My father was a musician back in the nineteen forties and fifties during the big band era. The instrument he played was a five-string stand up bass that was taller than he was.
I remember, as a little kid, listening to him softly hum the bass harmony to radio music on Sunday mornings. It’s one of those warm fuzzy childhood memories that I would wish for everyone. Strangely though, the notes he would hum were not those of the tune he was listening to, yet they somehow fit the music perfectly, making it sound even better. He seemed to know what the other musicians would play and added his sound to theirs seamlessly.
I guess that’s one of the magical things about playing in a band, not everyone plays the same notes yet their combined efforts create something larger and more beautiful than that of the individuals. Of course, certain rules apply in music making, but most good musicians honor them willingly for the sake of greater beauty.
Dad’s generation had experienced two wars and a major depression in their lifetime. I can’t help but wonder if these experiences taught his generation the value of harmonizing their efforts in a way similar to his music.
This morning in the office, I asked an eighty seven year old veteran that very question to which he replied: "Of course, we needed each other in order to survive. If we didn’t band together, it would be a very different world today”.
These days, I think that the value of harmony is under appreciated. We’re coming through a time in our culture that has been strongly centered on the individual. It is what has come to be known as the "me” generation: a great celebration of individual potential and freedom. Barriers have been broken and great heroines and heroes have become icons. In musical terms, it has been a celebration of the soloist. As time passes however, it seems as if this generation of soloists has been crowing louder and louder in order to be noticed above the crowd of other individuals. Could it be that this quest for personal achievement has taken precedence over the sense of being a part of something greater? While individual competition for greatness has led to extraordinary achievements, might it have also created in some, a sense of isolation? Being a soloist can get lonely.
Perhaps the time is coming when the pendulum will have swung full and the pursuit of individual greatness will give way to a more collaborative harmonic way of life. Certainly, there is a growing hunger for something deeper and more satisfying than individual pursuit. Internationally, we saw Warren Buffett and Bill Gates take philanthropy to a new high. Even the local news recently celebrated the virtues of an unknown individual who chose to pick up trash in a park, not for personal gain, but for the betterment of all. Perhaps this individual, in his own way, understands, as do scientists from physics to ecology, that we are not at all separate; each of us is a valuable part of some larger whole.
Individual actions ripple through the universe in a harmonic or destructive sort of way, influencing everything. The anonymous garbage collector might be hearing the music of the universe and harmonizing to make it sweeter. The reward isn’t in personal recognition as much as in connection to a better world.
Dr. Pepperdine is the owner of Southcare Chiropractic in Nanaimo. He can be reached at 755-1554.