“I know only two tunes: one of them is ‘Yankee Doodle,’ and the other is not” (Ulysses S. Grant).
IS IT TOO MUCH OF A STRETCH TO THINK OF MUSIC AS A CHARACTER TRAIT? Well maybe, but who wouldn’t feel complimented if a friend said, “There’s music in your eyes” or “You make me want to sing” or “What you’re saying is music to my ears”?
As a force and an influence in our lives, music is both powerful and wonderfully varied. There are so many different kinds of music, almost every person can find something to like, and within each type of music, there is something for every time and mood. The ways in which we respond emotionally to music are rich and complex. We can be stirred to sorrowful tears or turned upside-down with laughter. We can be encouraged and emboldened, or sobered and made more sensitive. Music can be celebratory or frivolous or enlightening or reverent. It can both educate and entertain. It can lift us higher and keep us going. All things considered, music packs a more powerful punch in more different directions than anything it might be compared to. The ability to make music is one of our highest human endowments.
If you’ll think about it, you’ll probably agree that the people you find the most interesting — and the most refreshing — are those in whose lives there is a lot of music. Those who, like Ulysses S. Grant, “know only two tunes” may be people we respect, but we tend to think of them as being a bit grim. On the other hand, those who’ve learned to enjoy a wide variety of music seem to be lighter. They like to listen to music as often as possible, and when they’re not listening, they’re usually whistling or humming or singing. These music-loving folks are undeniably fascinating. We usually find them easier to like.
It’s a rare person whose life wouldn’t be made better by the inclusion of a little more music in it. Our mission in life may be quite serious, and we may be working our way toward the accomplishment of some weighty goal, but most of us could still stand to lighten up now and then. There’s no worthwhile destination we can aim toward that isn’t reached better by those who have a song in their hearts.
Light quirks of music, broken and uneven,
Make the soul dance upon a jig to heaven.