Faith and Violin. not interested? read not.

April 8, 2008 at 04:40 AM · who said you can't try to please all the people all the time? well, he/she is right!

since music deals with spirituality and many other intangibles, it may be interesting for people to share some thoughts and ideas on faith,,,in a positive, constructive, understanding manner.

(if you have an urge to suggest mine is bigger than yours, save it:)

Replies (101)

April 8, 2008 at 07:09 AM · For me, Mozart's work is divine. Literally. And, I think, playing the violin is almost like praying, only I have to concentrate too hard on the techinical aspects. Even practicing scales is transporting.

April 8, 2008 at 08:30 AM · I feel like a vehicle, sometimes. Like a tour bus.

Since I live at and work at a Christian youth camp and conference center, I frequently get asked to play for various occasions. I used to really get irked about it because I thought that performing had a rather egotistic slant to it, and I didn't see the point in nurturing my own pride. And I didn't like messing up in front of an audience because it wounded my pride.

I've had some time to observe and think about this issue, and I've come to realise that the music that we make presents something that people will respond to emotionally. For many, it calms and heals the soul. Sometimes it can inspire. Other times, it digs up hurt and lets the heart feel it and work through the pain.

I'm learning bit by bit to stop mentally putting myself in the spotlight when I play for people and simply present the music. I don't know what it does for others, but I hope its effects are good. In most respects, I'm usually pretty selfish, but music is one way I can give to others, and I'm now glad I can at least do that, if nothing else.

But as far as playing music as a form of worship, I don't know. I got kicked off a "praise and worship team" once. I never could stop thinking about cadences and transitions and that drummer who always rushed. I spent most of my time in a state of critical awareness, which does little to promote my own ability to worship. I also despised how the right touch of music could get people to promise all sorts of things, only to go home and live completely differently. But that's another can of worms.

I come closest to worshiping with my music when I'm alone and playing Bach. It's the only music that really makes me think of God and my relationship with him. But even this is always sprinkled with self critique. It's just impossible to turn off the musician's training tools.

April 8, 2008 at 10:44 AM · For a while, music was the main, if not the only, reason I went to church at all. I switched faith traditions as an adult when I was around 30, from Lutheran to UU, and then I started finding other reasons to go to church.

But when I was very new to UU and didn't know anyone, I was recruited into the church choir by the woman standing next to me in the pew who heard me singing the hymns. I met my husband when I was singing in that choir. I invited him to church that Easter, which was another early, March, Easter, in 1997. He's an atheist and doesn't go to church on a regular basis, but he does come hear me sing (or play the violin or viola, which I do now sometimes).

Playing or singing in church is a situation where I feel like I lose myself and become part of something larger, in a good way. Words alone have never really been able to do that for me. There has to be music. Normally I don't like crowds or large groups of people generally; I'm an introvert and being in a crowd drains my energy and makes me feel antsy and lost. But an orchestra or church choir feels different than that.

Emily's post was very interesting because I think I know where she's coming from--in that I'm coming from the opposite direction. I find that playing violin/viola in church is a huge relief because "critical thinking" and performance per se are not the focus. I don't enjoy thinking critically, even though I can do it if I have to, and rather than finding it hard to turn off, I find it hard to turn on. So I am grateful for an environment where I don't *have to* turn it on.

April 8, 2008 at 11:36 AM · Emily - Wow I TOTALLY agree about playing Bach! For me there's nothing like playing some solo Bach in our front room, which has a very good view of the sunset. There's nothing more calming, inspiring, satisfying; I can really say during those times 'When I played I felt His pleasure...'

April 8, 2008 at 01:23 PM · something terry touched on in another thread,,,there are many outstanding musicians with jewish background, also some from asia where i am not sure what their "religions"/philosophies are:) it will be interesting to hear how they make personal connections through violin playing.

does certain sound trigger a divine inspiration or does your faith lead you to experience the spiritual echo?

April 8, 2008 at 02:12 PM · Yeah, Emily. I'm with you on Bach. The endless nature of his music represents as well as anything else the concept of eternity to my finite mind. It gives me faith and hope to continue on, that everything eventually resolves itself into the perfect and satisfying cadence.

I understand the other stuff you talked about too. I used to feel a little that way--I didn't want to use beautiful music in a way that would draw attention to myself until I realized you don't get up on the stage and say "hey, I'm going to play for you so that you WON'T notice me." It's just part of the deal. I think when you're consumed in the music though, what you're conveying is your "vehicleness" (like you said, Emily) instead of your presence.

As far as faith? A basic tenet of most world religions is brotherhood. I can't think of anything more suited to conveying that spirit than music. When my brother died, I recieved an outpouring of sympathy that was so appreciated. But, the music was healing in a way nothing else could be--it went to my place of sorrow with me, so I would not be alone. It could go there as nothing else really could. After 911 I noticed the way people turned to music in order to heal their hearts too. If it is able to offer solace to the grieving, heal broken hearts, comfort the lonely, give rest to the weary, music certainly has a divine aspect. When we devote ourselves to service in this way, music recieves its highest expression, fullest, most meaningful purpose. Something that powerful? I have no doubt God is the author of it.

April 8, 2008 at 03:21 PM · I am Jewish and understand Emily's comments about playing Bach alone. Religious feeling comes from a variety of sources and in different types of feeling. How you worship varies incredibly. Music can certainly be an important source.

April 8, 2008 at 03:35 PM · I thought a lot about this "music as prayer" idea, and even took out my viola and played some Bach to crystallize my ideas a little more. I agree that playing Bach elicits profound feelings but when I thought about it a little more, I realized that I'm feeling more of a sense of close communion with a trusted and longtime friend rather than any sense that I'm praying to God. For some reason, playing this music feels to me like having one of those late night talks with your closest confidant that you have in college, perhaps after something really important in your life has just happened. And it's definitely not a talk you'd have during the day at Starbucks or something. So I understand why it's so satisfying to play this music- talks like that are rare, especially for adults way into middle life like I am, so the experience of connection like that is something to be treasured. But whether you think of it as prayer or communion with a friend or whatever, why does playing a bunch of pitches on a viola conjure up such an intimate set of feelings?

April 8, 2008 at 09:06 PM · In fact, prayer is communion with a friend.

April 9, 2008 at 12:16 AM · My most pleasant memories of childhood are of the wonderful music played every morning in church; combination of classical and liturgical, with pipe organ and choir.

In retrospect, I suspect a connection between the changes in Catholic ceremonies in the 60s, which brought in guitar-wielding nuns and removed the awe-inspiring music of Bach and his ilk, and the decline in interest in classical music.

On a personal note, music provides a way into my innermost being, and in fact a form of private worship. Having developed over the years an intense aversion to all forms of organised religion, it's gratifying that I have this source of coming into contact with the Source, so to speak.

The mystical poet Rumi would have us listen to the plaintive cry of the reed flute, as it sings of its separation from the reedbed. Good advice.

April 9, 2008 at 03:37 AM · Music has the power to "touch the heart" or the "spirit" in a very profound way. It is interesting that religions the world over use music as a very integral part of connecting people to something "bigger" than yourself (whatever that may be).

I don't consider myself religious in any way, however I can and DO appreciate how music affects my state of mind. Listening or playing myself, it affects me the same way. All my daily mundane worries go out the window. I can get back in touch with something other than the evil necessities of life (taxes, politics, work....)

April 9, 2008 at 06:41 AM · Great subject with wonderful thought provoking comments.

The musician/artist chooses how to delve into the music and this can depend on the occasion.

A few years ago I played Massenet’s “Meditation” for a very dear friend who passed away too early in life (complications from diabetes since his youth) leaving behind his wife and 2 young sons.

I wept as I played for his funeral/memorial service — I was feeling tremendous personal sorrow and the tragedy of it all. The service and attitude of those present were filled with hope, knowing that he was now in a better place.

When playing the same piece, or other, in a sacred service, my goal is to assist the spiritual worship of those present, including myself, and present my playing of the music as worship of and to God, Almighty. It is not an ego trip, but I do try to do the best I can and appreciate it when someone says they were blessed or touched by the music. That is what it is all about.

In a secular setting, concert, teaching, etc., I still try to convey how I am impressed by the music. If the music lends itself to worship, whether joyous or meditative, I relate that concept into my playing. How the audience perceives the music within their very own heart, soul and spirit is entirely based on their reception and personal thoughts and life experiences. The slow movements of the Bruch G minor, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Kabalevsky, Khachaturian, Brahms, Dvorak, Elgar, Glazunov and so many more lend themselves to this personal soulful depth by the artist, whether or not intended by the composer.

Other movements or works will depict human/life tragedies, fears, hopes, loves, passions and just good old fashion rollicking good times.

The composer writes based on their situation and thoughts, we interpret the best we can, as we perceive the work to be. It cannot be divorced from our very own souls and life experience.

Instrumental music has no words to encumber it, only the language of life and all that entails. Interpret and give the music to your audience — they will receive and interpret for themselves.

It is an international language — the language of life.

God bless —

Drew

April 9, 2008 at 12:13 PM · Music IS my religion.

-And a concert, whether classical or rock, is a gathering of the flock.

No need for any of that dogma nonsense.

April 9, 2008 at 01:03 PM · A couple of quotes here seem appropriate:

"The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, 'Is there a meaning in music?' My answer would be, 'Yes.' And 'Can you state in so many words what that meaning is?' My answer to that would be, 'No.'" - Aaron Copland

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." - Aldous Huxley

April 9, 2008 at 01:21 PM · Emily,

I see where you're going with your prayer comment, but personally, I make a distinction between nice conversations with my close friends and prayer to the all-powerful and terrifying Lord of Hosts who created me and can exterminate me in an instant. I realize this is a picky little distinction on my part...

April 9, 2008 at 01:40 PM · From all these responses I still see the logical fallacy of attributing things to God, when they have only a fancied connection to the myth.

April 9, 2008 at 02:02 PM · "Why does playing a bunch of pitches on a viola conjure up such an intimate set of feelings?"

It's viola for me too, Howard. I've been playing a lot of violin lately--first violin part of Haydn 101, Egmont, and Mozart Coronation Mass with the ArlPO.

And then I played some simple violin/viola duets in church a couple of weeks ago. I was playing the violin part with my friend who is a professional violist (so she got the viola part) and I walked in to the church that morning we were playing and heard her warming up and it just hit me, hard, right then that I REALLY missed my viola.

April 9, 2008 at 03:25 PM · "Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life." Beethoven

"Music is a higher revelation than philosophy." - Beethoven

"Music - The one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend." - Beethoven

"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossile to be silent." - Victor Hugo

"Without music life would be a mistake." - Nietzsche

"Music makes one feel so romantic - at least it always gets on one's nerves - which is the same thing nowadays." Oscar Wilde

"We're more popular than Jesus Christ now." - John Lennon

"I don't know which will go first-rock 'n' roll or Christianity." - John Lennon

"I have no pleasure in any man who despises music. It is no invention of ours: it is a gift of God. I place it next to theology. Satan hates music: he knows how it drives the evil spirit out of us." - Martin Luther

"To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other." Jack Handy

April 9, 2008 at 03:51 PM · Most of you seem to also be mistaking depth of emotion for spirituality, instead of chemical and neurological responses, which they are. Be it shivers that may be induced from quick changes from soft to loud, or how 'profoundly' one feels a sense of beauty, wonder, tragedy, etc, of a piece, all stems back to chemical triggers and actions, often from either conditioned or environmental associations between these emotions and the music.

April 9, 2008 at 03:56 PM · How do you know Jake? You're not a performer.

April 9, 2008 at 03:59 PM · And where did those chemical triggers come from Jake? Did you create them yourself? Please say something about evolution. I would like to know that you actually do believe in something that doesn't have empirical proof. If you don't believe that "evolution" created those chemical triggers, what did create them? Chance?...that doesn't seem empiracally proveable either. If not chance, then what created these processes? Where did they come from? You've explained very convincingly how emotions are produced, etc but at least for me I still don't know where you think they came from. You seem to know much about philosphical arguments and scientific process so help me to understand where such things come from.

April 9, 2008 at 04:20 PM · higgs boson? yes, it may help explain bow arm weight!

campers, take a break from bach and read about this, no matter which camp you reside:)

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1729139,00.html

April 9, 2008 at 04:30 PM · "For myself I know that so long as I can sum up my experience in words, I can certainly not create music about it. My need to express myself in music symphonically begins precisely where dark feelings hold sway, at the gate which leads into the 'other world,' the world in which things no longer are divided by time and space."

Mahler (1896)

April 9, 2008 at 04:12 PM · "How do you know Jake? You're not a performer."

Point being? One can enjoy music when playing at a high level, when technical elements no longer require so much focus as to take away from immersion and emotion in a piece, but these resulting feelings still result from the brain. There is no getting over this, as the brain is the root and harbor of all of the qualities and quantities that compromise both personality, passion, and emotion.

If you know nothing of how emotions are chemical responses, and even perhaps the most romanticized one–love–remains still a set of chemical reactions, I suggest researching it a bit.

"And where did those chemical triggers come from Jake? Did you create them yourself? Please say something about evolution. I would like to know that you actually do believe in something that doesn't have empirical proof. If you don't believe that "evolution" created those chemical triggers, what did create them? Chance?...that doesn't seem empiracally proveable either. If not chance, then what created these processes? Where did they come from? You've explained very convincingly how emotions are produced, etc but at least for me I still don't know where you think they came from. You seem to know much about philosphical arguments and scientific process so help me to understand where such things come from."

"Where" an emotion comes from or "where" a thought comes from, is at the moment impossible to distinguish, as I said in the other thread, due to the neurological network of these things being so infinitely complex, that distinguishing the trek of any of them beyond a doubt, is the thing of science fiction at the moment. Perhaps most alarming of how the brain operates for these things, is the fact that every emotion, thought, and action, stems from a source that is impossible to distinguish, and due to the concept of cause and effect, we are rendered vessels of circumstance, our own sense of free will a mere illusion since our entire infrastructure and sense of existence is entirely centered on things inadvertently beyond our will. Even our own consciousness is subject to the neocortex, and is subject to things beyond our degree of control. But that's getting a bit off topic.

As for 'why' and 'how' the human brain developed into the structure it is, much of that remains in mystery, though there is clear evidence to the evolution of the human brain over time, though in the past 200,000 years our brain size has remained the same. Recently, new variants of two genes have come into much of the human population. Allels of the Microcephalin gene, for example, which a specific mutation for changes the protein gene codes for, has passed into 70% of the human species within the past 10,000-20,000 years, due to selection pressure.

Evolution is a slow and ongoing process.

Other cases of things such as left-right cerebral hemispheric asymmetries have become more distinct and developed, as well as our brain sizes being 1400ml in comparison to the humans of 3 million years ago, which contained brains of 400ml sizes. Broca's area, has become more developed over time, allowing for more controlled motor speech.

Natural selection is responsible for much of the human brain's development, though there are other systems used to explain and describe different aspects. Microevolution and speciation, for example.

Mostly, small but advantageous neurological changes and mutations were made over time. Examples of this are the neurons which allow for rapid interaction in complex social situations.

The 'how' of human evolution is still a field of much mystery, however. Yet either way, it holds infinitely more evidence and explanations of humanity than a mythological being does. Especially since even if you decide to hold the belief that humans are too complex to have evolved through natural means, and thus you suppose reasons of the divine, you are left with countless explanations involving the divine, none of which have any more evidence or logical support than any other, leaving you with mere guesswork or, "Well, I like this explanation more..." which is all well and jolly, but I'd prefer that no one use this fairy tale nonsense as if it actually holds weight.

April 9, 2008 at 04:48 PM · quote: "Most of you seem to also be mistaking depth of emotion for spirituality, instead of chemical and neurological responses, which they are."

Can't it be both? Doesn't seem to me like that would weaken anybody's argument.

April 9, 2008 at 05:07 PM · Well, if one considered spirituality to be the same as emotions, sure. Then it'd simply be synonyms. But if spirituality is going to be defined as relating to incorporeal or divine influences, souls, etc, then it just doesn't work.

I suppose it does hinge much on one's personal definition. If one defines 'soul' more as their own emotions and passions, then of course music can relate very strongly to the soul! But if they're defining it as a spiritual entity separate from the body, it's equivalent in my mind to saying that playing violin touches the rabid Orc that possesses their body after leaping from the pages of a 1st edition of Lord of the Rings.

It just draws the, "Alcohol is not water" reply from me.

April 9, 2008 at 05:18 PM · Jake, I basically agree with you, but I don't think it matters that much what you call it. If it's meaningful to you to think of chemical triggers and meaningful to someone else to think of a personal god, both are fine by me.

". . . it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

April 9, 2008 at 05:17 PM · No offense Jake but you used an extremely large amount of scientific data and basically summed up by saying that it was still a mystery. Evolution on the magnitude that you are describing cannot be proved. Therefore it takes as much faith to believe in the mysteries of evolution as it does to believe in the mysteries of a Divine Creator. Also, though you say there is more scientific evidence for evolution than there is for a Creator I would have to disagree with you. When you consider all the complexities of the world around us it is actually much more logical to conclude that there was a Divine Creator rather than a billion and one random chances that happened to come together and work. I am not a scientist. I don't know if you are one or not. You speak very intelligently on scientific points so I have to assume that to some degree you are. Consequently I will not even try to argue with you about science. Use as many big words as you want because you win the "intelligent words to make my point" contest. I assert though that you have as much faith in "myth" and "legend" as I do. To try to deny that would be just fooling yourself.

April 9, 2008 at 05:21 PM · Jake, I'm sure that if I had a small interest in science then you'd be a great person to sit and chat with over coffee. I cannot contend what you say since I'm not a textbook and have not researched evolution and "cerebral hemispheric asymmetries."

What anyone's religious or spiritual beliefs are are too complex for a scientist to understand and ultimately beside the point. When you sum up everyone's spiritual connection to music as being nonsense, then no one wants to even give you the benefit of the doubt and listen to your reasoning.

You may try being a little more accepting of other people's truths. Instead of calling it mythology you may want to begin your argument like this: "While I respect that many attribute their connection to music with spirituality, I...." Instead you sound like this: "You all are idiots for believing in something you can't prove to exist and here is some factual information that proves that you're idiots."

By the way, I went to school in Greece until 5th grade. Along with math, grammar, etc we were also taught religion and greek mythology simultaneously. They were my favorite subjects. Oddly I never took to science nor does it give me any satisfaction to prove this that or the other.

April 9, 2008 at 06:00 PM · "No offense Jake but you used an extremely large amount of scientific data and basically summed up by saying that it was still a mystery. Evolution on the magnitude that you are describing cannot be proved. Therefore it takes as much faith to believe in the mysteries of evolution as it does to believe in the mysteries of a Divine Creator. Also, though you say there is more scientific evidence for evolution than there is for a Creator I would have to disagree with you. When you consider all the complexities of the world around us it is actually much more logical to conclude that there was a Divine Creator rather than a billion and one random chances that happened to come together and work. I am not a scientist. I don't know if you are one or not. You speak very intelligently on scientific points so I have to assume that to some degree you are. Consequently I will not even try to argue with you about science. Use as many big words as you want because you win the "intelligent words to make my point" contest. I assert though that you have as much faith in "myth" and "legend" as I do. To try to deny that would be just fooling yourself."

Nearly every branch of science contains 'mysteries'. An answer leads to more questions, just as a single assumption on a divine creator can lead to hundreds if not thousands of questions and contradictions on that single statement. You make the error of associating complexity with conscious intellect, by assuming because there is diversity and vast complexity, a conscious form must be behind it. Please enlighten me as to which evidence and what support you can bring to the table on this assumption.

As for a Creator being more logical than evolution, this ridiculous statement leads me to believe that you're one of the type that like to discount evolution with having very little inkling about the numerous branches of science and studies that are accumulated in evolution. Evolution is not something to 'believe in' but is something which is at constant work, and can be seen through such a weight of evidence, that to disagree with evolution requires more sheer idiocy than saying that the world is flat.

And if you do not believe that evolution has much more accounts of evidence than the world's roundness, I suggest studying up a bit on just how overwhelmingly true evolution is.

As for saying I believe in myth and legend as much as you do, I'd like an explanation. Last time I checked I wasn't taking a logical leap the size of the Grand Canyon to come to the conclusion that God (or whatever being you chose to believe in) which has so many countless arguments of philosophy, logic, and science working against it to make it incredibly less believable than Santa Clause. And that's not even taking into account far more complex philosophical proofs against God.

April 9, 2008 at 06:08 PM · "What anyone's religious or spiritual beliefs are are too complex for a scientist to understand and ultimately beside the point. When you sum up everyone's spiritual connection to music as being nonsense, then no one wants to even give you the benefit of the doubt and listen to your reasoning."

Connecting spirituality (in the form I described it a few posts ago) IS simply nonsense. If that hurts someone's feelings, I am sorry, but I don't think I should be held responsible since they are the ones who are believing in concepts akin to illusions. If I walked into a preschool class, and the children were discussing how they think Boogeyman hide under the closet, is it bad to say, "Hah. No." and then explain why the idea is sheer idiocy?

"You may try being a little more accepting of other people's truths. Instead of calling it mythology you may want to begin your argument like this: "While I respect that many attribute their connection to music with spirituality, I...." Instead you sound like this: "You all are idiots for believing in something you can't prove to exist and here is some factual information that proves that you're idiots.""

I understand many people hold religious ties very closely, but that really is their choice. If someone holds the belief that the Moon is made of cheese closely, I don't think it'd be necessarily bad if someone came along and spelled out how they were wrong and what they were believing in was nothing more than a child's tale.

I agree with you about Greek mythology being fascinating. I've always preferred ancient mythologies over Christian mythologies. As far as mythological gods go, I think Osiris, Odin, and Zeus were a lot 'cooler' than God.

April 9, 2008 at 06:27 PM · I am glad the thread found it's balance point finally. It was difficult to watch for a while and I had to go read the news until things settled down. I am not religious but value religion as a function of community. Faith and belief systems are personal experiences and difficult to quantify with or without music in the elusive equations.

As far as respecting all views and such;

There is a growing trend in education, business, religion, politics etc. to "celebrate diversity" and have "tolerance" and such.

I guess in the end we are each just a simple minority of one in this moment. Kind Regards.

April 9, 2008 at 08:44 PM · > Therefore it takes as much faith to believe in

> the mysteries of evolution as it does to believe

> in the mysteries of a Divine Creator.

Scientific theory isn't about faith. It's about coming to a conclusion based on observable evidence. The "mystery" is in the ongoing investigation of the subject, in which new facts are constantly added to the pool of knowledge, and existing theories are held under scrutiny should those new facts render any previous conclusions incorrect.

So while I would never debate anyone about the validity of their faith (and we are all free to believe what we want), I don't feel it's appropriate to say that it requires "faith" to understand (or believe, if you will) something like the Theory of Evolution.

For example, I could choose to not believe in the Theory of Gravity, and the enormous amount of evidence that has been collected to support it as known fact. Chances are however, if I walk off the edge of a tall building, the influence of gravity on my being is something I will not be able to disclaim or ignore! :P

April 9, 2008 at 09:42 PM · I do not claim to be religious, neither do I claim to be non-religious because again, that is irrelevant and personal.

However, pointing to books, experiments, facts, and theories seems unappealing to me at a gut level. I do not need the world to make too much sense in order to live a sensible life. I do not discredit evolution nor am I a proponent for it. I do however spend quite of bit of time doing spiritual research both internally and externally. I see religion as both beautiful in its history and inspirational.

We're all explorers of the world. Some of us spend time exploring the possibility of molecules. Others explore the possibility of life after death. I like to explore how the physics of upbow stacatto meet the essence of my experience in order to thoughtfully make music that connects to me, the composer, and the audience.

Jake, all the scientific data you present still doesn't make sense to me. I don't discredit it as false, but it holds very little value to me.

April 9, 2008 at 09:52 PM · No, no, you have it all wrong! Clearly through prayer divine influences will save you from the effects of gravity if you choose to test whether or not you can fly via jumping off a tall building.

I am appalled that you would have so little faith. Sheesh.

April 9, 2008 at 10:15 PM · Wow, such an exchange we've got going on here! It is good to talk about such things, but it is as well good to remember that faith is a matter of the heart, not the mind. The mind may play a role, for sure, but the heart makes the final call. However, remember one thing, God cannot be put in a box. The world (Creation, if you will) is a whole lot more complicated than we realize, which is another way of saying “the more you learn, the less you know.” And, as we age (mature) this truth becomes all the more apparent!

With respect to the original post, I would have to say that my thoughts on the matter are most closely aligned with those of Emily. I would much rather play a solo piece (by Bach, for sure!) in private than another in concert. These are the moments that mean the most to me and are the real reason I play, the real reason I strive to be a better musician than I was yesterday, to have the ability to bring out what is in my heart. Other than being immersed in the beauty of Creation, the incomprehensible wonder of it all, this is as close as I come.

April 9, 2008 at 10:35 PM · Drew, I just read your reply, and you nailed it! Thanks for taking the time to write those words.

April 9, 2008 at 10:45 PM · I agree. I really like what you wrote, Drew.

April 9, 2008 at 10:46 PM · Greetings,

Chris, very nice post. Just one observation though: you have separated mind and heart while forgetting that a larger percentage of the world`s population than the part you most closely resemble doesn`tr make this distincvtion at all;)

Cheers,

Buri

April 9, 2008 at 10:46 PM · "Wow, such an exchange we've got going on here! It is good to talk about such things, but it is as well good to remember that faith is a matter of the heart, not the mind. The mind may play a role, for sure, but the heart makes the final call. However, remember one thing, God cannot be put in a box. The world (Creation, if you will) is a whole lot more complicated than we realize, which is another way of saying “the more you learn, the less you know.” And, as we age (mature) this truth becomes all the more apparent!"

The problem is, is that if you define the 'heart' as the emotional source, rather than the physical organ, then 'heart' is still nothing but a function of the brain. It's common for people to separate the two, but this is usually done from a lack of neurological knowledge. Decision of faith, all knowledge and sensory information relating to faith, and the concept itself, are solely processed in the brain.

A simple rule of thumb, without getting into too much detail, is that if it's a mental concept or process, it has everything to do with the brain.

April 9, 2008 at 11:31 PM · unless you don@t accept the Cartesian spli which is central to western culture but not elsewhere and is increasingly challenged over here as well.

Cheers,

Buri

April 9, 2008 at 11:41 PM · Jake, I don’t think many of us here really believe the mind/heart distinction is to be taken as literally as you indicated.

A more philosophical but non-scientific approach to the distinction maybe something on the line of this:

heart = the realm of non-rational (something outside/beyond reason)mental process

mind = the realm of rational mental process (in the sense of capable of resonating or being irrational as opposed to being completely non-rational)

I’d be grateful if you could enlighten us by explaining how the brain processes differ from rational/non-rational process to rational/logical process, within the context in disucssion.

****************

<"Music is a higher revelation than philosophy." – Beethoven’ >

It’s a good thing Beethoven wasn’t a philosopher;) or was he?

April 9, 2008 at 11:47 PM · Just as religion is "idiocy", so the love of music (and the violin) must then be sheer lunacy -- or at best, totally impractical, inefficient and a waste of time (for both the listener and the performer), all merely vanity, because the fact of the matter is none of it bears any particularly real, useful meaning much like religion itself. All we should care about is how to make our species (and everything around us) better in the long haul. Any bit of excess beyond what's absolutely needed toward that end is mere fanciful self-indulgence.

"Vanity of vanities!"

_Man_

April 9, 2008 at 11:56 PM · No, religion is sheer idiocy because it combines pointless mythologies and couple them with many prejudiced and nonsensical philosophies and skewed ethics which hinder the equality and progression of much of human civilization.

That's not even factoring in the innumerable wars, religious persecutions, and atrocities committed in inspiration from these mythologies which serve no beneficial gain, as the mythologies themselves are not the philosophies or ethics which otherwise compose parts of religion, but are instead meaningless tales of impossibility which those without a grasp on logical application use to give themselves a false sense of understanding on existence.

I have yet to see global conflicts and bigoted influences on our law system stem from violin playing. And since violin provides many positive feelings, without the horrors that religion has perverted the world with, I think that's a ridiculous comparison.

April 10, 2008 at 12:04 AM · Some people like to pick and choose their arguments against religion, and let their lunacies about the violin go unquestioned. ;-)

_Man_

April 10, 2008 at 12:10 AM · Yixi, you said it well. "Emotion" and the "heart" are heavily linked by virtue of our culture, but not in reality is it so. The problem we face is one of inadequate terminology. The "heart", for want of a better term, consists of so much more than we may care to realize. The English language is not very good at making these distinctions, as our over-use of the scientific/analytical thought process has resulted in a broad loss of some knowledge once held (but of which some people remain aware). I am not knocking science. In fact, I find it fascinating, even to the point of having been a student of astrophysics while in college, but as I have grown older and as my gaze has widened, I have come to learn that there is a lot more to the picture than meets the scientific eye. However, for me personally, humility had to come first. It was only then that I was able to really begin to understand the weightier matters of life, because it was only then that my "heart" was open, and I discovered a profound sense of comprehension regarding the world in which we live, including the natural world! In short, things began to make sense on a level I never thought possible. It truly was a paradigm shift! The world is still full of mystery, thank goodness, but I have come to learn a lot about life, and about the world, that no field of science could have possibly taught.

April 10, 2008 at 12:13 AM · Chris,

I think I understand what you mean, and I concur for the most part though I am probably not as experienced as you -- BTW, I too found astrophysics fascinating when I was in college, and I love the movie Contact :-) though I never got around to meeting Carl Sagan nor sat in one of his talks following his retirement from regular teaching.

Anyway, your thoughts about the "heart" remind me how the old King James Version of the Bible translated the "heart" as our "bowels" in certain places as that's literally what the original Scripture texts describe as the "heart" (though more modern translations tend to render it as "heart"). It really is more like our "gut" (and perhaps, why we talk of "gut feeling") than merely something w/ a rather more superficial/surface feeling that we tend to link w/ the "heart".

_Man_

April 10, 2008 at 12:26 AM · "Some people like to pick and choose their arguments against religion, and let their lunacies about the violin go unquestioned. ;-)"

Selling your soul for a del Gesù is perfectly normal, what are you talking about? :)

April 10, 2008 at 01:05 AM · Jake,

If Evolution is the "truth", then why do we need laws that prevent/hinder a fundamental tenet of Evolution from working itself out in society (even as it does in those parts of the universe yet unseen/undiscovered/unimpacted by us humans)?

Now, let me point out though that I am not necessarily of the mind to argue that evolution is not true (or did not or does not happen).

However, can you tell me why we should have laws (and a government that both makes and carries them out) that prevent/hinder the fundamental tenet of "survival of the fittest"? Why even seek to achieve and/or uphold (perhaps under false pretense?) whatever meaningless notion of ethics and such if "idiotic" beliefs about religion, etc. are just that, "idiotic"? And why pursue the lunacy of the violin (and music in general) either, if it's all just some virtually random firings of our synaptic nerve cells, etc.?

I think before one goes about running around calling everyone else "idiotic" for their religious beliefs (and preferences for whatever recreational or maybe passionate pleasures), it'd probably be good to carefully consider what life would actually be like if completely void of religion all along. For the violin lover, it may well mean no violin (and the music) at all. And for those who do enjoy what good there is in our laws, government, etc., well, maybe there would be no such things to speak of either, if we did not have religion at all.

Regardless of how one feels (or thinks) about religion, one really cannot divorce religion from mankind (at least not that we know of so far), so what point does it really serve to run about calling everyone else "idiotic" for their beliefs? Afterall, none of us here are proposing that we should act in truly idiotic (or harmful) ways in our attempts to satisfy our religious beliefs. To me, the act of doing just that seems a bit pointless (though I won't go so far as to label it "idiotic" ;-) )...

_Man_

April 10, 2008 at 01:43 AM · From jake bush;

"No, religion is sheer idiocy because it combines pointless mythologies and couple them with many prejudiced and nonsensical philosophies and skewed ethics which hinder the equality and progression of much of human civilization."

------------------------------

I'd like to hear more about the "skewed ethics", and how mythologies of any kind are necessarily pointless.

April 10, 2008 at 01:22 AM · Greetings,

Yixi, re the question of whether Beethoven was a philospher or not.

Of course he was. And the great advantage of being a deaf one is that you don`t have to listen to everyone`s elses ideas...

Cheers,

Buri

April 10, 2008 at 01:27 AM · I was reading the other day about how our perception of Beethoven comes down from a shady first biographer who destroyed and altered his conversation books and so on. That's the only way they could save most of us probably.

April 10, 2008 at 02:56 AM · I read somewhere he attempted to do philosophy after deafness had kicked in, so he might have written some philosophical works? I have faith in Beethoven so I'm withdrawing what I said previously:)

April 10, 2008 at 03:17 AM · Jake, I understand that you are entitled to your opinion, and I can only speak for myself but I'm sure others might agree that I find it offensive when someone calls me an idiot (even if it's indirect). Where in your molecular biology do you find the chemicals to create such passionate contempt for others?

You have given numerous suggestions that we should all go do some research and look up some proven scientific facts (because facts of any other kind are useless of course). You may benefit from some research as well, especially in recognizing the difference between spirituality and religion. Nobody here talks of religion, everyone is simply stating their spiritual connection to God through music. Nobody here would dream of trying to make you understand or relate or even convert to anyone else's beliefs, so your arguments about how we are all stupid are unwarranted and.... (hate to say it)... narrowminded (Ouch, that's the worse 4-letter word I know!)

April 10, 2008 at 03:50 AM · I have been madly trying to find venues for two violin recitals only to discover that the only venues in town are churches. While I am thankful that the local churches encourage the arts by offering their spaces for community concert venues, I suspect that many people are more comfortable in halls that are not associated with a church. I know my violinists prefer to play in a "real hall" over a church, unless they have been specifically invited to play for a religious service. It somehow feels more pure for the audience to encounter the music in their own way rather than under the visual influence of religious symbols.

April 10, 2008 at 04:02 AM · I've gone to recitals in a rented hall, an old crappy school auditorium (several), even a bar, but the wonderful old church I saw E Power Biggs play in had the best acoustics, not to mention the organ he played...and that was the big deal. I didn't give a thought to the images...

April 10, 2008 at 06:28 AM · I agree, Chris, personally I find the extraordinary ability for science to explain everything away is both fascinating and disturbing. When scientific explanation is promoted in a simplistic, dogmatic and fanatic way, it is contrary to the essence of science (such as to pursuit of truth with an open and inquiry mind) but it simply turns things into darkness. Many brilliant thinkers in the past and present tried and failed miserably in my view to reduce all perceivable phenomenon to science. Even the strongest empirical materialists of the day would not dare to argue that things like love, beauty, music can be scientifically explained.

One way to look at it is that these are things belong to different 'worlds' we perceive, and to clearly describe them or even name them properly, we have to pretty much use different theory and its lingo. The 'heart' in science is not the same 'heart' in poem or love. What’s the use to argue which heart is real and which is misused term? Each term is true if and only if it is true within its own linguistic/cultural context. Any wonder why our Jake ‘overlooked’ my earlier request?

My notion of faith may sound a bit deflated, but in essence, faith is integral part of our everyday normal life that we simply can’t do without, whether you believe in god or not. I can’t imagine any individual can possibly obtain every single scientific proven fact before he/she believing something is the case or acting on it. If you eat anything, you have to do so, not based on your proof but on the faith that this particular piece of food you put in your mouth is not going to make you sick. A person trying to do otherwise is far from being rational or sane. One may say that my belief that this piece of food is safe to eat is based on past experience or other related scientific study that I’m aware of; namely, it’s a rational belief based on probability and inductive reasoning. But then you have to rely on someone else’s research at some point to reach to the somewhat jumpy conclusion that a) this particular case is supportable by the facts you obtain eslewhere and b) what happened in the past must happen again in each and every situation you can identify to be similar. Is this not some sort of leap of faith?

Some other poster (Marina maybe?) said something about we are all explorers and I think this is very true. It is both sad and amusing to see an otherwise quite intelligent person to have a very "lean" ontology; that is, he/she holds onto the notion that the world is limited to that which is tangible, explainable or explained only by fields of thoughts she/he can understand. It’s sad and amusing to see how many hard bullets he/she has to bite in order to maintain his/her position.

We are creature of faith out of necessity, as there is just so much we don’t know and so much more we are not even hardwired to know, yet we have to make sense, to act, to love and to heal.

April 10, 2008 at 05:57 AM · I believe there is a giant, all powerful Stradivarius up in the sky. If I live a good life, when I die, my soul will foat up there and get to play it.

the end.

April 10, 2008 at 06:06 AM · Does you soul have fingers?;)

April 10, 2008 at 05:47 AM · Jake, what happened that you have such enormous spite and disdain for people of Faith? Your arguments are peppered with ridicule and mockery.

They, if fact are not arguments for your position — rather venomous attacks on various individuals and their opinions and beliefs.

True Christianity is about love, forgiveness, giving, sharing and helping one another and those in need. The history books are filled with such endeavors and they continue to this moment.

Are there wars, famines and many other evils in the world — some caused by religious people claiming to be the doing the "will of God"? Yes! Is that right, NO, but it is a fact and one does not need to look far to find faults in humanity and it's tendency toward self. I see it every day — I look in the mirror every morning to shave.

I do not apologize for my need and desire to know God as fully as possible in this beginning lifetime. HE sent HIS SON, the Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered and died a most excruciating and humiliating death, so that I and all others — including you, Jake — could personally know HIM and trust, lean on and look to HIM for guidance, compassion and love.

We only have to seek HIM honestly in our very being and HE comes to us — not on our terms, but in HIS all-embracing Love and Compassion. I read the end of THE BOOK that you don't trust, cover to cover a number of times. GOD wins over all evil, all injustice and everything else that is wrong in the world.

It is not about religion, it is about a relationship with ALMIGHTY GOD for all of life eternal. I do not deserve this and I cannot earn it, but by FAITH I do joyfully accept it.

May GOD move in your life in such a way that your eyes, mind and, yes, heart, open wide to HIS LOVE for you and all of us.

What do you have to lose? What would you gain?

With all sincerity,

In Christian Love —

God be with you,

Drew

April 10, 2008 at 08:27 AM · Yixi...well said. Arguement aside, some of the best chamber music concerts I have ever heard have been in churches. Like singing in the shower. Maybe it is all that tile and marble but for example St. John of the Divine, St. Patricks and many other smaller houses of worship have hosted some great concerts and chamber music events and the music sounded so great if my memory serves. Short of a hall designed for concerts some of these buildings designed for worship really have great acoustics. So regardless of your spiritual disposition it can be quite enjoyable to listen to great music in some of these places. We had the opportunity to play in a church santuary for a recital of friends. We never sounded so good. Our rehersal space really absorbs the sound and it was quite a thrill to hear the music in such a space.

April 10, 2008 at 08:45 AM · I'd been staying out of this one, though reading the debate with quite a bit of interest. Jennifer, I actually have pretty much the opposite feeling about playing concerts vs. services in churches. I have never been religious, and so the only times I went to churches/synagogues/temples as a child were to play and hear concerts. I associate them with music - not with worship. Later, I played for a few services in various locations and always felt uncomfortable, particularly if I was 'expected' to take part in the service in some way other than performing. For me, the ritual is disturbing if I'm expected to participate in it. On the other hand, I'll gladly play a Bach cantata or a mass in a church if it's clear I'm there as a musician.

On the Faith debate, let me throw this out there - of course any of the universal questions require at some point a 'leap of faith', regardless of whether we're accepting a scientific hypothesis or a religious dictate. To me, various answers are there to help us deal with open-ended questions, like 'what happens when we die'. I'm comfortable answering this question with 'I don't know. I guess I'll have to see', but I think some people are less so - that's where both science and religion come in. Just because I can't answer the question doesn't mean it isn't worth speculating or investigating on all sorts of different levels, but this 'leap of faith', or in my case lack thereof, is a very personal decision.

April 10, 2008 at 09:34 AM · Drew, I could not have said it better myself. Thank you once again.

Yixi, you hit on something important. I do not know where you stand with respect to what you believe, but you are right, there is a world apart from the physical, which is the spiritual. This is why Jesus was able to perform numerous miracles beyond any hope of explanation. And when one considers that Jesus was God in the flesh, the Creator of this physical world, it is not so difficult a thing to consider, but it still takes a measure of faith! However, one need not look far. Just gaze out your window and look at the miracle that is the natural world. It is simply breathtaking. The music of Bach is wonderful, no doubt, but it cannot hold a candle to the wonder of Creation, of even something as simple as a leaf, or a flower. Get up close and look, real close, and you will find the love of God staring right back.

We cannot hope to fully comprehend this world, nor do we need to, what we have been given is more than sufficient. It is only our hearts that stand in the way.

April 10, 2008 at 11:01 AM · jake, are your hijacking this thread with non-religious stuff?:)

April 10, 2008 at 11:34 AM · I got a Ph.D. in Neuroscience because I have always been interested in how the human brain works. I work now in a lab at MIT so I see and work with other scientists all day, all the time. Being steeped in that environment, I guess I'm a little shocked to realize (again) how science and scientific language appear to the non-scientists in this group.

The aspect that surprises (and saddens) me the most is how dismissive and negative folks seem to be about scientific explanations for natural phenomena. Somehow, according to this view, science is dry, it's dead, it doesn't feed the soul. Similarly, I've always been somewhat taken aback by the contempt that much religious language shows for the material world: according to that view, this world is mired in selfishness and greed, it's "fallen." It's so irredeemably awful and bad that other worlds beyond our "mere" understanding have to be postulated to prevent us from sinking into the pit of despair.

Richard Dawkins, an atheist and a scientist, tried to take some of this on in his book, _Unweaving the Rainbow_, not entirely successfully from my point of view (and that of many reviewers). But one of his arguments I do remember quite clearly from the book: he says he gets these letters from people all the time wondering how he can be so sad, or angry, or pessimistic, or negative, or whatever--when he in fact is not that way at all. He's not the most tactful writer, and he likes to provoke. But even in his interviews he comes across as prickly, yes, maybe not the kind of guy you'd want to have over for dinner (or maybe you would), but also not wallowing in some kind of cesspool of despair and hatred the way he is often portrayed in the media.

At MIT too, I meet many non-theistic scientists on a daily basis. Geeky? Sure. Quirky? You bet. But overall, optimistic, generous, friendly, and hopeful about the human condition and its potential for improvement by our own efforts. Right here in the material, tangible world. Music also thrives in such an environment. The little violin- and piano-playing math geniuses grow up and work in a place like this. The beauty of the natural world and its laws finds expression in a multitude of different ways.

Scientific communication is important to me, and I take this as an example of how much work scientists have to do to make their work and worldview more accessible. There are a lot of parallels between the state of science and the state of classical music, as described in the other threads. With science, as with classical music, there is a sometimes earned perception that its practitioners are dried up, old, and out of touch, concerned with arcane trivia that don't matter to most people. The challenges of making both topics interesting and relevant to people who aren't highly trained in the practice are going to be with us for a long, long time.

April 10, 2008 at 11:52 AM · Bertrand Russell once said that "Faith is a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence." Ultimately, everything may be reduced to (or elevated to) a matter of philosophical belief.

It is interesting to note that the first "philosophers" who made a serious study of science as a philosophy included many theoretical physicists.

The arguments in this discussion, while clearly well-considered, heartfelt, and meaningful, have no resolution on which we can all agree, because they are ultimately a matter of faith and philosophy. And I guess that's my belief.

In the meantime, I would have to say that my opinion is that of those who are typically considered the greatest composers, the one who most consistently wrote the greatest spiritual music in a religious sense was J.S. Bach. Any disagreement about that?

Cheers,

Sandy

April 10, 2008 at 12:12 PM · Sandy, yes and no. I'd hate Bach's music to be used as doctrine.

Karen, I respect your plea for elevating scientists and in fact I have them in the highest regard. Without a doubt the pursuit of science is of great service to humanity and is as necessary to the survival of spirituality as faith is. I do not disagree with the search for answers by science. Everyone here might be a little angry only because of the mockery and name calling we're subjected to by a.."scientist????" Sorry, don't know anything about Jake except that he's "not a performer" which discredits him even further from trying to explain the conveyance of spirit during a performance.

Karen, you spoke intelligently and cohesively about scientific matters. Had you come in and said "you're all stupid and this is why..." that would be another story.

Living in NYC and performing in churches is a way of life. There are too many performance groups and not enough concert halls on any day of the week. In fact, some churches are highly coveted performance venues like Riverside Church, St. Paul's church, and many others. Personally I do find it a little creepy in some churches where they have statues of a bloody Jesus etc, but you put it out of your mind and focus on the music at hand.

April 10, 2008 at 05:22 PM · Alan--why wait until you get to heaven? Go to a great violin shop with a Strad in their vault and ask to play it. Of course, maybe if you're really good, in heaven they GIVE you the Strad. I expect Antonio is around someplace. Something I learned after playing my first del Gesu--the violin and violinist are partners. It will only give you what you are prepared to elicit from it. I imagine that's what heaven is like too.

With my many years of devout church attendance, the one "truth" I am most grateful to have learned is to look at the people around me, appreciate them and serve them. My attempts to define the indefinable don't lead me far, but when I spend my time loving, serving, understanding and listening, I find what is larger than myself. Organized church worship is valuable to me in the sense that it reminds me of the work at hand, and how to best worship--through appreciating and loving the people around me without judgement and without reserve. Music is the best way I can do that. Anne Akiko Meyers, though I'm sure she would like to, just can't make it to perform at every funeral, or every wedding, and not to every Christmas function or Bah Mitzvah in which music truly helps, lifts and inspires. She has her own path and is helping the people who need her. I'm glad to share the load. I'm doing my best to play, to work hard so I will be offering the absolute most that is in my capacity to give. Life is sacred to me--I reverence life. Music happens to be a direct connection to the neurotransmitters that create the holy, sacred center of feeling and imagination within people I prefer to called the Soul or Spirit.

April 10, 2008 at 01:11 PM · heaven is playing a good sounding strad right here right now:)

kimberlee, you mean to elicit the illicit?:)

April 10, 2008 at 01:13 PM · :O I can't believe I made that spelling error.

April 10, 2008 at 01:16 PM · We live in the "Bible belt", and I don't know how many times I've heard audience members say to the performer something like "I could feel God's spirit flowing through you," or "God has blessed you, child." They sincerely find it to be a spiritual experience. I find this to be a lovely expression of their response to the music.

My son was once asked if his playing was a spiritual experience and if he felt God was speaking through him. He very thoughtfully said that some of what he did was planned and thought out ahead of time and some he just felt and it came out. He didn't know how that happened, but it was not conscious. He said if you consider these feelings to come from a spirit or soul, then it is something like God working. So, for him it all depends on the definition of soul and spirit and God, but it is definitely a mysterious phenomenon that he is experiencing when he plays.

When I listen to music I have feelings that are outside my ordinary experience. It definitely feels like a mystical experience. However, I doubt that it would detract from the experience to have a physical explanation for this emotional response just like it does not detract from my appreciation of the beauty of a bird to know its name and habits and its genetic relationship to other bird species.

April 10, 2008 at 01:46 PM · Great stuff Kimberlee!

April 10, 2008 at 05:13 PM · Karen,

Well said. We are all trying to make the world a better place in out sphere of influence — whether scientific or other. At least that is how it should be.

The inquisitive nature of humans to search for and understand all aspects of nature, the universe and life is fantastic.

Without science and all of it's accomplishments and discoveries, the world would suffer a tremendous loss.

For some of us, faith in God adds the mix of the present and wonderfully complex and intricate world with the eternal future beyond this present life.

Without faith in a Greater Being, the extreme drive to help others around the world, and in our own areas, would lessen tremendously for many.

Life always is a mix of good and bad — but it IS wonderful.

We can all work together for the good of all. I think that is the plan…

Good "talking" with all of you—

Drew

April 10, 2008 at 05:24 PM · without science, prof drew probably had to type out his book on a typewriter with lots eraseable ribbons. wait, goose-feather-pen it on parchment:)

without faith, probably no content! hehe.

April 10, 2008 at 05:28 PM · Many posts to respond to. I'll respond in order, starting with David's:

"I'd like to hear more about the "skewed ethics", and how mythologies of any kind are necessarily pointless. "

We'll start with this example, which speaks of killing your family if they try to draw you to other religious beliefs.

Deuteronomy 13:6-8 'If your brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife tries to secretly entice you, telling you to go and worship other gods, gods of people living near you, or far from you, or anywhere on earth, do not listen to him. You must kill them. Show them no pity. And your hand must strike the first blow.'

Here's an example which has caused an extreme about of repression against homosexuals legally and mentally by Christians, without any logical or supporting statements:

Leviticus 18:22

'Do not have sex with a man as you would with a woman. It is an abomination.'

Here's an example stating to stone your children if they don't listen to you:

Deuteronomy 21:18 and proceeding verses:

'If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not listen to the voice of his father or his mother even when they punish him, his father and mother must take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.

'They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard." All the men of the town must then stone him to death. You must banish this evil from among you'

Exodus 21:2, 21:2,4 and Deuteronmy 15:16 and 15:17 detail how to treat Hebrew slaves that you purchase, and when to kill them.

When you purchase a Hebrew slave his service will last for six years. In the seventh year he will leave a free man. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and children will belong to the master, and he will depart alone. But if the slave says to you, "I do not want to leave you," because he loves you and your family, and is well off with you, then you must take an awl and drive it through the slave's ear and into the door. He will be your servant forever.

April 10, 2008 at 05:39 PM · More examples to David's inquiry:

Deuteronomy 21:10 - 21:11 - 21:13 details how you should kill all male prisoners of war you take, but you can take the women as wifes if you're attracted to them, and then have sex with them.

'When you go to war against your enemies and take prisoners, put the entire male population to death. If among the prisoners you see a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you make take her as a wife. Bring her to your home, shave her head, cut her nails, and take off her prisoner's garb. She must stay inside your house and mourn for her father and mother for a full month. After that, you may have sex with her'

Then there's Exodus 22:18 which speaks against beastiality in a rather ... cruel manner.

'Any man who has sex with an animal, is certainly to be put to death.'

Leviticus 20:27 has an interesting ideal against magicians. I fear for Hoodini.

'Put to death any man or woman among you who is a necromancer or magician. Stone them with stones.'

Oh, then we have Deuteronomy 29:19 and 29:20, which dictates how if you follow your own ethical and moral ideas, God will burn you with wrath.

'If anyone should think to himself, "I will do well enough if I follow the dictates of my heart," Yahweh will not pardon him. His wrath shall burn against him.'

Careful, wives, from ever hitting your husband with an iron frying pan during a fight!

Numbers 35:16

'But if the man struck someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer and must be put to death'

April 10, 2008 at 05:48 PM · Plato banished the poets. Don't know about violinists...

Jake, I just have to say I think you're doing a really good job of standing up to your opposition. I may not see this issue as being quite as black and white as you, but I think I might have about ten years ago!

April 10, 2008 at 06:14 PM · Drew--I appreciate your remarks. They are so beautifully put and a lovely testimony of Jesus Christ. I admire your faith and conviction. One of my favorite lines comes from the recent movie "The Count Of Monte Cristo." The late Richard Harris delivers this line upon the adamant declaration from his fellow prison inamte that he DOES NOT believe in God:

It doesn't matter. God believes in you.

Jake--Those are pretty shocking verses. I'll have to look them up. Funny, I know many Christians and Jewish followers and none of them act that way even if it's in the Bible. I understand you fielding criticism and I understand if you have an aversion to Christianity, but the verses you describe do not match my experiences with the Christians or Jews I know. It doesn't matter. The topic at hand has to do with spirituality and how it influences your music. I seriously doubt your music making is completely clinical, so I think you have a spirit/soul which relates to music, and that is relevant experience to share in light of this thread no matter your religious persuasion.

I've read other posts you've made, and I know you are a person who is deeply moved through classical music. I would be so happy to hear about THOSE experiences. We run around in circles when we defend our positions and forget about people.

April 10, 2008 at 05:29 PM · Next, I'll respond to Drew's earlier post:

I have a large about of spite and disdain for most religions due to how it has inflicted civilization, society, and humanity, and how much death, nonsense persecution, unfounded prejudice against other people's lifestyles. Through numbers and influence the ignorance of mainstream religions has hindered equality and intellectual development in both law, government, and living.

As for 'True' Christianity being about love, forgiveness, etc, this is just cherry picking things from the Bible which may fit these bills in most people's mind. There are innumerable atrocities and horrors committed by God himself, and I believe Adolf Hitler and most rulers famed for suffering pale in comparison to God's malice and cruelty in many cases, especially in regards to eternally damning those who are too intelligent for the idiocy of Christianity.

I hold no respect for a God that sentences people to eternal punishment after death because they were too intelligent to listen to his pathetic creeds and philosophies with the intellect of a toddler.

Yes, unfortunately these many evils, wars, etc, in regards to Christianity, have direct relation to God, and many which are inspired by the mythologies of Christianity, wouldn't exist without these fairy tale beliefs. This makes me view them in a poor light.

As for sending his son to die for my aid, until you find a corelation between someone's brain functions ceasing to exist, and the effect of that upon an abstract and mentally subjective concept such as 'sin', I'd prefer if you did not state that nonsense as fact.

I'm glad you think God will triumph over evil in the end ... unfortunately 'evil' is dependent upon the ethical system you use to judge an action. Really, you shouldn't worry about it though, none of it will happen. Norse mythology is quite clear about the Ragnarok, and it mentions nothing about omnipotent and omniscient beings winning over evil.

That's a delightful dream, though. I place emphasis on 'dream'

I'd also advise you not to waste time evoking God to 'open my eyes, mind, and heart' wide. Chances are he would melt from the sheer sin contained in my heathen heart. R.I.P. God.

As for gaining and loses, let's not get into Pascal's "Wager" argument. It applies to every religion and god, and still leaves you with thousands of choices which have no evidential hold over any of the others.

April 10, 2008 at 06:01 PM · "Jake,

Those are pretty shocking verses. I'll have to look them up. Funny, I know many Christians and Jewish followers and none of them act that way. "

Yes, I was shocked until I re-read the Old Testament. Then it occurred to me that Vlad the Impaler would have rather idolized God. Oh boy.

April 10, 2008 at 06:02 PM · "On the Faith debate, let me throw this out there - of course any of the universal questions require at some point a 'leap of faith', regardless of whether we're accepting a scientific hypothesis or a religious dictate."

Call me crazy but I'm going to draw a distinction between a 'leap of faith' based on numerous scientific theories, and ongoing evidences which are tested and weighed constantly, compared to a 'leap of faith' made based on an ancient text whose innumerable translations, alterations of ideologies.

Reminds me of the old topics on how ridiculous much Christian prejudice was on issues such as homosexuality, when the translations were based on Greek texts which uses words that had many meanings in Greek, quite a few which are lost to us, but by many of the meanings it wouldn't have meant anything against homosexuality like the Catholic Church, for example, institutes.

Ah, reminds me of the Council of Nicaea. How I love when people claim a work of literature is Divine when its beliefs and concepts have been altered by humans like all hells. Who knows what original doctrines might have been, since so many were destroyed by original Christian leaders.

April 10, 2008 at 06:12 PM · So, Jake, now we know what your religion is NOT, what about your music? What do you find in your music? Do you find the topic of this thread "faith and violin" applicable to your own personal journey in any way? How so?

April 10, 2008 at 06:19 PM · Kimberlee: In my own personal music, it depends on what I am playing. Bach's solo partitas and sonatas, for example, definitely give me a wondrous sense of harmony and beauty, as well as peace. Perhaps it is much like what others have commented on Bach's works. But these feelings come from the tonal structure of the works mostly.

Chris Dolan's post next:

Interesting, Jesus was able to perform numerous miracles and party tricks (Oh yeah, water into wine, baby!) because of a spiritual world apart from our physical world. And Jesus was God in the flesh ... and somehow our natural world is proof of all this. Yes, because, you know, there aren't countless mythological explanations of existence or anything. No sir, not a few thousand contradicting tales, none of which have any observational evidence.

How could anyone dare belief in the scientific explanations of the world and its evolution? How dare anyone go with the explanations that have a large weight of evidence of vast varieties, which are endlessly being added to and refines ... Clearly believing that an omnipotent being founded on a religious text with hundreds of documented contradictions and impossibilities is more logical than the scientific system!

D'oh. My fault for not being enlightened :-\

Marina Fragoulis's post next:

Yes, I am not a performer. Once again, please explain how the title of performer relates to being able to explain spirituality while performing music...?

Now Jennifer Laursen's post:

Uh, I'm not sure how people claiming God's spirit or blessings affects musicianship is any claim on spirituality truly doing so. One could simply replace 'God' in those sentences with 'Horus' or 'Loki'

What you're describing is people feeling emotional effects, and wrongfully attributing it to a divine being (God in this case) from ignorance.

If you really thought it was a divine intervention of some sort while playing, it is possible to see which functions of your brain fire up while playing, and it is possible to analyze exactly what emotions are occurring through perfectly normal chemical responses.

April 10, 2008 at 06:26 PM · Jake wrote:

"If you really thought it was a divine intervention of some sort while playing, it is possible to see which functions of your brain fire up while playing, and it is possible to analyze exactly what emotions are occurring through perfectly normal chemical responses."

Jake, what you haven't yet addressed is why these chemical responses occur. This is what fascinates me. I can't attribute them to any sort of divine presence, but you have to admit the question of why this occurs is a lot more interesting that that of what occurs, or possibly even how.

EDIT: On your previous response to my post (on the 'leap of faith') - I agree. Take a look at my comments to Karen's blog if you want.

April 10, 2008 at 06:32 PM · For the 'why' of emotions, many are related to concepts of evolution and survival. Fear is perhaps the most obvious example of an emotion having developed for survival purposes in organisms. Anger is another example of a survival-related emotion.

For example, the mind associates certain things with pain, harm, death, etc. When the mind interprets these things through the senses, (for example, if you see a murderer's silhouette in a doorway you're approaching), emotional responses kick in. Heart beats faster. Body begins producing adrenaline. The chemical responses that compose the emotion 'fear' arise.

I can't really go into full detail here, and much of how it works isn't known to me, since it's not the branch of knowledge I specialize in by any means. More or less nearly every primary emotion (the full spectrum of human emotions is created through combinations of primary emotions. Think of primary colors and how they can merge to make an incredible amount of hues) has a function which relates to evolutionary concepts. Most are on the subconscious level.

April 10, 2008 at 06:31 PM · Again, I do not discredit science, nobody here has. You still have not made the distinction between religion and spirituality, only to say that spiritual awareness is just a chemical reaction with a neurological explanation and it happens because... hmmm.... well you don't know I guess and if you did know why this happens then you would BE the answer to the great unknown.

If you're not a performer then I give no value to what you think about what goes on in my mind while I perform. You couldn't possibly know without the experience. If a performer credits divine inspiration then you have to let that be.

For the record, I do not side with Christianity, Islam, or any other faith on this subject. I take issue with all organized religion, and the Council at Nicaea is at the heart of all my suspicions. I do not accept the spoon feeding of any idea be it spiritual, religious, or political. All I acknowledge is that there is a part of myself that yields to the unknown. I do not wish to question everything, nor do I need an understanding of my chemical composition. I think I'm just happier that way.

April 10, 2008 at 06:48 PM · Does that answer really satisfy you, though? Fear in particular is a pretty basic instinct - or emotion. How do you deal with more complex ones - romantic love, what goes through your head while listening to or playing great music? Why does my brain produce this particular chemical response when listening to this particular Mozart aria? And why does your produce something different? Or something similar? That's what I find interesting, and that's what remains to be - not explained, but rather investigated.

We're getting remarkably close to a modern version of 'Hamlet' - not 'worms and a quintessence of dust' - but chemicals...

April 10, 2008 at 06:48 PM · We live in the "Bible belt", and I don't know how many times I've heard audience members say to the performer something like "I could feel God's spirit flowing through you," or "God has blessed you, child." They sincerely find it to be a spiritual experience. I find this to be a lovely expression of their response to the music.

__________________

I found that if I added a thicker vibrato and more schmaltzy slides that I got more comments about how much "God was working through me."

Apparently God likes vibrato and schmaltz.

___________

Jake, all the references you make are to the Old Testament. Which means they are irrelevant to Christianity today. Find some nasty new testament references if you want to make your case.

There aren't many.

Since JC came, the new testament is what one lives their life by, not the old testament, which is historical. The new testament is the "new covenent."

Unless you happen to be Jewish, in which case what you say is totally relevant and the hunt is on for the "Messiah."

April 10, 2008 at 06:43 PM · I was bound and determined to not say anything on this thread again...but so much for fortitude.

Jake: I'm sure you know that in quoting anything, it is essential, that the quote must be considered in context. The Bible is no different. Randomly selecting verses out of the Bible because they "appear" to make your point or strengthen your position is illogical.

And just an observation (and seriously no offense intended), but a "leap of faith" which is exactly how the Christian walk begins requires much more courage to believe in something we can't see, than one who stands on the sidelines and maligns it using the pre-concived notions of the masses who aren't brave enough to try it.

April 10, 2008 at 06:48 PM · "Does that answer really satisfy you, though? Fear in particular is a pretty basic instinct - or emotion. How do you deal with more complex ones - romantic love, what goes through your head while listening to or playing great music? Why does my brain produce this particular chemical response when listening to this particular Mozart aria? And why does your produce something different? Or something similar? That's what I find interesting, and that's what remains to be - not explained, but rather investigated."

A basic instinct, yes, but emotions vary to degrees and intensities, and coupled with other emotions, they can become quite complex. A common misunderstanding of emotions, however, is believing they are more complex than they actually are in many cases. Take love, the example you gave. All the studies I've read in which the brain's processes while feeling 'loved' are examined, shows that 'emotionally' there is no chemical difference between the experience romantic love, love of a child, etc. It's coupled when coupled with conscious and physical distinctions that we separate these things.

Your questions of music are particularly interesting. I am not claiming to be an expert on emotional responses, so I can't answer all of these questions of course. I've always been extremely interested in the process of WHY certain rhythms, tones, techniques, etc, draw certain emotions. I've read SOME research on the topic, and some is known (things like why/how music can cause a person to shudder during occasion) but much of it is indeed unknown.

I'm sure there's lots of research I am unaware of, but there's also tons and tons left to be researched. Ah, well, science is always a work in progress.

Worms...worms...worms...

April 10, 2008 at 06:59 PM · "And just an observation (and seriously no offense intended), but a "leap of faith" which is exactly how the Christian walk begins requires much more courage to believe in something we can't see, than one who stands on the sidelines and maligns it using the pre-concived notions of the masses who aren't brave enough to try it."

Oh, yes, my lack of belief is clearly indicative of a lack of bravery. And here I've spent my life thinking I was using logical arguments! Silly me. Excuse me while I go around my street congratulating small children for the 'bravery' they have in their beliefs in Santa.

"If you're not a performer then I give no value to what you think about what goes on in my mind while I perform. You couldn't possibly know without the experience. If a performer credits divine inspiration then you have to let that be."

Hmm. No. I play piano at a high level, and have had many performances locally. I am quite certain nothing divine was experienced.

Like I said, if you believe you experience something divine, you're welcome to test the theory and offer yourself for experimentation on the brain processes occuring while performing violin.

"Since JC came, the new testament is what one lives their life by, not the old testament, which is historical. The new testament is the "new covenent.""

Hahaha! The Old Testament is historical? I'm sure many historians would be fascinated by that one.

As for new testament idiocy in terms of philosophy and ethics, I'll go through it and find some stuff for you later today.

"considered in context. The Bible is no different. Randomly selecting verses out of the Bible because they "appear" to make your point or strengthen your position is illogical."

Feel free to look up the verses and the context yourself. I'd be impressed if you could even creatively come up with a context for most of those that would make it so it didn't seem terribly messed up to a lot of people.

April 10, 2008 at 07:03 PM · Debra wrote:

"And just an observation (and seriously no offense intended), but a "leap of faith" which is exactly how the Christian walk begins requires much more courage to believe in something we can't see, than one who stands on the sidelines and maligns it using the pre-concived notions of the masses who aren't brave enough to try it. "

This was a response to my comment, wasn't it? I don't agree with you 100%, although I do see where you're coming from. Of course it's a big step (or shall I say leap) to trust something you can't logically prove, and yes, it does probably take more guts to do that than to stand on the sidelines and deride it. However, I would argue that both affirmation and negation of something we cannot prove to be true or in existence are both ways of convincing ourselves we know more than we do. 'What if...' is an uncomfortable question a lot of the time, and often we want easy answers. I'm not trying to reduce faith, religion or atheism down to this - it's much more complex, but I think doctrine and dogma can often be used to avoid looking into the abyss.

April 10, 2008 at 07:15 PM · jake, let me ask you a question:

lets say a person you admire the most as a violinist happens to have a deep faith in something, organized or disorganized:) and you happen to have a conversation with him/her about the relationship of his/her faith and violin playing, if there is such a thing. IF the player insists that his/her deep faith is very much responsible for his/her development as a musician, something that help carry him/her over obstacles, etc, what would you say? (i am running up the rafter and sticking the mic to your face:)

April 10, 2008 at 07:08 PM · Megan:

True indeed. In my personal opinion it takes more 'bravery' to strongly question your own beliefs, and suffer the knowledge that you were incorrect, or that you had beliefs that by most logic would be considered idiotic. I think this quest and questioning takes more 'courage' than to blindly follow short and easy answers because they bring comfort.

Al:

I would say, "Luckily for you, what you lack in smarts you make up for in good bowing. Now up the tempo on those Ysaye sonatas, chop chop!"

April 10, 2008 at 06:44 PM · What a lot of fuss and feathers over other people's beliefs! Poor Jake, lathered with fury at a god he doesn't believe in, shaking the Old Testament apart for examples of ancient desert tribal paternity...they do call it the OLD Testament, after all. Where did God fail you, Jake? Of course religion evolves over time, so does every other aspect of society.

I do not find that any theory of science or technology disproves any of my dearly held "beliefs"/opinions/desires. I've lived long enough to see lots of change in scientific theory. I remember when all dinosaurs were thought to be cold blooded, for instance. Rather, advances have, from time to time, certified my beliefs. I'm thinking just now of the experiments being done in string theory, testing for matter and energy. From the center of your guts to the edge of the universe as we know it, positive all the way. So, I won't have to wait for the cosmic hot dog man to make me one with everything, I already am. Boffo.

Point is, why concern yourself with "truth"? There as many as points of view. What really matters is the search, because you are not just

exploring facts. People are not just technicians. You are creating, exploring, expanding the ground of your being. The "I" of I am, you are,he/she/it is. The mystery behind the eyes in the mirror.

Of course, I could be chock full of baloney.

April 10, 2008 at 07:46 PM · Jake – no one, including me, is criticizing your bravery. I mean…look how long you’ve lasted on this thread. :-)

What I was saying was essentially: Don’t knock it until you try it. The only way to a true walk with God is to repent sincerely ask Him to take control of your life (but that is a different topic). If that hasn’t been done, all the research and logic in the world won’t allow an “outsider” to experience what we Christians know to be true. Anyone can take that step – but not through logic, sarcasm, etc. only faith.

I forget who said it, but someone on this thread used the analogy: someone can say gravity doesn’t exist all they want to, but if they step off of a high-rise building that person will still go splat! (my paraphrase) People can say God doesn’t exist all they want to – but their denial doesn’t make it reality. There’s nothing wrong with logic, science, music, or the emotion generated from music, but let’s not forget who gave us the logic and the science, the ability to use them, and everything else.

Music is one of God’s great gifts to His creation. Sure, music can be analyzed and broken down with logic, theory, and technique but along with that, let’s not forget to explore the sheer beauty of what it is, and the simplistic yet profound effect it can have on our lives and the lives of those we share it with.

April 10, 2008 at 07:54 PM · Debra, I think your very last sentence stands alone. That's what really matters, not the question of what does or doesn't cause it.

April 10, 2008 at 08:28 PM · "Jake – no one, including me, is criticizing your bravery. I mean…look how long you’ve lasted on this thread. :-)"

Oh, that's simply because religious arguments are my favorite in terms of disagreement.

As for 'don't knock it until you try it', I was brought up Christian. When I became older I began to apply deeper thought than "well, others taught me it's right!" and I quickly discovered that not only did I any longer believe in the religion, but laughed quite a lot at how idiotic of a child I was for believing in it.

"People can say God doesn’t exist all they want to – but their denial doesn’t make it reality. There’s nothing wrong with logic, science, music, or the emotion generated from music, but let’s not forget who gave us the logic and the science, the ability to use them, and everything else."

Flip that around. Simply stating God does exist does not make it true. On the other hand, those who deny the existence of God, may very often do so using very length, in-depth, and intricate arguments and forms of evidence. Support of God does not have any of these things.

And once again you're making a sweeping assumption, that all those things are in credit to a divine being. A quick rule of thumb on the path to knowledge, is asking yourself the question, "How can I support X claim, or X truth?"

If you can't, as in case of most religious claims, it seems childish to me to make the statement.

Music is not a 'gift' from a Creator. There is well-developed and documented history and evolution of music, its principles, and qualities.

I agree that music is a wonderful, wonderful element to humanity, however. I just strongly argue against it being credited to a nonexistent source.

April 10, 2008 at 08:48 PM · Well - your explanation of your childhood says alot about how adamantly you defend your position against Christianity.

But other than the clarification I offered, my God doesn't need defending...so I will now agree to disagree with you.

See you around on other threads! :-)

April 11, 2008 at 02:04 AM · Jake--Why did it take you this long to get that last sentence out? I think that perfectly and concisely explained your point, and I appreciated the positive musical statement prior to it as well.

April 10, 2008 at 08:33 PM · "But other than the clarification I offered, my God doesn't need defending...so I will now agree to disagree with you."

Ay, usually figments don't need to be defended since they aren't conscious to even realize they're being attacked.

"Jake--why did it take you this long to get that last sentence out? Seems like that would have been enough."

I suppose I thought it was obvious how wonderful I thought music to be! Why else join a violin community :)

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