“Nothing exists without music, for the universe itself is said to have been framed by a kind of harmony of sounds, and the heaven itself revolves under the tone of that harmony.” Isidore of Seville (c.560 – 636)
I am often struck by the word “harmony.” It is interesting to me that harmony’s multiple definitions are…well…harmonious. Harmony can refer to a pleasing combination of simultaneous musical sounds, or it can refer to agreement, peace, or fellowship. The Greek root of the word simply means “to join.” The really fascinating thing about harmony – whether you are referring to music, people, or ideas – is that harmony can only exist in diversity. A chord of one note is not a chord.
When a choir sings in harmony, each part has its own note to sing. When the notes come together, they create something so much more beautiful than each could create on their own. When a note is missing from the chord, it sounds empty. We recognize this in music. We hear the complexity of a beautiful chord and enjoy what each note brings to the whole. We appreciate difference for what it can create.
And yet, when it comes to our relationships with one another, it seems we have lost this appreciation for the beauty that difference can create. We forget that we are each given a different note to play in the symphony of life. My note will often not be the same as yours, but the final composition is more beautiful because of the part we each played. Each of our notes is richer for the addition of harmony. Harmony is not agreement. It is not homogeny. It is each of us playing our own part, our own instrument, in a way that values and recognizes the ways we fit together to make something powerful. I cannot expect to have harmony by convincing you that you should all sing alto because I do.
In this current cultural climate, it sometimes seems that we are not even playing the same piece of music. We have another multi-faceted musical term for what is happening in the world around us: “discord.” The discordant tones of angry people on all sides pull us further and further apart and send us into the emptiness of broken chords, broken hearts, broken relationships. We are increasingly isolated as we each try to keep playing our song independently of one another and independently of the conductor. And the more desperately we keep playing, the more exhausted we get as the music swirls into a painful cacophony.
But, my friends, as St. Isidore reminds us, “the universe itself is said to have been framed by a kind of harmony of sounds, and the heaven itself revolves under the tone of that harmony.” The harmony is still there. The music is still there. We need to find our part, play it well – always aware of how it fits within the greater structure of the music – and always, always, keep our eyes on the composer/conductor of this symphony we call life. When we follow the conductor, we can find our way back to making music together – in all our beautiful difference.