Don’t Stop Believing

Last week, I found a holy space. With my small body hidden amid a crowd of thousands, I felt the spirit roll through me on waves of sacred music. I raised my arms triumphantly into the air and swayed, lifting my eyes to the heavens. My soul was soothed. My mind was filled with one crystalline thought: I believe.

It was one hell of a concert.


See, I believe in many things. I believe in karma, and I believe that dogs have souls. I believe that wild places are the planet’s manifestation of love. I believe in hugging, and I believe that feeling truly heard is better than sex or chocolate.

I don’t believe in ghosts, or gods. That’s not to say they don’t exist – just not for me, not now. (Thinking my own experience should define everyone else’s is a step closer to complete arrogance than I’m willing to go.)

I don’t believe in coincidence, nor do I believe in fate. I do believe in the power of music, though – to heal, to inform, to delight. My friend C says she can’t bear to listen to some music, because the feelings it evokes just go too deep. She resents having to deal with chills and teary eyes just because a radio DJ picked a certain song.

Yes, I believe in the power of fingers caressing strings, slamming keys, holding wooden sticks. I believe that a musician’s essence directly powers their instrument (and the voice is absolutely one). And now I know – that stage just past belief – that a really good rock concert feels a lot like being in church.

It’s all there: the shared experience, the people at the front of a room delivering their message, the devotion of those listening. When that long guitar solo screams into the night, I’ve seen people (no, I’ve been the person) swept up in a fit of dancing, and it’s just a different embodiment of the energy that makes others speak in tongues.

Isn’t that what we’re all seeking, really, whether we look for it religion or music, nature or writing? Aren’t we all yearning to be caught up in something larger and more profoundly beautiful than our own small self?

To me, the human experience is essentially a quest to find true connection. Our souls spend their whole lives fighting to burst beyond the confines of these physical shells and touch other souls. It’s an epic struggle, and vitally important, so our souls need to renew their energy along the way. For you, new vigor might come from prayer. Or maybe you gather strength from a walk in the woods, or speaking with a friend who just understands.

The happiest part is that there is no catch. Your soul doesn’t have to choose just one method to recharge. So no matter who you are, or what you believe, I’m telling you now: if you want to be caught up in the swirl of life, to simultaneously lose and discover yourself in something greater, go to a concert. If you’re lucky, the music will take you on a Journey.

88 responses to “Don’t Stop Believing

  1. “Last week, I found a holy space. With my small body hidden amid a crowd of thousands, I felt the spirit roll through me on waves of sacred music. I raised my arms triumphantly into the air and swayed, lifting my eyes to the heavens. My soul was soothed. My mind was filled with one crystalline thought: I believe.”

    I have never been to a concert, and I’ve wanted to for forever, but something always goes wrong when we have plans to go. This made me ache to be there. I’m glad it was such an awesome experience for you.

  2. This is wonderful and so true! My family heritage includes singing, and I was in choirs my whole young life – now there are songs that if I sing them, I bawl. While singing. It’s a bit embarrassing but it’s just that emotion of which you speak. Especially a room full of people singing a cappella? Gets me every time.

    • Me, too. I have a few on my iPod that I have to have with me at all times, but when they come up on shuffle I usually press skip. And yet there are those days when I need those songs like I need food or sleep, and singing and crying along with them gives me the release nothing else can. And yes to the a cappella – for that reason, the show Glee made me cry many more times than I’d like to admit.

  3. I was answering all your questions out loud as I read! Yes, I believe we are all searching for connection, and yes, when we share experiences collectively, our collective souls are renewed! I believe too! Lovely post!

  4. Laura? Please go. Soon. With open eyes, ears, mind and heart, it can change your life. Jennie, you have offered a primer to making the most out of the time you spend with people sending their music out into the world. Thanks for sharing.

    • Are you a musician? Once of my great regrets in life is that I can’t play any instrument, and yet I don’t care quite enough to put in the immense effort to learn. I had some guitar lessons, once, and never got past the first three chords! Now I just let people who can speak volumes with their melodies show me the light. πŸ™‚

      • I play the stereo, is my great line, Jennie.

        For 21 years I was the music critic for the daily paper/website in Syracuse, hence my appreciation for what musicians communicate.

        • Amazing – both the terrible joke and the job. Was that as fun as it sounds? Was it hard when you had to write the truth about a bad show? And who do I *need* to be listening to right now?

          • It was fun, and it was very hard on deadline, whether the show was great or not so great. When I had a half-hour to write 500 words and I was sitting on a portable chair from a bag in a noisy field with my iPad with a Blue Tooth keyboard on my lap with a flashlight in my teeth to read my notes, yeah, tough job. But I loved it.

            I was laid off on Jan. 31, 2013, and now I am freelance film blogger for Syracuse alternative weekly, freelance community blogger for Syracuse public media site and daily poster on my own blog, so, my who-you-should-be-listening-to-who’s-new cred is down to zero. I did review ‘Chef’ this past weekend and it was my favorite so far this year, though. πŸ™‚ Music-wise I went out this lunchtime and saw three Syracuse local guys play at Taste of Syracuse: Colin Aberdeen, Tim Herron and Just Joe. Find them on YouTube elsewhere online and you’ll like. Look for Colin Aberdeen’s full Syracuse roots/rock/blues band, Los Blancos. They are national caliber and tour. You will love them. There you go. Have a great weekend.

          • Oh wow – I never imagined the turnaround was that tight! Even the most glamorous jobs have their challenges, right? Thank you so much for the recommendations, I’m gonna go fill my Monday with tunes!

  5. ‘Aren’t we all yearning to be caught up in something larger and more profoundly beautiful than our own small self?’

    Music is not only beautiful and transformative, it bring us together to heal.

  6. TESTIFY, sistah! Yes, there’s nothing quite like live music — and omygod, MORRISSEY is next weekend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    (I’d add more exclamation points but I’ve used up my quota — but I spent them all on you, darling)

    • I knew you’d like this post! I think you’re the most music-hungry friend I have – always gobbling it up and looking around for more. And nothing made me smile today like receiving the full force of your exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Your writing speaks to me the way music does. And I always end up not knowing what to say after you write a post like this. I just end up saying the same thing.

    “I love you, Jennie Saia. That is all.”

    • Oh, my. I always feel that way after reading the kind of posts that grab my heart, so all I can say is thank you. And really, what reaction could I possibly want more than to inspire someone to love?

  8. You are speaking my language, Jennie! Music is my religion too. Live music feeds my soul. I think a good live show is the prescription for so many ailments! Also, “Thinking my own experience should define someone else’s is a step closer to complete arrogance…” I. Love.That. I will probably steal that- I mean quote you! πŸ™‚

    • I would really like to see that in medicine! Maybe you, Samara, and I should start a new integrative care practice. You’ll prescribe music, she’ll help them find their words, and I’ll work on their body image. (We’ll have a medical doctor on retainer for the very few times when that regimen doesn’t resolve a patient’s ills.)

  9. Live music is like nothing else. It absolutely speaks to my soul. I love getting lost in the “jam sessions” and the energy of the crowd. Having said that, I think you could write about mosquitoes and make me like them.

    • Oh, girl, you are the best kind of flatterer. Woo!

      For a long time I didn’t get jam sessions – I couldn’t vibe to music without words. Now – who knows what made the change – sometimes I want the jam to be everything, for it to go beyond words and never come back.

  10. “See, I believe in many things. I believe in karma, and I believe that dogs have souls. I believe that wild places are the planet’s manifestation of love. I believe in hugging, and I believe that feeling truly heard is better than sex or chocolate.”

    You are an old soul . . . keep it alive . . .

  11. what a beautiful post!

    what you wrote rang true with me in so many ways. music is love, life, passion, soul…everything for me, as well. Whether I am at a live show, in my car, at home, or at work, when I listen to music, I allow myself to fully connect with it in every way…emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I love when I can feel and connect with the artists’ pain, joy, angst, frustration, ecstasy, etc. coming through their music and lyrics. So often I find myself instantly (or gradually) existing on a different level whilst listening to these emotionally engaging and spiritual moments.

    I grew up very religious and I have since shed all of that in my older years. However, like you, music (among a few others experiences) has become my one of the incarnations of what I perceive to be ‘god’ and has become part of my current spiritual practice.

    I used to go to so many small, live shows when I was living in Seattle, but I have fallen out of that practice since moving to Raleigh. I want to get back to it again.

    Thanks again for a wonderful post and unknowingly expressing my own sentiments about music.

    • I should have known this, after the two amazing songs you posted on my piece about lyrics. They were so right for what I was talking about, so full of simple poetry and soul… of course you feel music this way. πŸ™‚

      And now for the freak-out – YOU LIVE IN RALEIGH?? Did you know that I’m here, too??

  12. Reblogged this on The Terrible Blog and commented:
    It is not often I reblog another post. The author’s post has to resonate on a deep level with me before I hit that ‘Reblog’ button. This post has achieved that level in an epic way.

    I could not have captured my feeling about music and what it means to me, any better than Jennie has expressed her own experiences and feelings about music.

    Enjoy this post and then take some time to explore the rest of her blog…you will not be disappointed!

  13. Beautifully written, Mizz Jennie. I never went to but one concert, and that one totally sucked. It double-sucked because it was P!nk, and I was all set to love it, and then I got sick, and went anyway and ended up a coupla days later hospitalised with tonsillitis…

    That said, music is part of me. It is in me and lives in most of the recesses of my brain. It is part of me at a cellular level, and I’m sure that somewhere, the eminent and wonderful Lewis Thomas (whose brain I love more than most) has written on the subject, about how the very first music we hear, and one of the things we most profoundly understand, is the rhythm of a heartbeat, and that all our passion for and love of music stems from that – each human carrying their own music innate within them.

    I wrote on this once…let me remember where and I’ll send you a link – it was in response to some blog prompt from one of the hops I was in – the worst music, or something like that, and I imagined, for one moment, a world without music, and it was absolutely the most desolate thing…

    • Whaaaaat? Is Pink bad in concert? This is shattering my world view a bit…

      But far more importantly, that passage about the music of the heart is scrumptiously lovely, and – what’s more – I think it’s true. (You know, some ideas are just pretty, but the best ones mesh with reality.) I wonder what my music sounds like, and whether anyone can hear it, the way some people see auras?

      • No, no, NO! She was INCREDIBLE. I was just far, far too sick to enjoy it or even remember most of it. My throat was nearly swollen closed and I had a pounding headache and it was a trial of endurance and love for my friend whose birthday treat it was.

        Here – I found it. It’s messed up with bad code, but it’s old and got transferred. It must be LT who said the thing about the heartbeat, and music being innate. That’s such a very *him* thing to have said, but I wish I remember where…

        Get someone to press their ear to your chest. They will hear you… but more than that, they will see the rhythm in your movements, percussion in your gestures and harmony in the cadence as you talk. You live and breathe music. We all do. It is in us, we ARE it, and our bodies sing, constantly.

        • Goodness, Lizzi. I could read that all day. I have to go check out this piece and also that author you mention. Music is ingrained in me as well and I never looked at it like that, that we are al music.

        • Oh God, Lizzi, that post was heart-rending. If I couldn’t sing as I went about my day, I don’t know how I’d interact with the world. But you mended my heart again by telling me Pink is all I want her to be.

          That last paragraph in your comment – that’s begging to be a poem. Just a not-so-subtle nudge, because I’d love to read it… πŸ™‚

          • I hadn’t thunk of that! I’ll give it a go πŸ™‚

            P!nk really is ALL AND MORE. I just wasn’t able to enjoy her and it SUCKED! Bigtime. My only ever concert *sigh*. At least Laura just never GETS to them – she doesn’t get hospitalised after…

            Glad you liked the post – it was meant to be one which reached into people’s core and gave an awful, stilling idea. I think it worked πŸ˜‰

  14. With my fear of concerts and people, I enjoy the same feeling with headphones while cutting the grass. The lawn is my amphitheater and the millions of grass blades are the concert goers. They just don’t spill beer on me or crowd my blanket. But the musical experience is just the same as you mention and you captured it perfectly.

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  16. Well I’m pretty sure great minds think alike cause I’m writing about music too! Weird. I Love a good raucous concert I can feel in my bones πŸ™‚

  17. Music has a way of soothing my soul and lifting me up and even telling pieces of my life’s story. An essential human connection. A great piece of writing, by the way! πŸ™‚

  18. This was amazing. You’re writing is my religion. Haha!

    I have to say, day-to-day I’m much like your friend, “C”. I cringe when I hear certain music. It genuinely conjures too many uncomfortable feels for me. BUT. When I like something — I LURVE it, ya know? I can listen to it a hundred times before I get tired of it. As a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of concerts (large crowds….too much noise….*shudder*), but at a smaller venue they’re perfection. I always watch for my favorite artists playing at smaller places.

    I saw Ben Harper play a small venue last September and it was TRULY transcendent. I’ll never, ever forget that night.

    • “Your writing is my religion.” Beth, I think you’ve found the ideal pick-up line for me. Don’t tell anyone else, lest they abuse its power!

      I’m the same way with repetition. If I love something, I love it HARD. I only update my iPod playlists about twice a year.

      And I’m so with you – small venues are magical. I’ve seen the same band play big and small, and they were completely different experiences.

    • Are you a hummer? Do you sing out loud? Or can you keep it in your head? Sometimes I get called out for singing at work – had no idea I was doing it!

      P.S. Awwww. πŸ™‚

      • Nothing happens out loud, all in my head (even my dreams have a soundtrack), though I have a 15 yo son who is the opposite and is always humming and singing around the joint.

  19. Concerts = Nirvana. I know just what you mean and that feeling is like crack. I am going to see Anberlin in concert twice this year and that’s why I go see them, because I feel electrified and swept up and desperately, incandescently happy when I see them. Forget Mr. Darcy. Music makes me incandescently happy. It’s like the sunshine turns on in my soul.
    In other words… I know just what you mean.
    This makes me want to write a post about music.

    • This comment made me incandescently happy! That line is BY FAR my favorite of the whole novel. *sigh* You’re fabulous. I love literary geeks.

  20. I love, LOVE music — but I’ve had one too many bad experiences at large concerts to enjoy them anymore. Not the performances — they were always incredible — it was the rude/drunk/handsy/threatening/spitting/drug using/shoving past me and blocking my view people in the crowd that ruined the shows for me. These days I’m into tiny, tiny venues where I can actually see and hear the band and the audience tends to be a bit more respectful — of both the artists and the other patrons. I may be anti-social.

    • Oh, no! They can definitely get dicey. I’m sorry people turned you of of something you loved. But I’m so glad you discovered tiny venues! I’m so lucky that there’s one near me that’s respected enough to pull great acts, people I’ve actually heard of. P.S. Big crowds give me claustrophobia unless I have enough space to move, so I’m always near the back of the lawn. Not anti-social at all! Just not into other people’s sweat and elbows.

  21. I love concerts and haven’t been in so long. A good friend just wrote me a message saying she heard a song on the radio by Florence and The Machine and it reminded her how much she missed me. We saw her together in concert for the first time. Music is so powerful. I love the analogies you drew in this. I’ve always said that music fuels my soul.

    • OH!! That is such an amazing first concert! Florence feels like the blood in my veins sometimes. “Shake It Off ” got me through some rough stuff.

      • Well not my *first* concert but the first time she and I went to a concert. And I feel the same way about Florence!

  22. So this well of emotion came from a Journey concert?! Do I have that right? That band’s history is an interesting arc. I saw these dudes very early on before Steve Perry made them a hit machine. They used to play a kind of spacy, new age-y rock/jazz hybrid. I liked it but they went nowhere with that sound. They hired Steve Perry and the band blew up. They enjoyed unprecedented success but then the fickle public dismissed them as a joke. Arena dinosaurs who played bloated AOR ballads. Flash to years later and they are once again embraced by a new, adoring public. Highs and lows, baby. That’s life.

    Fun fact: Journey guitarist Neil Schon was a music prodigy who joined Santana when was was only 15 years old. When I was 15 I was still watching Saturday morning cartoons.

    If you’re not talking about Journey, I beg your pardon.

    • Yes indeed! I love them unconditionally, and Neil Schon is a HUGE part of why. Far and away the best parts of the concert were his solos. We’d been gifted tickets for pretty great seats, and J kept asking me why I was still looking at the big screens instead of the stage, since we were so close. I had to watch the video feed though, so I could watch Neil’s hands move on his guitar. Magic.

  23. As the dj I hoped the songs I picked for my set would speak to the dancers. As the dancer I hoped the dj would drop in the tracks I needed to hear. Either way, the energy from the crowd reverberated through me every bit as much as the music.
    Nature is my place of worship, my communion, my holy place. There, in solitude, or with company, I see the beauty of the lives we lead and recharge for the months I am away from it. Two weeks every summer (one camping, one backpacking) set me straight for the rest of the year.

    • Oh, that synchronicity on the dance floor is such a perfect, beautiful space to exist in. Man, it’s been a little too long since I’ve felt that. This concert was astounding, but it wasn’t one for dancing.

      I’m so glad you get those two weeks every year! Nature is also my number one way to re-center. You’re on the West Coast, right? Where do you go?

      • My family camps in Kings Canyon (just north of Sequoia), and has since the 40’s. We are now on the fourth generation of campers as the Little Prince joined us last year for his first trip (he was 3 months old.) We do our backpacking all along the Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail in the southern portion of the Sierra. This year we are doing the Duck Lake Loop out of Mammoth. Can’t wait… less than a month now.

        It’s been far too long since I’ve been to a concert of any kind. The last one was a Green Day concert right after they released 21st Century Breakdown. A concert for jumping and screaming, but not much for dancing. The last “dance” concert I was at was probably one I dj’ed at 7 years ago.

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