Rainbows, the forest, white light, and unity in diversity

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 16, 2014

A rainbow of many colours kissed my coffee cup with a lesson on friendship and unity in diversity.
Photo by Warren Harbeck

The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the cup, spoke of friendships that transcend time and differences.

The other afternoon my wife Mary Anna and I were having coffee with our longtime friends Jeff and Cynthia Perkins in their Calgary home when I was awed by the rainbows that radiated from a crystal in their west-facing window and filled the area where we were sitting. They painted the walls, floor, tables and faces with their vibrant hues.

One rainbow even kissed the inside of my coffee cup, its glory reflecting off the surface of the friendly brew.

And I thought to myself: How appropriate. That rainbow symbolized my nearly 40 years of friendship with Jeff since first meeting him when he was Band Manager for the Stoney Tribal Administration at Morley. In spite of our vastly differing views on many issues – and particularly on religion – I think it was his commitment to the value of integrity and our common humanity that formed the basis of our bond.

Yes, like that rainbow in my cup, we have found beauty of unity in our diversity.

The experience that afternoon was like an exclamation mark on a similar experience I’d had just a day earlier while meeting at Cochrane Coffee Traders with Lori Craig, co-author with me of a book we’re writing.

Lori was referring to “You Raise Me Up,” the song I featured in last week’s column and that she and her daughter loved to sing together “at the top of our lungs.”

A specialist in human relations and multiculturalism, she went on to list several other songs she also found very uplifting. At the top of her list was the late Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo'ole’s iconic medley of “Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World.”

The diversity of the rainbow’s colours was for her a metaphor of the larger multisensory experience of autumn she and her husband Joe so enjoy while out cycling. It was “the combination of things that creates the ‘sight’ and ‘taste’ of fall: the diversity of colour, texture and light, the touch of the fall breeze on my face,” she reminisced.

We recalled the teaching of the late Stoney Chief Walking Buffalo on the beauty of diversity.

Consider all the different kinds of trees and plants there are in the forest, the globetrotting goodwill ambassador would say. There are poplars, spruce, pine, willow, cranberry, and a wide variety of flowers. But they don’t fight with each other. They get along together just fine; they live in harmony.

Lori and I also reflected on The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ announcement of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2014, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura, “for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources.”

Red and green light-emitting diodes had been available for some time, but without the addition of blue, the light emitted by energy-efficient LEDs was always off-colour. With the Nobel Laureates’ discovery, the beauty of white light could come forth from the diversity of red, green and blue. This held, as a bonus, the promise of low-cost artificial lighting for much of the Third World.

Ah yes, Lori’s reflection with me over the beauty of unity in diversity as illustrated by the rainbow, autumn, the forest and the discovery of blue-emitting diodes made my experience of that rainbow in my cup of coffee at Jeff’s the next day all so meaningful.

Iz captured that experience well in the second part of his “Over the rainbow / What a Wonderful World” medley featuring Thiele and Weiss’s 1967 song first recorded by Louis Armstrong.

Let me wrap up this week’s column on unity in diversity with a verse from “What a Wonderful World” as performed by Iz:

The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces

Of people passing by.
I see friends shaking hands

Saying “How do you do?”
They're really saying
“I, I love you.”


© 2014 Warren Harbeck

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