Harvesting cognitive skills through cultural experience

FEATURE — Indian mythology depicts autumn to be the preferred season for Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and nature. She represents the free flow of consciousness, also referred to as mindfulness or cognizance.

Images of Saraswati show her adorned in simple elegance with a musical instrument and book of prose in her hands. This is to symbolize the depth of emotions fostered through words and music.

“The realm of music provides perhaps the most intense and universal source of spiritual joy, and recent research suggests that it may well improve cognitive skill,” said Howard Jones in his article describing soul through music and art.

Jones compared the study of science and humanities when he said, “As much as we need to become proficient in the basics of science and mathematics in order to become self-sustaining, contributing members of society we should also leave room to learn how to participate in creative crafts, and appreciate poetry, painting and music.”

As human beings we have sophisticated scientific language skills that provide us with the ability to reason. Conversely, our imaginative skills of humanities define our creative character. Modern science tells us there is spiritual energy in lakes, mountains, trees, rocks and sound waves. This energy is the source of inspiration for many creative artists so it is no wonder that we feel a sense of inspiration when listening to music.

Plato said, “’Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything else.”

Fortunately for us here in Southern Utah there is a plethora of autumn activities to enlighten our souls. Fall and winter seasons are overflowing with magnificent musical performances on the campus of Dixie State University. A symphony orchestra often plays and is especially stimulating because of the many instruments presenting the musical selections.

Even listeners who do not have musical training can still experience joy in this type of music, because the spiritual aspect of the human mind allows us to appreciate tonal beauty, Jones said. The science of the brain is such that we are able to differentiate between the many instruments and will recognize the sound of the clarinet in comparison to the oboe or the violin and the cello. It is this combination of science and humanities that gives us appreciation for the musical score and admiration for the musician and the conductor.

But while a patron need not be trained in music it is important to recognize that cognitive skills are improved as music has the ability to strengthen and educate.

“Music can and should become something that is used not only to escape from the world but rather to understand it,” conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim said.

Perhaps this is why Hindu mythology recognizes Saraswati with the attributes of music and the arts combined with knowledge and wisdom. While this Goddess had many hands filled with items to cultivate these traits of mindfulness, we can take the opportunity to attend local autumn events and create a harvest of cognitive skills.

Lani Puriri
Lani Puriri

Written by  Lani Puriri for St. George Health & Wellness Magazine and St. George News.

Puriri is the operations manager for DSU’s Cultural Arts Community Outreach and DOCUTAH. Contact her at [email protected].


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1 Comment

  • Roy J November 24, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    “Modern science tells us there is spiritual energy in lakes, mountains, trees, rocks and sound waves.” Huh, and here I thought this was the one thing modern science wasn’t trying to tell us. Oh well, Plato also said that you’d have to be a stark, raving lunatic to write poetry. XD

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