The Art Left Behind


I have to admit I was never a fan of Mac Miller.  But there was something about his recent passing that impacted me.  I guess, in some way, Mac Miller was a semblance, a representation of all the young men and women I had come to know over the past 13 years who had also fallen to the grips of addiction and as result went spiraling down to the harrowing end of an overdose.  Like the young rapper, many of the people I came across had artistic dispositions, possessed a unique way of looking at the world, and always expressed themselves via creative means of music and art.  Sometimes, they sang songs, poems, or played musical instruments in between therapeutic sessions.  Sometimes, I’d watch in amazement as the words rhythmically escaped their mouths, cigarette hanging out of the side of their lips, their tattooed arms bearing the faded healing needle marks flaying about with the sounds of the music.  These souls who I had come to know were soon gone, victims of drug dependency.  I could still remember the songs, the poems, the debates, the drawings many of them left behind.  It is this art, somehow clearly unfinished, that leaves behind a sense of bitterness and sorrow.  I can remember rationalizing their deaths as “a part of the disease” in the many community vigils… later, having to pull my car over succumbed by the crushing reality: Addiction is powerful…indiscriminate, and it takes the lives of young men and women who possess great potential. 

It has been through these individuals that I’ve confirmed there is something creative and divine about the addict.  The addict lives an expressive life, in a state of constant desperation to reunite with a greater reality- unfortunately, many times, the connection is an erroneous one, sought artificially through a substance.  Many addicts die in their relentless pursuit to be whole again, to be reunified with their source and relieved of their separateness.  Mac Miller and the 350 souls that die daily from drug related deaths in the US alone should remind us all that money, fame, and achievement alone does not grant us wholeness and that the ultimate source of fulfillment must be sought after to make recovery possible.  

The Way of Music: Improving the Moment with Sounds.


You wake up after a restless night of hearing the sound of your voice, the inner judge, chirping crickets, thunder and rain. You walk outside and you can here the chirping of birds, children playing on the sidewalk and the sound of cars, the sound of movement. You forget about the twisting and turning during the night and resume your day.

I am not a music therapist, nor do I have enough information about how music therapy can be effective but I can describe how music over the years has has an impact on mental health. Music, time and time again, has helped shape political movements, cross boundaries created by racism and has shaped its way in and out of culture. The blues which seems to be a paradoy of one’s depression sheds light to a difficult situation. Country music, a way of dealing with the difficult times of working in the South under the hot sun. Rap/hip-hop- a need to express the African American culture in a way that originally was based on rhythm and poetry to express the anger of systematic and culture racism. Punk rock- anger at government, the rules and the political climate. And Pop music , a celebration of freedom and happiness.

Of course those are all of my own opinions, but if we are to ever say that listening to AC/DC or Ozzy Osbourne’s ” Suicide Solution” led to deaths or suicide, can’t we also have a discussion how those same artist have helped others feel a sense of belonging?  Imagine you don’t play sports but you can relate to the captain of the soccer team by his taste in music and talk about music the way he talks about the World Cup.

Unfortunately, this is not an entry about what sounds or songs to listen to when you are feeling depressed or angry. My personal list would be too long and I truly believe music is that one thing that is subjective. I might like rap and country and you might be the one out of many who say “I listen to everything except rap and country.”

Is the speed of sound quicker than the speed of thought?  I don’t know, but the next time you have trouble falling asleep listen to the noises outside of your inner speech  and see what happens. There is a category of “break-up songs” for a reason.

I will leave you with this. There was a study done in China for pregnant women on bed rest during times when CDs were being used. To summarize (the link is below), the pregnant women who listened to the music seemed to have an easier time, got off bed rest, and reported a decrease in depression.  I don’t know the evidence behind it but as a therapist and a musican I believe in both as tools to help heal.

The link:


By Noah Goldberg, RSWI, MSW

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