Harmony. I’m thinking. What is harmony? My mind wanders. Then I hear it in my mind (and I apologize for taking you back to the 80’s…but hum along if you wish).
"Ebony and Ivory live together in perfect harmony. Side by side on my piano keyboard, Oh Lord, why don’t we?”
Diversity unified, working together toward something greater than its individual parts. If we think about the power that creating harmony could play in our own community it is inspiring. Imagine if individuals and organizations from varied backgrounds and with diverse beliefs came together to work for a cause. Political and religious beliefs wouldn’t matter. Even intention wouldn’t matter. What would matter is that there was a shared vision for an end result that benefited everyone in the long run.
Let’s take poverty for example. Homelessness. Substance abuse. Hunger. Crime. Impacts on education, business, environment, health, economy. We are already taking important steps to address these issues.
However, we are also a society that has learned to see in terms of black and white, instead of shades of grey. We have been taught to operate in terms of us and them. We have grown accustomed to competing for dwindling funding to keep our individual organizations alive. We don’t want to see the problems showing up on our streets and in front of our homes or businesses. We blame individuals or their families for creating such a mess. We think things like, "that could never happen to me”. Instead of seeing our role in contributing to a solution, we create an enemy that we want to remove.
But let’s be honest. How many of us would have significantly different lives if for some reason we didn’t receive a paycheck for a few months. What if you became disabled, couldn’t work, and didn’t qualify for social supports? Or if one poor choice started a downward spiral which led you to hit rock bottom. Or if you separated from your partner and had to go it alone. Maybe add to that the responsibility of raising children, or caring for aging parents. Or you’re simply trying to survive on a pension, or making minimum wage. People don’t want to be living in poverty. And assumptions that they do, or judgments like "they should just get a job”, destroy any hope of harmony.
Imagine how much better we could do if we acted with collaborative intention. If we could create a trusting environment where different opinions and approaches could come together with respect for one another to create a magnificent symphony. The symphony would be a community collaboration that would allow all the individual parts to come together and, despite their reason for being there, would result in a shared solution that provides a better life for everyone.
The Dalai Lama said, "You can develop the right attitude toward others if you have kindness, love and respect for them, and a clear realization of the oneness of all human beings.” Humanity. Harmony. Not sameness. This would take a major shift in how we have learned to operate as a society. But imagine what greatness we could create if we were willing to work toward it.
Maybe I’m just a dreamer. Maybe, just like the surface of a piano keyboard, it’s all just black and white.
Marla Hunter-Bellavia is a writer in Nanaimo.