What’s Your Song of Religion? (Part 5 of 7 on the World in Six Songs)

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Book and Theory Background

Daniel J. Levitin wrote an absolutely brilliant book called The World in Six Songs, supported by a great website with the many music samples referenced, among other great related material.

My basic paraphrasing of the concept is this. All the songs in the world could be fit into at least one of six categories providing an evolutionary benefit to humanity, often ultimately tied to our social nature.

The book and website offer far more detailed interpretations, of course, but I will expand on my paraphrasing with each post and the associated topic.

Daniel J. Levitin and The World in Six SongsIn a series of posts, I will describe each of the six categories in brief, one at a time:

  1. Friendship
  2. Joy
  3. Comfort
  4. Knowledge
  5. Religion
  6. Love

I will describe what the categories are about because they are not as limited in scope as the category names suggest. I will then supply one of my choices and ask all readers to do the same if they so wish. In the seventh post of the series, I will offer the chance to put the song choices all together so readers can read the entire set on one post. I do this because it would be a long post to describe all six categories at once, but to have all the answers in one place might be nice.

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This post focuses on Songs of Religion

July 30th add-on in italics, from Dan Levitin in a summary article
Religious ceremonies and ritual go hand in hand, with music frequently accompanying a ritual. Music acts as a retrieval mechanism to guide the movements and words of a particular ritual, and ritual can allow people to stop worrying and focus on the task at hand. Music is also tied to religious ceremonies such as weddings and funerals where acts can be performed as a community, providing social bonding.

Songs of religion are not simply songs about religion. In fact, the songs of knowledge post showed how the Oral Torah was really a song of knowledge, not religion, even if its lyrics were all about religion. Songs of religion are really ritual songs intended to give meaning to something greater than just the subject itself. Furthermore, this meaning is attached to a belief system that establishes some sort of “social” order, both, less and more than us. It is this search for meaning, a self-conscious act of awareness on our part, for our place in this order which truly separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. However, it is what we embrace in this search, in turn, that has benefited us in evolution.

In our search for something greater that is part of our religious beliefs, we embrace sets of rituals that exist in all religions. Religion gives meaning to these rituals that have little meaning on their own otherwise. Just look at rituals in religions foreign to you and see how you feel about them compared to those in your own. However, those not familiar with your religion would have no different overall reactions to rituals in your religion. Pages 194-195 has a great list of 11 rituals universal to all religions, though, which is an absolutely fascinating read!

Now, the rituals of religion come in two flavours: self-rituals and group rituals. Self-rituals tend to be of the type which promotes survival, like not murdering others or coveting their mates which could cause conflict among us that is not good for survival. Rituals also mean the actions get repeated, which helps survival if all the actions were good for survival. As for religion’s role, religion gives self-ritual self-meaning, like what it could mean for someone in their current and/or afterlife. Religion also monitors external and internal states for danger in guiding rituals to be done at various times throughout life.

Like it does for self-rituals, religion gives group rituals group meaning and monitors internal and external states to the group. This is the more important benefit to evolution when compared to the self. This is because group rituals promote group activities, which not only protect us from ourselves but also from other factors of harm to us, and better than individuals could do alone. Group rituals are essential to religion because one cannot find a place within a greater social order if there were no one or nothing else around oneself to create this social order.

Finally, all rituals, with their meanings given by religion, are intended to reduce ambiguity in life by changing the state of the world into something more exacting. It also lets us move on with our lives with the direction given so we don’t subject ourselves to situations not beneficial to our survival.

At this point, I would like to insert a note to say that while the general big picture descriptions of religion described in the World in Six Songs are beneficial to evolution, when it comes to the main organized religions in human history, I’m not sure I would concur. I think modern organized religions have become so warped from the spirit of religion’s concept I would debate whether it has had net benefit on humanity or net hindrance. Ironically, this has been since we supposedly have become “civilized”. So much wrong has been done in the name of organized religion, or hidden by it, that I really do think we could do better without it. I think we’d be better off if we only embraced religion in its intent rather than its meanings that it often has no business giving. Organized religion is just a pretense to guide us as if those leading it knew what were happening when they have no idea.

Songs associated with rituals mean there is a time and a place for songs of religion, with consequences. Thus, funeral and wedding marches count, but not national anthems or Christmas carols. There are places and times for national anthems, football fight songs and Christmas carols when you could break out in one or the other, and there wouldn’t be much problem. Try the same with funeral or wedding marches, especially the former, and there might well be. Children’s songs where participants move parts of their body selectively also count as songs of religion because of their ritualistic nature. This practice to develop motor coordination through repetition when we are young and learning is also of benefit to us evolutionally. Finally, gospel songs are religious songs, and it was mentioned that Dan Dennett had suggested that atheists should have pro science gospel songs as atheism doesn’t have gospel religious songs — a thought I, both, like and found tremendously amusing.

Audio sample of songs from the Religion chapter in The World in Six Songs can be found on the website. No direct link was available, but click on the Songs menu option and appropriate page number range link carrying pages 189 to 228. Please note that not all songs are meant as samples of Religion songs. Some are just referenced material in the book text.

Overall, I found this chapter on songs of religion to be very profound and deep, as it should be considering the subject matter. Despite the long post, I have only touched upon the many things Daniel Levitin touched upon for which there is much to think about each.

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Author Daniel Levitin chose

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My choice for Song of Religion is

Lacrymosa , by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from his incomplete Requiem (funeral music), K. 626, that is magnificent from beginning to end.

It seems the current opinion is that only the first 8 bars were actually written by Mozart, with the rest under instruction for completion. However, listening to it, sounds like the instructions were pretty complete to me.

I have had the pleasure to sing this piece in choir and, well, let’s just say when you hear this piece with all the parts around you, singing one part, that’s when you really “get” the genius of Mozart.

I have also heard this version sung whereby the choir stopped at where it was thought Mozart stopped composing (I believed that version was about 8 bars into the vocal section), and they just stopped dead and walked off. It was so moving, the reminder that Fate doesn’t care for what we do and stops where it wants, that I cried in realizing the finality of it all.

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Frederic Chopin’s Funeral March, from his Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, also works well. This version is by Vladimir Horowitz. Masterful!
(the music, not video which is just black which might be appropriate but boring as heck)

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Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu from his Requiem is also a favourite of mine. I have also sung this in choir. Sissel Kyrkjebø does a beautiful job here!

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I don’t know what to say about all the funeral music selections here. I LOVE classical funeral music for some reason. It gives me such peace and lets me focus incredibly well. I especially like writing anything I need to focus and be concise on to it. Obviously, I don’t blog to it. :-)

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What is your choice for Song of Religion?

Please leave your choice as a comment.

Lyrics and YouTube/audio link would greatly enhance your answer so readers can know more about your choice. They are not necessary, though, and not possible if no lyrics or version exist.

You can include songs you wrote as a choice, too!

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 10.7

Earth Hour Loses Effectiveness with More Efficient Lights, But Here’s What to Do to Help

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Earth Hour was conceived in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In just two years, the movement went to 50 million people in 2008 and is aiming for 1 billion people around the world tonight on Mar 28 2009, which is incredible and kudos to them for it! Mind you, there are not 50 billion people on this planet, and a lot of us don’t have lights to turn off, very sadly, so that growth rate is going to level off very quickly.

Earth Hour LogoHowever, with the fast adaptation rate by society of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light bulbs and the soon to be even far more efficient light emitting diodes (LEDs), the impact of Earth Hour is going to be very “underachieving”, so to speak, and also lose its punch, unless they add other things to turn off in its message than just lights. The overall impact will still increase as more people participate, but imagine what Earth Hour could do if its message was changed to something like

Turn off your lights, electronics and appliances for an hour.

That still leaves 79 characters to Twitter something else, if you’re counting! That’s half a story for some like Arjun Basu who writes short stories in 140 character tweets! Or a six-word biography for some like me!

Seriously, though, the most common CFL I see is the 13W light bulb. Sure, there are plenty all over the house, but they are probably not on all at the same time so what you save is only a fraction of that. However, if you choose to spend your Earth Hour watching TV, like CNN that its Saturday morning host T.J. Holmes said this morning, you could be expending 10-40 times the energy of one of those CFLs! Check for your flat screen TV energy usage, or get an idea via CNET. I’m sure TJ meant well for his work and employer, but it’s the wrong thing to do for Earth Hour and what prompted me to go write this post.

We tend to use our electronics and appliances without thinking much of their power consumption because it’s not visible nor seem to be very much. However, that would be wrong. Your computer system is at least 10-15X the power consumer of CFLs. Other appliances vary but look at the list at the end of this post containing appliance and electronics power consumption and compare to the 13W for a CFL [list courtesy of OKSolar.com]. How much more power do you think you can save with a little extra effort to turn of some electronics and appliances as well as your light bulbs for Earth Hour?

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So this or next Earth Hour, go turn off your:

  • Computer system power bar (cause it uses one bulb’s equivalent energy when on, even if your computer system is turned off);
  • Fridge and/or freezer if you can unplug them (one hour off won’t spoil your food);
  • Air conditioning or heat (one hour won’t make much a difference in your home temperature if you dress right for it);
  • Anything else you can find or think of which isn’t too much of a hassle to turn on again after an hour. Challenge yourself as to what is not too much to turn off and reset in an hour.

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But what am I going to do for Earth Hour with everything turned off?

I do realize that recommending people just turn off all their lights, electronics and appliances for an hour is possibly more an idealistic than practical suggestion. In fact, Ariel Schwarz of Fast Company magazine had a bit of a warped article about how you should keep your lights ON for Earth Hour because it would send the wrong message to staunch non- or anti-environmentalists that going green means going back to living in caves. Rather, you can practice environmentalism all year without this symbolic gesture. Right point, but bad thinking for choosing the or option rather than the and option. You can do both. Symbolism is powerful, yes, but so is our social spirit to do things en masse and in my opinion, 1 billion people for something will have more impact than a little symbolism against something, even if that something supports your point of view. There are 1 billion people tell you you’re wrong.

But if you’re just thinking Earth Hour is about being stuck 1 hour in the dark, here are some ideas for enjoying your Earth Hour that might just be better than your general life routine for an hour otherwise.

  1. Snuggle up to your significant other for an hour in the dark if you have a significant somebody. I’m willing to bet you’ll be having Earth Hour on a much more regular basis than just once a year!
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  2. Tell ghost stories if you have family.
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  3. Do something with friends if you are on your own and don’t want to be alone.
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  4. Meditate if you are alone and don’t need to be with someone. Or just sit and think about something you need to think about in your life. Don’t tell me you’ve got nothing to think about in your life! Think about how to improve your environmental lifestyle, or fantasize or something like that if you are short on ideas!
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  5. Sleep! Most of us could use an extra hour of sleep… and you also power yourself down for an hour!
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  6. Party for an hour in the dark. Who says that’s not fun???
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  7. Listen to an MP3 player or radio if you really need some music. Slowing down the world and life isn’t a bad thing, you know! Like #1, you might just want to try it a little more often.
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  8. Talk to someone on the phone if you need to talk to someone and can’t do #3 to be with someone. That’s still a lot more Earth friendly than a plasma TV on. Use a land line if you have the choice over a cell and its charging.
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  9. Do nothing, to see how long an hour could be, thinking about how much you might be able to get done in that time, and appreciate the value of time again so you don’t waste hours in the future doing stupid things like watching TV or doing anything else of no value to you. I’m serious!
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If you are prepared enough, Tweet or change your Facebook status ahead of time to encourage something more than just turning off the lights!

And don’t forget you can practice environmentally friendly acts all year round, not just for Earth Hour!

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 8.1

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Typical Power Consumption

Air Conditioners

WATTS

ANNUAL kWT

One ton

1,900

3,078

Three-and-one-half-ton

6,500

10,530

Five-ton

9,200

14,904

Evaporation Coolers

4000CFM

400

1,150

Heater, Portable

1,500

630

Major & General Appliances

CD Player

85

85

Christmas Lights

800

130

Clock

2

17

Clothes Dryer

2,790

900

Computers

240

1,248

Dishwasher

1,201

363

Electric Blanket

177

147

Fan (Attic)

370

291

Fan (Ceiling or Circulating)

88

43

Fan (Furnace)

500

660

Fan (Rollaway)

171

138

Fan (Window)

200

170

Fish Tank

4

35

Floor Polisher

305

15

Freezer-Upright (18 cu. ft.)

Manual Defrost

540

1,250

Automatic Defrost

700

1,830

Hair Blow dryer

1,000

15.6

Hand Iron

1,100

60

Heat Lamp

250

13

Heating Pad

65

10

Humidifier

177

163

Jacuzzi/Spa Pump

1,300

2,100

Kiln

5,760

1,659

Lighting (Avg. Resd. Use)

1,200

Radio (Solid State)

15

18

Radio/Recorder (Solid State)

26

26

Range (with Oven)

12,200

750

Range (with self-cleaning)

12,200

775

Refrigerator-Freezer

16 cu. ft.

380

1,450

20 cu. ft.

420

1,950

Refrigerator-Freezer (frostless)

16 cu. ft.

600

2,150

20 cu. ft.

800

2,700

Sewing Machine

75

11

Shaver (none rechargeable)

15

0.5

Sun Lamp

279

16

Swimming Pool Pump Motor

2,000

8,780

Television Cable (TV) Box

23

50

Television, Color (Tube)

286

600

Television, Color (Solid state)

175

350

Television, B & W (Tube)

100

220

Television, B & W (Solid State)

45

100

Television, Screen (45″)

147

329

Television, Video Games

45

100

Toothbrush

1.1

1

Typewriter

52

1

Vacuum Cleaner

630

46

Video Tape Rec.

175

350

Washing Machine

512

103

Water Heater

2,475

4,219

water Heater (Quick-Recovery)

4,474

4,811

Waterbed Heater

450

1,460

Water Softener

1.5

19

Well Pump

2,238

1,894

Kitchen Appliances

Broiler

1,140

85

Can Opener

100

1

Carving Knife

92

8

Coffee Maker

1,200

140

Deep Fat Fryer

1,448

83

Food Blender

300

1

Food Mixer

127

2

Frying Pan

1,196

100

Garbage Disposal

445

7

Hot Plate

1,200

90

Microwave Oven

1,450

190

Roaster

1,333

60

Slow Cooker

200

144

Toaster

1,146

39

Toaster Oven

1,550

96

Trash Compactor

400

4

Waffle Iron

1,200

20