These testimonies, often including spontaneous singing of her songs, have reminded me of how the Baha'i teachings describe the impact of music on human beings. This is equally true of music in both secular and sacred forms.
Regarding music, specifically the human voice, 'Abdu'l-Baha (1844-1921) made the following observation:
...wonderful sounds and tones, melodies and charming voices...attracts and exhilarates the spirit of man and has great effect upon him: it makes him weep or laugh; perhaps it will influence him to such a degree that he will throw himself into danger...Consider how strange this is, for nothing comes forth from the singer which enters into the listener; nevertheless, a great spiritual effect is produced.
Reading these words, Houston's "Greatest Love of All" comes to mind. There are psychological, political, and social implications to such a powerful phenomenon. Music can be equally use or abused, inspiring both the best and worst in human beings. Hip-hop, whose infectous beats and rhymes have emerged as a global, cultural force influencing the consciousness, emotions, and behavior of millions is but one example of this duality.
Thankfully, there are those who recognize this. Musicians across the globe are striving to create spaces for learning to exercise this power in ways that encourage human nobility and social salvation. Within a Baha'i context, efforts of inspired souls such as Eric Dozier and J.B. Eckl, Badi, and the Dawnbreaker Collective are some sterling examples. We need many more.
In honor of Whitney "Nippy" Houston, whose voice so beautifully incarnated the positive possibilities of music, I'll close with this prayer revealed by Baha'u'llah (1817-1892), Founder of the Baha'i Faith:
"Thou beholdest, O my God, how every bone in my body soundeth like a pipe with the music of Thine inspiration, revealing the signs of Thy oneness and the clear tokens of Thy unity. I entreat Thee, O my God, by Thy Name which irradiateth all things, to raise up such servants as shall incline their ears to the voice of the melodies that hath ascended from the right hand of the throne of Thy glory."
Image courtesy of Wikimedia. It is a work of the U.S. Government and considered in the public domain