From cacophony to harmony: the 3Rs for a world out of tune

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, April 27, 2017

Detail from The Scream, by Norwegian Expressionist artist Edward Munch, symbolizes the reaction many feel in the face of today’s global discord. Image supplied

How does it make you feel when you hear musicians out of tune or rhythm with the rest of the musical group of which they are part? For me, that experience calls to mind that painting by the Norwegian Expressionist artist, Edvard Munch: The Scream.

We arrive at the symphony, take our seats, and watch as violists, trumpet players, percussionists, and the other formally attired orchestra members take their places on the stage. Then they each start doing their own gratingly discordant thing, each going over whatever notes are in their heads without any reference to any of the other performers. Such cacophony is enough to make anyone scream!

But then, an oboe sounds an A note. The orchestra members take their cue and tune their instruments to that note. A hush falls over the hall, as the conductor taps baton, and all the members give their full attention to the maestro. Another moving performance of Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, or Tchaikovsky begins. Cacophony is transformed into harmony.

That analogy occurred to me recently while attending an Initiatives of Change (I of C) gathering in Calgary. No, the gathering itself was anything but discordant, but the topic before us most certainly addressed discord – the unsettling discord around us in our world today characterized by self-interest, distrust, and finger-pointing, discord that forebodes major military confrontation. What could we as individuals do about it?

I listened carefully, as the community leaders, educators, students and retirees at the tables discussed this topic in the light of a long-standing principle around which I of C was founded: “Be the change you want to see in the world!”

Several recalled a popular song from I of C’s earlier days when it was known as MRA: “When I point my finger at my neighbour, there are three more pointing back at me.”

This suggested the importance of having a quiet time in the midst of such distress, a quiet time of prayerful reflection on what changes the individuals themselves need to make in their own lives.

Which brings me around to the symphony analogy. I’d like to suggest three Rs for doing our part to restore harmony to a world out of tune:

The first R: Recognize. Take seriously the indications that there is a problem. The orchestra members and audience alike clearly knew there was discord.

The second R: Reflect. Prayerfully, and regularly, practice a quiet time for personal evaluation to discern the “A” note of the Still, Small Voice within you. Turn your eyes toward the Conductor and listen for the tapping of the Baton.

The third R: Repent. I know, this sounds like a terribly outdated religious term, but it most definitely applies here. It means, quite simply, to align our thoughts and actions to the A note and the Baton, and not just talk about it.

Perhaps, then, each of us will be ready to play harmoniously in the greater symphony of life.

© 2017 Warren Harbeck

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