Can music save the world?

10/03/2016 04:04 pm ET Updated Oct 03, 2016

I woke this morning with the weight of something invisible crushing me to my mattress. I’ll call it nostalgia for the sake of this writing, but it felt like more than that. I don’t know what caused it. Maybe I had a dream that brought it on but I can’t remember now.

The thoughts came in unrelenting waves. This year is my twentieth high school reunion. Twentieth. It’s been twenty years since I walked the halls of my high school.

I’ll be thirty-seven years old in little over a month and what have I done with my time here? What is my purpose in this life? Why am I here? Why did I make it past twenty-six when my uncle didn’t? Why was I born into this generation, in this country, to unending possibility, when a billion or more people exactly like me suffer so greatly just because they were born somewhere else? My cat, Max, was curled up beside me, sleeping soundly, and he brought me a sense of comfort. But I looked at him with a broken heart full of love and understood he wouldn’t be with me forever.

The thoughts were dramatic and heartbreaking and selfish and overwhelming. People have said that life passes in the blink of an eye, and when looked at as a whole, yes, that’s probably true. It does feel like it could have been yesterday that I was still in high school. It does feel like I should be doing more with my life.

But when I think back on the last twenty years, when I think about the person I am today compared to who I was when I walked those school corridors, when I think about everything I’ve experienced, all the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made, and the things I’ve learned, the passage of time doesn’t seem like such a scary thing. It’s a blessing, really. After all, time is something that is denied to a whole lot of humanity.

And what brought me to these realizations? Music. Music has comforted me for as long as I can remember. It only takes a few bars of my favorite song from tenth grade or senior year of college or last year to remember who I was then. It’s easy to see in that moment how far I’ve come. I understand I’m not wasting my life but simply living it.

It’s a materialistic comfort, I suppose, in that grand scheme of things. Music can’t end war.

Can it?

Music is magic. I went to see Ron Howard’s “Eight Days a Week” last week and as the movie ended, everybody in the audience clapped along to Beatles music. There was no political or religious divide for those two hours: Hillary, Trump, Bernie, Johnson, and Stein supporters; God-fearers and atheists singing and clapping along as one. If that isn’t magic, what is?

I’ve found no concrete answers to any of those questions nagging at me this morning but maybe that’s okay. Maybe part of life is not knowing. It’s what keeps us going: the desire to know; the desire to teach ourselves; the willingness to learn from our mistakes. That last part is crucial for all of us— individually and as a species. And I do have hope.

This morning, it was Billy Joel who gave me that hope: “There will be miracles after the last war is won. Science and poetry rule in the new world to come. Prophets and angels gave us the power to see what an amazing future there will be.”

So let’s all put on our favorite album, crank it up, and welcome warmly anyone who shows up to sing along with us. Just maybe we can turn this thing around.

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