Tag Archives: Harmony Day

Happy Harmony Day, Australia!

Today, it’s Harmony Day in Australia which is all about standing up for and defending inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.

However, while it’s much easier to talk and wax lyrically about acceptance, tolerance and understanding, it is much harder to implement these essential values into the daily grind.

While we might fight for the popular causes of social injustice, especially when they are shouted out by the media, we so often miss and even walk over the supposedly invisible battlers who even live alongside us. Their plight might slip through the radar but if we truly used our eyes and ears and slowed down to walk in their shoes, we would know that they could use an extra helping hand to feel valued and included. Given my personal situation, I have a real heart for all who live with a disability. While many go on and become high achievers in a wide range of fields despite their challenges, many are marginalised and living in very difficult and even inhumane circumstances.

The struggle is though, how can we as individuals be more inclusive and help even the most marginalised members of our community feel respected and included?

This is quite a challenge. We are all juggling more balls than we could ever humanly manage. Moreover, when your life’s zipping along in the super fast lane, it can be very hard to slow yourself down. Not necessarily to a grinding halt but the slow, indeed very slow pace, required by someone who is struggling.

As someone with mobility issues, I am constantly struck by those I love who instead of walking with me, charge off into the distance as though their lives depended on it. They can’t walk with me. However, I am just as guilty. I can easily get frustrated when I’m helping the battlers with the reading at school and have to remind myself to be patient. Although I want to help, I also get frustrated because I am having to slow my speed down… the very same way a fast walker gets frustrated slowing down for me.

However, if we all just try, that has to start making some improvement. This is why I love Pink’s epic motivational song: Try:

You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try

Multiculturalism and accepting cultural difference is a major part of Harmony Day. In the past, Australia had the White Australia Policy and a very narrow perception of what it was to be Australian. This vision even excluded our indigenous Aboriginal people. Our Indigenous Australians weren’t allowed to vote federally until 1967. That is a national shame and disgrace and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.Prospective immigrants were also given a notoriously racist language test as well…especially when they came from an “undesirable” country. As a nation, some of our sins run deep.

In more recent times, as in other countries, a policy of multiculturalism has been adopted and we have been encouraged to explore and accept diverse cultures, even absorbing them into our own way of life. This process so often begins with food but gradually extends to other areas through the bonds of friendship and love. Without multiculturalism and diversity our community would be bland, grey and dull.

Countering these values of inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for all, we have what I’ll call a range of “bullies”. They come in different guises: “nationalism”, “racism”, “fear” or simply being too busy. As people take more of a stand against these bullies, we are now also being asked not to be passive bystanders as well. Rather, we need to be whistle blowers, standing up and protecting the weak or disadvantaged against these bullies with their abuse of power.

Taking this a step further, responsibility also needs to extend beyond the bystanders to include the by-passers as well. The story of the Good Samaritan provides a great illustration of how a by-passer can walk passed someone in need or alternatively they could stop and help. Of course, this reminds me once again of that all-important Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated as well as the Inverse Golden Rule where we treat others as they would like to be treated. These are an excellent guide for how to treat others.

At the same time, I must admit that there is so much demanding our compassion that we have to be selective. As individuals, we can’t stop and save everyone. Indeed, sometimes, we could even use more than a helping hand ourselves. Yet, if each one of us reaches out to even a few, then collectively, at least in theory, everyone could be reached, included and belong. That’s if they want to.

Getting back to celebrating Harmony Day, I was very touched by the Harmony Day assembly held at our children’s school on Friday. My daughter’s class sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow in sign language and the kindergarten children sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Japanese. We also had parents from Japan and India talk about their childhoods in their own countries, which were surprisingly similar and just proved what my grandfather has always said: “The Geese go barefoot everywhere”. A friend of mine also performed the most sensational Indian Dance and it was the first time I’ve ever been able to experience its incredible beauty and intricacies and it was such an incredible journey, which I intend to pursue further.

Here is my little contribution to Harmony Day. It’s Twinkle Twinkle Little Star where each line is sung such in a different language.I did actually try to find a verion in an Aboriginal language but so far have had no luck. Will have to follow that up.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star English

Brille, brille, petite étoile French
お空の星よ (osora no hoshiyo) Japanese
En el cielo y en el mar, Spanish
He tai mana to rite Maori
Funkel, funkel, kleiner Stern German
Ako namamangha kung ano ikaw! Phillipino

I also stumbled across this Australian variation of Twinkle Twinkle:

Twinkle, twinkle little star,
Daddy drives a rotten car.
Press the button, pull the choke,
Off we go in a cloud of smoke.
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
Daddy drives a rotten car.

Source: Far Out Brussel Sprout. compiled by June Factor illustrated by Peter Viska Oxford University Press, 1983.

So this Harmony Day, I encourage you to think about how you can support inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. To achieve this, we each need to get out of our own backyards and start venturing further afield. Take some risks and start talking to people who might take you out of your comfort zone. If you have a dog, you already know that you meet all sorts walking your dog and if you don’t have a dog, go and borrow one and hit the streets. You never know who you might meet. As the song said many years ago: “it only takes a spark, to get a fire going.”

I’m not only daring you. I’m also challenge myself.This is not an easy mission at all but nothing worth fighting for ever was.

By the way, a month ago, I was involved in a world-wide blogging movement to promote compassion…#1000 Speak. This month, we are writing about bullying. This is my contribution to the project. I thought Harmony Day was a good example of how we as the Australian community have decided to stand up against a range of bullying which stems from intolerance of difference in others.

Bullying which comes in so many, different guises has the same effect of crushing and tormenting it’s victims until they somehow find a way to stand tall. Nothing seems to deflate a bully better than strength. Somehow, those being bullied need to inflate their self-worth. Believe in themselves and stand tall. After all, nobody is meant to stand small…not even our kids. After all, you know I’m not talking about physical size but a state of mind. So no matter where you are in this hotchpotch symphony we call community, know that you deserve to be valued, treasured and accepted for who you are. Moreover, you also need to do the same and pass it on. Then, we will all be able to grow into our own shoes we and walk our beautiful planet with pride.

Love & Happy Harmony Day,

Rowena

Community is a Symphony…Not a Solo Performance!

As much as we might deify the Renaissance “Man” and worship the modern cult of celebrity, it’s easy to forget that community is a symphony, not a solo performance. That we need an eclectic diversity of voices, cultures and thoughts to create the depth and richness we need to be an innovative, creative, meaningful and productive society. A diverse community not only means a healthier community but it creates a more inclusive sense of belonging rather than those mutually hostile “us” and “them” enclaves which can potentially become very destructive.

Leonardo Da Vinci's Rennaisance Man.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Rennaisance Man.

Moreover, for community to progress, those different parts need to come together not as one colourless, amorphous blob but as an integrated whole where each retains its sense of self and unique character. This is like individual musicians coming together to form an orchestra where instead of playing a solo, the different parts harmonise to produce a richer, more complex and mind-blowing sound.No one player, other than a soloist, dominates the performance and different instruments stand out or indeed rest throughout the piece.

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra in front of the Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra in front of the Sydney Opera House

Not unsurprisingly, all this synchronised integration doesn’t just magically happen with the click of the fingers. Oh no! Coordinating all these varied musicians, each potentially exceptionally talented in their own right, not only takes a conductor and their stick but it also asks each individual musician to give up something of themselves for the performance.This is a big ask but they comply because while there is glory, adulation and enjoyment in being the prima donna soloist, there is something miraculous as well about being a small part of an incredible, much grander and even ethereal sound. It is also an incredible experience to play your instrument with fellow musicians where you somehow connect through those fusing sounds in a way that isn’t always possible through words.

The family playing violin

The family playing violin a few years ago.

Humble, novice violinist that I am, I play my violin in an ensemble. Most of the time the pieces we play are intentionally easier than our own pieces and sometimes my part is very basic. To be honest,sometimes it gets a bit dull. In some pieces, I’m playing lots of 4 beat semi-breves and when I practice at home, it can get a bit boring and tedious and I drift off. However, when I’m playing with the ensemble, the same part can actually become quite challenging  as I divert much of my concentration to listening to the other players as well as trying to perfect my timing. I am, after all, no longer an individual but part of an integrated whole which needs to work together. While we don’t want to sound like a machine, we do need that precision and timing. As I said, there’s depth, texture, complexity and as well as that spark which is created when a group of musicians comes together and adds an amazing je ne sais quoi. Put very simply, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Our violin ensemble performing at the school carols night.

Our violin ensemble performing at the school carols night.

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”

Nelson Mandela

I should also emphasise that when as our various parts harmonise, we are playing different notes for varying lengths of time and at a different pitch. Being in harmony, means difference coming together to produce a great sound not everybody playing exactly the same thing.

Sometimes, we forget that.

Ironically, while I’ve been thinking about the importance of difference coming together as an integrated, more inspirational whole,  World of Our Own by Australian 60s band  The Seekers, which coincidentally is renowned for its 4 part harmonies, came to mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5pvpIvz5YQ

The Seekers

The Seekers

We’ll build a world of our own
That no one else can share.
All our sorrows we’ll leave far behind us there.
And I know you will find
There’ll be peace of mind
When we live in a world of our own.

The Seekers:”World of Our Own”.

 

However, building a cohesive, diverse community is continuous work-in progress, largely because individuals don’t want to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the greater good or an element of extremism takes off which doesn’t tolerate any kind of conflicting view. For some of us and include myself here, the allure of being a prima donna is great. We want to be the star and strut around the stage. There are so many rewards for being Queen or King of Centre Stage and relatively few for being a backstage genius. However, we learn more when we listen and I dare say we also grow more when we work with others and learn how to work successfully together in harmony.

It is a challenge which begins with me.

Being a real prima donna posing outside Byron Bay Lighthouse on holidays. i almost died when someone asked me to play. 2013.

Being a real prima donna posing outside Byron Bay Lighthouse on holidays. i almost died when someone asked me to play.

xx Rowena

PS Thought I’d give Magic Johnson the last word:

“I have to tell you, I’m proudest of my life off the court. There will always be great basketball players who bounce that little round ball, but my proudest moments are affecting people’s lives, effecting change, being a role model in the community”.

Magic Johnson