symptoms that listened to an hour of music everyday in the control group.
Similarly, a 2015 study done on the effects of music on patients facing a significant surgery found that patients who listened
to music before, during, or even after the surgery experienced less pain and anxiety than those who did not listen to music.
In a study done on college students, participants struggling
with insomnia listened to classical music, an audiobook, or nothing at all at bedtime for three weeks. Researchers assessed sleep quality of those in the study both before and after completion of the test period. Those that listened to music before bed had significantly better sleep (both in brain activity and patient testimony) than those that listened to an audiobook or nothing at all.
We could go on and on citing studies where music positively impacts motivation levels of high-level athletes and those with high pressure jobs in the business world. We would see how general depression and anxiety are calmed significantly in those that regularly sit to enjoy music for therapeutic purposes. The list goes on…
Regardless of age, sex, or personal struggle, music has been shown to bring marked improvements to those who make enjoying it on a regular basis a priority.
As I spoke of earlier, music has saved my life. In the moments
I felt most lost and empty, God used songs that spoke to my
soul through the darkness in ways He knew I needed. As
someone that deeply knows what those dark, difficult days on the journey feel like, my hope each day is that I might be a
source of hope to others that are struggling. When those times come, when there feels like there is nowhere to turn, that simply isn’t the truth.
Two things I know beyond a shadow of a doubt will always
be there to save me: my God and my music. Don’t ever forget that hope and healing, no matter what, are possible—I am
living proof of this reality. It is possible to pull yourself out of the pit of despair at the very gates of hell and begin again.
And when it seems your mind and body and soul are failing, remember that you can still dance. Like the sweet, broken, nearly 100 year old ballerina, new life can be found. All you
have to do is listen. Listen to the truth. Listen to the beauty. Listen to your heart and it will whisper…THIS IS NOT THE END.
“Music will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”