Tag Archives: harmony

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

# Cats and Dogs Are Friends

“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks”.

Daniel Boone

The last few weeks have been terribly confusing for yours truly. We all know about the dreadful events which have taken place right around the world. Being quite the philosopher, I often wonder what the humans are doing to our planet. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before they either blow us all up or we all get fried to a crisp.

It’s hard being a bystander. I had hoped things would improve in the New Year but it’s only got worse.  But what can I do? I’m only one dog. Yet, I am not any ordinary dog. I have magic powers. Well, that’s what I call being smart and finding solutions to age-old problems. That has to be a sort of magic.

Rewinding the clock, I considered what I could change in the New Year. As we all know, a new year is a clean slate and anything is possible. Of course, like all good dogs, I wanted to put my best paws forward. However, as I’ve had no luck with dieting and I’ve never smoked or taken drugs, I was stumped.

That was until Mum heard about this new idea of choosing a word to define your year. Mum’s word for 2015 is “love”. That sounded very inspirational but being my usual enthusiastic, over-achieving self, I decided to aim a little bit higher. Why settle for just one word when I could achieve so much more with these three words:

Change the World

Earth viewed from space.

Earth viewed from space.

I know you probably think that I’ve set myself the ultimate in impossible goals. However, quite frankly, it has to be easier than losing weight. These love handles of mine have definitely become permanent fixtures.

It was this quest to change the world which launched my journey into the perplexing field of philosophical research. From there, the Golden Rule certainly seemed to be the best way forward but further analysis confirmed that there is indeed an exception or challenge to every rule. For me, it was cats.

There was also the matter of my canine companion, Lady, who chews up my tennis balls without any consideration about my feelings at all!! This travesty posed yet another challenge to the Golden Rule. As I said, the Golden Rule works well when everybody follows it but when someone bucks the system, where’s the justice then?

Or, do we just hope karma intervenes?

Being somewhat jaded and disillusioned, I briefly turned to the dark side , investigating a different ideology: Do unto others as they would do unto you. While I could see that this approach could result in both good and bad outcomes, I thought it was all too easy to just start living for No. 1. That was definitely NOT where I wanted to end up. After all, while I’m not responsible for the actions of others, I do have to live with myself!

So it seems that my ideological journey went around in a great big circle and I was almost back to the beginning again. Back to the Golden Rule and trying to work out how I could be nice to cats.

Somehow, Odie pulled it off.

Odie loves Garfield but what does he get in return?

Odie seems to love Garfield unconditionally.

This was all well and good in theory but like all of my philosophical theories, difficult to put into practice.

To be nice to a cat, I actually had to get near a cat and even that was impossible. You might be surprised but I’ve never actually met a cat let alone tried to converse or conduct any type of meaningful dialogue with one. The closest I ever came to fraternising with a cat was when I bailed up that wretched thing, I mean, the nice cat from next door. I’d had that cat cornered until Dad suddenly appeared, grabbing me firmly by the collar, allowing my guest to escape before we’d been properly acquainted. Needless to say, she never came back.

Cats aren’t exactly innocent either.

"The cat next door" slashing Snoopy's doghouse

“The cat next door” slashing Snoopy’s doghouse

Firstly, let me mention my friend Snoopy and his encounters with the  savage cat next door to him. He is an extremely vicious cat who terrorizes Snoopy and Woodstock. Whenever Snoopy mocks the cat from across the yard, the cat slashes and Snoopy’s doghouse or sometimes, him. Charlie Brown usually ends up having to buy another doghouse, as a result.

Then there’s Garfield who constantly berates Odie.

Garfield needs to learn the Golden Rule.

Garfield needs to learn the Golden Rule.

I guess it’s probably due to heated moments like this that humans have decided to keep us separate: dogs here, cats over there. Even when I go to the vet, cats are inside, dogs outside. As I said, we live in divided worlds.

However, how is separation and ignorance building bridges between cats and dogs? Bridging the gap and trying to overcome our differences? It’s not.

The time has come to start bridging the gap uniting cats and dogs through love, understanding and forgiveness to create a better world. To achieve this, we  at least need to interact and get to know each other better. After all:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

The trouble is how do we break the ice and get the ball rolling?

All I do know is that if I want to change the world, it all begins with me. I have to be the change.

Back to the lab… A protocol is definitely required to improve relations between dogs and cats.

How to Become Friends with Cats

  1. I drew a picture of myself being nice to cats and stuck it up inside my kennel. Perhaps, if I could visualise being friends with cats, that could be a start.
  2. I keep repeating “I love cats” over and over and over again. I’ve even stuck a flag on top of my beloved kennel: “I love cats”. While I still make the occasional slip of the tongue, surely, it must sink in eventually.
  3. Feed your enemy. As everyone knows, the easiest way to the heart is through the stomach. I retrieved a dead fish from the beach and shoved it under the fence. I had thought about sharing my bones and even throwing my ball to the cat next door but I soon realised that cats don’t value either of these canine pursuits. This is what’s known as the Inverse Golden Rule “Treat others as they would like to be treated”.
  4. Find a dog who lives happily with a cat and request an introduction. After all, a dog just can’t approach any old cat and say hello. I’d be torn to shreds by their dreaded claws.
  5. Start small by taking very small steps.  Cats and dogs have been fighting since forever. It’s going to take time for things to change:

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”- Lao Tzu

6. Learn from the past but make a new beginning.

7. Forgive.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

Mark Twain

However, while I thought I was a real genius putting this protocol together and was expecting a Nobel Peace Prize for my efforts, a cat appeared in my backyard last night. I don’t know how much you know about dogs. Although we try to be good,  we’re actually reactionary by nature. We act first and think later. So despite all my philosophical research and heartfelt desires to be nice, I failed. I still took off after that cat at full speed, barking with the same vicious growl that I usually reserve for the posty. Yet again, I’d fueled the war between cats and dogs despite my best intentions.

Back to the drawing board.

Bruce the Shark smiling at the fish.

Bruce the Shark smiling at the fish.

This time I decided to try social media. Suffering from creative block, it took awhile to get the creative juices flowing. However, inspired by Bruce,  the Great White Shark in Finding Nemo. I developed my own hash tag:

“# Cats and Dogs are friends”.

Now, I just need to get the word out.

That means Mum has to learn how to twit or was that tweet? I can’t remember but I know it had something to do with those wretched feathered things that keep invading my backyard and tormenting me so much.

Well, she’s always telling me that an old dog can learn new tricks. Now, it’s her turn.

Wish me luck. As always, I need plenty!

xx Bilbo