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Beauty, Music, and Healing

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Illustration by Jon Lieff from Music Training and Neuroplasticity

I remember a young mother who was concerned about her eight year old so shy that she wanted to stay home most of the time. The mother tried various ruses to get her to play with friends away from home and to reach out to other children, but most of her attempts were less than successful.

She eventually enrolled the child in a music class and left her there alone at the first meeting, then crossed her fingers and hoped for the best. After class, she was amazed to see the exuberant joy on her reclusive one’s face as the little girl began to sing her own name and a welcoming greeting to show off her new skills.

The teacher had eased the tension for all of the students that morning by teaching each of them to sing an introduction that included their name and a welcome to their classmates. Although many adults quake in fear at the thought of singing a solo in public, somehow singing reduced all fears for each of the students.

Singing is also used as therapy with stroke victims or others suffering from some type of brain impairment. Their ability to speak is often diminished. However, singing uses a different part of the brain than speaking does, so singing ofter helps repair the damage. I understand that Gabby Giffords was treated with a form of music therapy when recovering from the assassination attempt.

Music also has the power to help people with dementia remember aspects of their lives that had been long forgotten. I remember reading about a patient who appeared to be totally unable to understand or communicate. But one time  when walking near a piano, he sat down and played song after song after song that he had played as a young adult with a band. Eventually he showed additional signs of recovering both speech and memory.

When reading about the therapeutic uses of music, many people wonder what it can do for the normal person (whatever that is). I know a teaching consultant who encourages all parents to insist that their children participate in music lessons. According to Andrew Pudewa at IEW, it’s not so much an effort to discover the next virtuoso as it is to help the child’s brain develop more fully.

If you’re interested,  The Great Courses, an adult learning resource, recently released Aniruddh Patel’s “Music and the Brain” course. This series of 18 half-hour lectures covers fundamental ideas of music theory, neuroanatomy, and cognitive science and looks at the diverse range of experiments, discoveries, and debates in this fast-changing field. Access the program online at thegreatcourses.com. Also, there are several books and numerous articles available on similar topics.

Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather

Beauty Equals Healing

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Chained Angel by Carrie Mixon

If we did not instinctively understand that experiencing something that is beautiful brings healing, we would not appreciate the quote by Alain de Botton that I posted two days ago.

It is perhaps when our lives are at their most problematic that 

we are likely to be most receptive to beautiful things.” 

But our everyday lives are filled with seeking beauty to comfort ourselves or others. When a friend is ill, we bring him flowers. After burials, at least in the South, we cover the grave with flowers. When a child cries, we automatically  sing to him.

When angry, we turn to the music of Grieg’s “In The Hall of The Mountain King” if we’d secretly like to sneak up on our enemy, or Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” if we’re ready for war. Either piece played at full volume alleviates our internal stress. Although sometimes we try to express our anger in the most potent way possible by using words ordinarily forbidden; the trouble is that profanity seldom helps as much as beauty.

A fairly recent cultural adaptation of using beauty to heal is the popularity of adult coloring books. Avid users insist that the quiet time involved in creating pleasing results helps to relieve anxiety – and avoid use of those forbidden words.

On the other hand, if the cause of our pain is unrequited love, both sexes often resort to the beautiful power of poetry. Yes, even the boys who sat in the back of literature class making jokes and rolling their eyes often find themselves jotting down rhyming words and muttering their newly minted lines that are intended to catch the fancy of the object of their affection. I know this because some of these male students  will even approach an English teacher asking for editorial assistance.

Sometimes we reach for beauty when fearful. The picture above, “Chained Angel,” was painted by a daughter whose mother just discovered she had breast cancer. The girl’s family had recently been torn asunder by a bitter divorce. She had felt abandoned by her father, and now even before those wounds had begun to heal, she faced losing her mother too. As the surgeries and treatment began, she painted because there were no words.

She felt chained to circumstances that she did not create and had no control over. Even the lesser dreams she recently had dared to believe in now seemed shattered.  Yet, while creating beauty with her own mind and her own hands, as she worked to illustrate the  struggle out of darkness into the light, she managed to overcome that double setback.*

The beauty that she created became part of the healing process for  the whole family. Indeed, it speaks to and for all of us who have felt chained by forces outside of ourselves and over which we have little or no control. Yet circumstances force us to  live with new realities. We have to “learn to make lemonade out of the lemons” brought into our lives. We must become angelic despite the chains because to do otherwise is untenable.

Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather

*The good news is that her mother did recover and that her father did give her away at her wedding. 

My Current Mantra

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One of the most beautiful animals in the world – a horse.

If one defines oft repeated phrases as mantras, my favorites have slowly changed through the years from “pick up your toys” to “do your homework” to “remember that assignment is due Friday.” As someone who now mostly works with adults, I’ve again realized how much our own daily choices “make” our lives.  We often think that each life is comprised of big, important occasions, but the it’s the day-by-day humdrum decisions and attitudes that inexorably weave the pattern called by our name. Therefore, my newest mantra is “Choose to walk in beauty.”

I’ve come to see that beauty in its various forms not only soothes our physical and emotional pain, but it also serves as a lodestone drawing us toward that which is good and true — that which will benefit us most. So these days I encourage everyone to consciously walk in beauty every single day.

Think for a moment. Striving for beauty simplifies all of our choices while subtly encouraging us to make better ones. When someone takes your picture, do you smile or do you frown like the last time you were angry? When a guest is expected, do you clean the rooms and buy flowers for the table? Or do you leave jackets draped haphazardly on the furniture and Lego pieces on the floor? When you’re feeling down, do you prefer someone yelling obscenities to hearing someone singing songs? Choosing beauty instead of exasperation, beauty instead of slovenly habits, or beauty instead of coarseness makes us better and life more satisfying.

The good news is that everywhere we look we can enjoy beauty without spending a penny. Flowers, lovers walking hand in hand, trees, sunsets, meadows, prairies, toddlers discovering clover, mountain peaks, snow covered pines, hod carriers working on a new city building, green grass, rocks hewn by the wind and water, autumn leaves, horses, and more delight our eyes everywhere we turn. Then there’s the beauty of music and numbers and problems solved and sharing new ideas, and observing kindness in action. Beauty is easily available for those who choose it.

I believe that just as fish are made to swim in water, we were made to walk in beauty. And choosing to do so brings us real joy, not mere pleasure. Walking in beauty means we have to observe and use beauty as a map or guide for choosing our pathway each day. Then that joy quadruples when we help others become aware of their own beauty.

Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather

Post Script on Harvey’s “Beauty”

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Picture taken near Houston at height of flooding. The horse was rescued.

I am posting an article about rescue efforts that is on The American Thinker blog today. It is written by a volunteer who worked in the Dallas center for flood victims. Distance between those cities is 240 miles. (

What I Saw in the Floodwaters of Houston

By Hugh Reynolds

John Nolte’s superb article in Breitbart, “Houston Proves Everything the MSM Says about Our ‘Divided’ Country Is a Lie” (September 4, 2017) prompted me to tell my own story.  My family and I spent many hours in early September helping out at the “Mega-Shelter” for flood victims in downtown Dallas.  What I experienced there was like nothing I have ever seen.

The Responders and the Services

The response of Texans, and Americans from all across the country, to the catastrophic Houston flooding proves the power and resilience of the human spirit.  The magnitude of the logistics, the care, and yes, the love, is beyond extraordinary.  I know.  I have seen it.

Dozens of organizations virtually built a small city almost overnight in a space the size of 10-12 football fields.  Evacuees from the floodwaters in Southeast Texas came in by the hundreds, then by the thousands.  Hundreds of volunteers rushed in from nearly every state.

The Red Cross set up 5,000 cots and provided people who had lost almost everything with blankets, toiletries, showers, laundry service, child care, relocation and job counseling, and many other services.  Salvation Army volunteers fed everyone, including volunteers, three meals a day.  Volunteers from churches brought in water, juice, snacks, clothing, pillows, and other essentials.  Children were provided school clothes, toys, books, puppet shows, and supervised play areas.  Chaplains were giving out Bibles and providing spiritual comfort.

A small hospital was put together, including units for triage, primary and acute care, and stocked with all necessary medical equipment and supplies.  Scores of doctors, nurses, and other medical staff worked shifts lasting anywhere from eight to eighteen hours.  Medical services included mental health counseling, social work, and transport to other medical centers for dialysis and other critical needs.

Walmart established a fully stocked pharmacy for critical prescription needs like insulin and heart medication.  HEB set up a store providing food, clothing, and other personal items at no charge.  Evacuees were given free transportation to the Dallas Zoo, Six Flags Over Texas, outdoor movies, museums, and other cultural attractions.  I even saw a small boy getting a haircut in a makeshift barber shop.

Texas National and State Guard, local police, firefighters, and EMT personnel, and other first responders, were there to provide security and safety, while checking evacuees in and out of the building.  Janitorial staff worked around the clock to keep the shelter clean and free of trash.  Emergency management volunteers performed countless duties to ensure that the flood victims had whatever they needed.  FEMA was there for logistical, equipment, and financial support.  The VA was on hand to serve the needs of veterans.  The administrative record-keeping needed to keep track of victims, volunteers, services, and supplies was immense.

Personal Observations

I came in with other volunteers representing the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), a nationwide network of citizen volunteers organized at the local level and associated with fire or police departments.  My assignments consisted of escorting evacuees through the relief center with their few belongings; helping families navigate the huge facility; getting them settled into assigned sleeping spaces; acting as a runner for their various personal needs; and, unexpectedly, becoming a prayer partner.

I met volunteers from Massachusetts, Arizona, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, and many other states and Texas cities.  I worked with hundreds of people who had interrupted their lives and come from distant places to help others in need.

I encountered one young lady who had suddenly decided to put her personal business on hold, get on a plane, and fly from Milwaukee to Dallas just to see if she could help.  She had stepped out in faith into the unknown, and we caught her gently in God’s safety net as she fell into a strange and unimaginable world of human need, hardship, and suffering.  We gave her a quick tour, taught her to improvise, provided her with whirlwind training, and immersed her into shelter life.  She found a calling and confidence to pursue a life of service.  She also found herself giving and receiving unanticipated blessings.

As I walked the floor (which I estimated to be the size of 10 to 12 football fields), I found that many people just needed someone to listen to their stories and maybe hold their hands.  I saw families and single mothers with two, four, or even six children, including newborns.  I spoke to people who had been separated from families or had no one else in the world.  I prayed with elderly and handicapped people and became friends with an elderly man with no legs in a wheelchair who always had a smile for me.  I procured small stuffed animals and toys for dozens of small children and babies.  I was rewarded with tiny smiles and blessed to hold little hands.

I have been amazed by the courage and hope and faith in God displayed by these victims who did not behave like “victims.”  They kept up their spirits and told their stories and, in very profound ways, ministered to me and other volunteers.  Yes, there was some tension and tribulation, and there were some tears, but I saw miracles of strength and hope, and I love every hour I was there.

Finally, I met a woman who spent 14 hours in chest-deep water in her home – holding her family bible over her head the whole time – before she was rescued.  She thought her son had drowned but had learned that he had also been rescued.  He was later brought to the Dallas shelter, and they were reunited.  We shared stories with each other and read scriptures from the Bible she had rescued.  We laughed, we cried, and we hugged.  I was blessed to meet this sister in Christ.

Funny: I didn’t see anyone there from Black Lives Matter, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Democratic Party, Hollywood libs, or any other social justice warriors out there helping the thousands of black families who had lost everything in the flood.  No one but us heartless Christians, conservatives, and other deplorables.

The liberal newspapers and TV networks can continue to try to divide us, call us racists, sexists, homophobes, Islamophobes, white supremacists, fascists, and worse.  Let the leftist professors and their student “snowflakes” in the universities whine and cry about “micro-aggressions” and “trigger warnings.”  Let them take offense at every imagined “politically incorrect” comment and run for their “safe spaces” and riot in the streets.

Meanwhile, real Americans – men and women of every race, ethnicity, nationality, and faith – came together and proved them wrong every day through our relief efforts.  Almost overnight in Dallas, and in many other relief shelters in Texas and other states, compassionate Americans built truly safe spaces for thousands of our brothers and sisters and their children in desperate need.

And these disaster victims blessed us every day with their broken but beautiful lives.

Hugh Reynolds recently retired from 32 years in federal service.  He spent his entire government career in the “fraud, waste, and abuse” business, including 18 years auditing that beleaguered enterprise known as the U.S. Postal Service, which survives without a dime of the taxpayer’s money.  He is a lifelong student of public policy and considers himself an American Thinker.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/10/what_i_saw_in_the_floodwaters_of_houston.html#ixzz4vfmLdGu8
Follow us: @AmericanThinker on Twitter | AmericanThinker on Facebook

Loyalty Is Beautiful

This video tells the story of Francis Scott Keys penning the words to

our national anthem at the end of the War of 1812,

our second and final war of independence from Great Britain.  

Although filled with people of different nationalities and belief systems, the United States has a distinctive outlook and presence on the world’s stage. As each wave of immigrants arrived in this land and became citizens, they enriched the American culture in distinctive ways through customs, foods, habits, and attitudes.  For example, our “comfort” food after almost 250 years now includes chili, cornbread, pizza, corned beef, barbecue, chow mien, sushi, and more. And people of all national origins buy, cook, and eat out at restaurants specializing in food from each country as well as the newer “fusion” establishments that combine differing culinary tastes into one dish.

The binding agent for all of our diverse backgrounds is loyalty to a belief system embodied in the Declaration of Independence. As G. K. Chesterton, an Englishman, once observed,  the United States was the only country ever founded on a creed. Thus, every time the national anthem is played and/or the flag is unfurled, citizens stand to honor the memory of those who lost their lives giving us the freedoms that we now enjoy. It’s a simple, public way to reaffirm our commitment to continue the exemplary ideal of  “liberty and justice for all.”**

Needless to say, neither the people nor the politicians have always lived up to our goals. Every American that I know is heart sick about these failures and tries to correct them. But despite our flaws, we have done well enough that our current major problem is the hordes of people sneaking into the country to live here without understanding our history, our goals, or the loyalty required of citizens to keep US the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Loyalty to an ideal can bind families and groups of all origins and sizes together, empowering them to accomplish more greatness than any one person can possibly do alone. Loyalty to excellence is both beautiful and powerful. May all countries and all peoples embrace it.

 

        The Star Spangled Banner

  1. Oh say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

    What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,

    Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,

    O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

    And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

    Gave proof thru the night that our flag was still there.

    Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

  2. On the shore, dimly seen thru the mists of the deep,

    Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

    What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

    As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

    Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

    In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;

    ’Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh, long may it wave

    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

  3. Oh, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand

    Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!

    Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land

    Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation!

    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

    And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”

    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

                             

                                     Text: Francis Scott Key, 1779–1843

                                     Music: John Stafford Smith, 1750–1836

**This explains the distress we experience when we see a group that refuses to honor or acknowledge our flag and anthem, but does nothing to solve problems instead of just complaining about them. 

 

 

 

More on Sophia Loren’s Beauty

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Sophia Loren in 2016.

On September 20, 2017, she was 83.

 

She would have never been silent, even to a powerful Hollywood mogul. For example:

“Being Marlon Brando didn’t help, either, according to a movie-star anecdote I have picked up somewhere. He is said to have groped Sophia Loren, during a film shoot many years ago. She set him straight crisply. By the time she was finished with him, the megastar was reduced to a whipped little boy. He behaved much better to everyone on set, after this humiliation.

Now, this Dama di Gran Croce is a real woman, in my estimation, not a Hollywood tart. After learning of this offstage performance with Brando, I could only cry, “Brava!” Put the little creature in his place!”

And I add that she was beautiful to stand up for herself, for other women, for good manners, and for the moral good in society. To  young people everywhere, I beg you to make such situations beautiful by refusing all vulgar, coercive suggestions.

from “On Women and Power” by David Warren, The Catholic Thing, October 13, 2017