Music steals past dragons

I have a confession to make. I was scheduled to post last week, and I wasn’t ready. I’ve known for weeks what I wanted to say, but was having an unusually hard time getting it to come together. So when Kelly emailed me to say she had Andrew’s piece ready to go, and to suggest a possible schedule switch, I was happy to say yes. And then on Monday I knew – it was the staffwork of the Omnipotence all along. You see, Andrew’s words affirmed perfectly the idea I was trying to body forth.

C.S. Lewis, in his essay “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said,” mused:

“Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. And reverence itself did harm. The whole subject was associated with lowered voices, almost as if it were something medical. But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday School associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could.”

And he went on to prove that it could, in fact, be done. All told, Lewis penned fourteen fiction books, the best known of which are The Chronicles of Narnia, with their Christianity latent.

Over the past couple years, though, I’ve seen numerous reports that most Americans don’t read for pleasure. At all. I find this both sad and alarming. Still, even so, hope need not be altogether abandoned, because it seems that almost everyone – young, old, educated, illiterate, of every race and creed and persuasion – listens to music, many of them as naturally and half-consciously as breathing. And while I still do and always will believe firmly in the power of the written word, I wonder if music isn’t even better at stealing past those dragons.

Listening to music requires almost no effort; it doesn’t demand full concentration; it can blend into the nearly-unnoticed background of our lives, to the point that we hardly even hear it anymore. Until we do. Until Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” moves us deeply before we’re even properly aware of it. Until we realize with a jolt that Bono’s words that we’re humming along with mean more than they mean on the surface. Until an original guitar composition opens our ears and our understanding to what a young man’s life feels like to him.

Music reaches some deep part of us that nothing else does. I don’t know how or why; I only know it’s true. What else – this side of Heaven – has such power to touch us, to stay with us, to become ingrained in who we are? What else can cause cold, hard men to crumple; prim maiden aunts to forget themselves in ecstasy; and frightened, fussy children to drift into peaceful slumber? I know a moody pre-adolescent who just can’t help dancing to any music she hears, regardless of how upset she is over whatever it is this time. I have heard elderly women who no longer remembered their own names sing every word of Amazing Grace. I have been drawn back to life through a fog of depression – so thick I couldn’t see to read – by a faintly-heard strain of music floating by, and I have celebrated the most joyous occasions with song as well.

Music is medicine; music is magic. May it ever meet you where you are.


Becka Choat is a lifelong lover of words who spends many hours each week in a room of her own, writing or reading and drinking coffee. Her book reviews can be found at, and her poetry and other musings at You may also follow @beckachoat and/or @booksbybecka on Twitter.

Image by Jess Lis via


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