Ancient Wisdom for today

We the people, in today’s “global village”, have much to gain in understanding ancient wisdom for nation building.

During the Zhou Dynasty in China (12th to 7th Century BC) Music and Dance was an obligatory course in school – a combination of ritual, entertainment, performance, gymnastics and military drill. The goal was, on one hand, to train military skill, on the other, to teach moral rules and discipline.

Greek philosophers Plato (4th/5th Century BC) and Aristotle (4th Century BC) agreed that to produce the right kind of person; the two principal elements required are “Music” & “Sports / Gymnastics”.

  • Music for the discipline of the mind
  • Sports / Gymnastics for the discipline of the body

The final goal of the Spartan education system was to produce the perfect warrior. Their education included Music and Dance among other subjects. Plato considered gymnastics and music as the supreme educational gifts of the gods. Music moulds a person and shapes his/her character. This potential powerful influence of music on a nation’s character through its people caused Plato to say “Let me make the songs of a nation and I care not who makes its laws.” This musical approach combined with education and fair play helped the Greeks cultivate and develop qualities and virtues which humanize life.

The history of Western art and music begins with the Christian Church. However, all through the Middle Ages and even to the present time men have continually turned back to Greek and Roman civilization for instruction, correction, and inspiration in their several fields of work, especially in music.

Over the periods spanning millennia, while thoughts have been radically stirred and changing, the language of music went through change as well, as evident from the vast range and genres of music available today. We need to draw from this “curriculum” to educate, envision and move our next generation forward.

Ancient beliefs are returning to modern life and recent research has proven that learning music significantly improves memory, concentration, spatial thinking, and creativity. Music learnt the right way is an intellectual pursuit, which is fundamental to education. Just as a child learns math, he/she should have a basic understanding and appreciation of music.

Music education is important for the optimal development of the human mind. In early childhood, linguistic ability is developed by a child listening to sounds in the immediate environment. Later in life an individual can develop advanced learning skills and linguistic ability by listening to music. Moreover written music is based upon the principles of mathematical progression. That is why most great scientists, mathematicians, astronomers and artists including Pythagoras, Claudius Ptolemy, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Galileo among others actively participated in music.

Albert Einstein’s extremely poor performance in school caused his teachers to tell his parents to take him out of school because he was “too stupid to learn” and it would be a waste of resources for the school to invest time and energy in his education, and suggested that Albert get an easy, manual labor job. Instead his parents bought him a violin at which Albert became proficient. Music was the key that helped Albert Einstein become one of the smartest men who has ever lived. He loved the music of Mozart and Bach the most. His close friend, G.J. Withrow, said that the way Einstein figured out his problems and equations was by improvising on the violin. Music helped bring out the genius in Albert Einstein.

The great Indian Scientist & Nobel Laureate, Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, had a fascination for music. The son of a school teacher and a scholar in Physics & Math, as a little boy Raman grew up surrounded by Music, Science and Sanskrit. He collected many musical instruments and published two papers on the amazing sound qualities of ancient Indian instruments like the Mridang, Tanpura, Tabla & Veena.

Music is spiritual and an integral part in worship of our Creator God. Greek mythology attributed to music a divine origin and named its inventors and earliest practitioners gods and demigods, such as Apollo, Amphion, and Orpheus. In our ancient world, music had “super-natural” powers: in healing sickness, purifying the body and mind, and work miracles in the realm of nature. In the Biblical Old Testament we recall the stories of David curing Saul’s madness and calming him by playing the harp (1 Samuel 16:14-23), or of the trumpet-blasts and shouting that toppled the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:12-20)

A good diet of the right kind of music gives us mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual stability. It brings people together, enhances our intelligence, academic achievement, creative ability and helps us to connect with our inner most being. Learning music the right way adds many more hours to our day and certainly to our life.

India has an ancient and rich musical heritage which we can build on and share as we collaborate with the world to influence our next generation.

Viva La Musica.

The writer is an entrepreneur and educationist based in Gurgaon, National Capital Region of Delhi, INDIA. E-mail him at aubrey[dot]aloysius[at]gmail[dot]com