Stimulate Your Brain and Soul with Good Medicine and Music

Stimulate Your Brain and Soul with Good Medicine and Music June 4, 2024

An Oriental Dollarbird (also known as the Dollar Roller) singing at Miami Metrozoo, USA; April 2009; Kevin King; Creative Commons.

This post is about our family journey with TBI and how important it is to stimulate your brain and soul with good medicine and music.

Trial Medications and Trials

Friday was a good day. My adult son Christopher received the first dose of a trial medication a doctor prescribed to stimulate his brain. Within fifteen to twenty minutes, he started showing signs of responsiveness. This continued on and off for some time.

Christopher started off by suddenly moving both hands and arms. Then he responded to various prompts like raising his right arm. He also did a great many fist bumps with me. It’s been quite some time since I have found him so responsive. This may have been the most responsive to prompts I have found him to be since his traumatic brain injury over three years ago. Our friend at the care facility sitting in his wheelchair alongside Christopher cheered him on the whole way. That man really knows how to encourage and stimulate my son and me to experience goodness! His encouragement is medicine to our souls. Things like trial medications, new therapies, and big doses of encouragement help us face our trials brought on by the TBI.

There are five doses in this trial run, which will take place over five weeks. My wife and/or I are to remain by his side for two to three hours at a time to watch and interact with Christopher to see how he might respond. We will ask a nurse to administer the dosage once or so a week and then report back to the prescribing doctor in early July. If this first dosage is any indication, Christopher is well on his way to moving about like Elvis Presley, or perhaps, Bob Marley. We will just have to watch and wait expectantly for Christopher to emerge.

Music to Stimulate the Brain and Soul

I played a recording of Christopher’s daughter Jaylah singing Bob Marley’s song, “Three Little Birds” (“Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright”). Christopher appeared to listen attentively. Later, I read the children’s story of how Keith Richards’ grandfather inspired him to learn to play the guitar. The book is titled, Gus and Me. Here is a recording of Marley and the Wailers playing the tune, as well as recordings of Keith Richards being interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, where they discuss the children’s book (two clips of the interview: first and second).

Christopher loved playing the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” on his guitar as a teenager. He especially liked Richards’ guitar solo. I asked him if he would like to relearn the guitar, and that I would be happy to get him another guitar to play. Hopefully, with more brain stimulation involving this medication, other treatments and therapies in place now and down the road, and an upcoming Botox injection for his right hand, that day will come.

Marley’s Three Little Songbirds and Stress Relief

Marley encourages us as he sings “Three Little Birds.” He tells of waking up and smiling with the rising sun and listening to little birds by his door singing a sweet song so pure, so true. The message he sings for us is not to worry and that everything will work out: “…every little thing is gonna be alright.” As one person wrote in response to the tune, the song’s refrain is the biggest stress reliever imaginable. Who knows? It may even help to reduce spasticity and increase consciousness, including awareness of God’s faithful presence amid trials and tribulations in caring for Christopher.

The live recording of the song’s refrain included here was in 1977, the same year that Marley was diagnosed with melanoma. He died of the cancer in 1981, but he lives on through his wonderful gift of music. One more detail is worth mentioning here. In 1976, Marley survived an assassination attempt on his life in his native Jamaica. You would think Marley certainly had some things to worry about. But his perspective reflected in this song is inspiring to me and, I believe, to Christopher.

Birds of the Air and Songs of God’s Care

As I started to write this post Sunday morning, I was listening to the little birds singing outside my window. They called to mind Marley’s song, as well as Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:26-27; NIV) When I listen to the birds, I think of what Jesus said. To me, the songbirds proclaim God’s care.

What good does worrying do? It can’t add a single hour to Christopher’s life. But the more conscious and stimulated I am by God’s care for Christopher and everyone else’s invaluable lives, I join the birds and Mr. Marley in singing a song of peace and joy. We humans are holistic beings. It’s so good for each of us to stimulate the brain and soul with good medicine and music.

Awakening Consciousness to Goodness

Yesterday was a case in point. Christopher was in his wheelchair by the nurse’s station yesterday morning. I asked the nurse to administer the second dosage of the medication. Within fifteen to twenty minutes, Christopher appeared to be responding to the medication. The medication in question can be used to address sleep disorders but awakens consciousness in others. Even though the CNA gave Christopher a shower earlier in the morning, which usually puts him to sleep, he was alert the majority of the time the medication was in effect.

As to be expected, there were variations due to many variables. Even so, Christopher responded at times to prompts, whether those of his CNA, the same resident cheering him on, or me. He even looked at me differently at one point, as if he was more “there.” I played Marley’s song for him, as well as his daughter’s recording of the tune. Christopher was not the only one who experienced stimulation. Two of the nurses at the nurse’s station started singing along with Marley. The music was medicine to the caregivers’ souls, to Christopher, and to me. Like medicine, music can awaken consciousness to experience goodness.

Nature, Nurture, and Growth

Here’s a picture Christopher’s wife Keyonna took of Christopher and Jaylah at the Grand Canyon several years ago. There’s nothing like nature to draw my attention to God’s nurture.

Friday was a good day. Monday wasn’t quite the same, but I still went searching for good and found it. It’s amazing what you can find when you are alert and paying attention. All you need is various forms of good medicine and good music to stimulate you to stay attuned to goodness even amid pain, trauma, and tragedy. Far from viewing them as polarities, nature and nurture go together to stimulate growth.

It’s now 5:15 am Tuesday morning. I just poured my cup of coffee and opened the window so I could listen to the little birds singing outside my window.  Like a free concert in the park! Another day to go in search of divine goodness with the aid of medicine and music. I plan on visiting Christopher again and again with this perspective in mind: today is “gonna be alright.”

PS: You can read the various posts on our family journey with TBI the past three years at this link. Thank you for your prayers!

About Paul Louis Metzger
Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., is Professor of Christian Theology & Theology of Culture, Multnomah Biblical Seminary, William Jessup University and Director of The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins. He is the author and editor of numerous works, including More Than Things: A Personalist Ethics for a Throwaway Culture (IVP Academic, 2023) and Evangelical Zen, 2nd ed. (Cascade Books, summer of 2024). You can read more about the author here.
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