Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pump-Up Songs Reveal Soul & Spirit

Every semester unbeknown to my students, I conduct an informal social experiment.  As they enter the classroom after lunch, the most “chillax” time of the day, I play a sports pump-up song through the speakers. NB: a sports pump-up song is not to be confused with the most inspirational sports song. 

I start with Whomp (There it is)….Tag team back again…. followed by Zombie Nation’s Kenkraft 400 (Sport Chant Stadium Remix) made famous by the New York Yankees rounded out by the latest and most popular “Jock Jam.”  
I pretend as though I am preoccupied with some paper work.  What they don’t know is I am looking to see who reacts and responds to the music.  I want to know who are the students that hear the beat and can’t help but shake it.  I love these kids.  I love their enthusiasm and the fact that they can lower their inhibitions for just a bit. These kids have got soul.  What does that mean?

Soul is spirit.  There is a life pulse in these students—something I do not take for granted.  In "The Holy Longing" Ron Rohlheiser writes: 
First of all, it is the principle of energy. Life is energy. There is only one body that does not have any energy or tension within it, a dead one. The soul is what gives life. Inside it, lies the fire, the eros, the energy that drives us. Thus we are alive as long as there is a soul in our bodies and we die the second it leaves the body.

It is interesting that sometimes when we use the word soul, and think we are using it metaphorically, we are actually using it in a strangely accurate way. Thus, for example, we speak of "soul music.”  What gives music a soul? This can be understood by examining its opposite. Imagine the music that you so often hear in airports, supermarkets, and elevators. It is simple filler, soulless. It does nothing to you. It does not stir your chromosomes.  Certain other music docs and that is why we, precisely call it soul music. It is full of energy, eros, and all the things that eros carries-desire, disquiet, nostalgia, lust, appetite, and hope. Eros is soul and soul gives energy.
But the soul does more than merely give energy. It is also the adhesive that holds us together, the principle of integration and individuation within us. The soul not only makes us alive, it also makes us a one.
At every one of his concerts, my favorite musician Bruce Springsteen asks a crowd of 20,000 adoring fans “Is there anyone alive out there?”  He doesn’t need to beg the question; it’s a rhetorical one.  But he does.  And guess what the response is like.
And I think music is a critical force in making us one.  It can unite a community that is grieving.  It is used to mark celebration.  I truly believe it is the art form that can bring life and energy to humanity in a way that nothing else can. Music makes us dance, sing, understand one another and ourselves in a profound way.  Springsteen concludes his latest album “Wrecking Ball” with the song “We Are Alive.” 
We are alive
And though our bodies lie alone here in the dark
Our spirits rise to carry the fire and light the spark
To stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart.
Indeed, "the soul not only makes us alive, it also makes us a one." Perhaps I have more than I thought invested in my wee social experiment. 

And as the “sports pump-up” songs come to a close, I conclude my social experiment with a poll: You’re in the crowd at your favorite sporting event.  Which of these three songs is going to get you and the team the most fired up.  The winner?  Another social experiment… people!!

Photo Credits
The Boss 

Soul Music
Sports Jams music 

1 comment:

  1. I love your experiment idea ... and will happily appropriate it for AP Psych ...