Your brain on music; your brain on God



by Jason Bronkhorst, InfiltrateMedia, South Africa

Tonight, I’m power-reading a fascinating book, This Is Your Brain on Music, by a McGill University neuroscientist named Daniel Levitin. Levitin is a former rock-and-roller, former sound engineer, who eventually got his PhD, and it’s the kind of fabulous science book you’d expect from that background. It’s written so anyone can understand it and focuses on the questions ordinary people ask. Like: “Where in my head do I hear music?” and “What’s the difference between music and noise?” (There’s actually a serious answer to that question!)

What flavor does food have when it’s in the refrigerator?

Levitin hooked me with a discussion of basic perception before he even got fairly started on the music stuff. He didn’t ask whether there’s sound if a tree falls in a forest but he talked about color and flavor. He suggested that the walls of his kitchen were not ‘white’ when he left the room. Then he said pudding only has taste when it is tasted, not when it’s sitting in the refrigerator. (So that big bowl of raspberry Jello with pineapple chunks is flavorless at the moment … )

Color and flavor are like sound, he said, which is another way something invisible interacts with our bodies and brains. When it’s not interacting with us, it exists, but it exists as something different. It’s not what we call “color” or “flavor” or “sound.”

‘I have a kitchen and I want it painted black.’

Of course, the kitchen analogy hit me. My kitchen is green and it took a good bit of work to make it that way. On the advice of a professional, we primed with black (did you know you should prime green paint with black?). As the walls grew glossy against the dark walnut cabinets, my husband and I found ourselves singing (without apology to the Rolling Stones), “I have a kitchen and I want it painted black.”

Eventually, the kitchen did end up green. But according to Levitin, since I’m writing in the family room and no one (except maybe a cat) is in the kitchen, the kitchen is not green right now, because there’s no one to see it. The kitchen always has the qualities that will cause it to be seen as green when someone enters … but “green” is what happens when all of the things that make human sight interact with those qualities of the walls.

I had to wonder: is this what God’s like, too? Full of goodness and all the other qualities that make God God, but only recognizable as such when we actually pay attention.

So what God’s looking like to you right now? Have you walked in on God today?

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed [happy] is the man [or woman] who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

God made Christians for: Remembering to be with God, so we would be able to taste and see God’s goodness.

Do you have favorite ways that help you find your way to God … a place, an author, certain music, a way of praying?

About Carlene Byron

Writer, editor, publicist, communications project manager ... I've written technology and infrastructure; I used to edit New England Church Life and The New England Christian and I've freelanced to publications ranging from Commonweal to Christianity Today. I'm now living in my hometown in Maine and am speaking about global perspectives on suicide prevention.
This entry was posted in God's work and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Your brain on music; your brain on God

  1. Cec says:

    Cool! Thanks, Carlene. Your blog is awesome. I love the way you write, and the positive – liberating – thought provoking – concept of celebrating what Christians are for!

Comments are closed.