Much is made, thought, and said about harmony-especially as it pertains to religious belief.
We should all live in harmony.
We should strive for harmony with each other as well as peace and understanding.
Most importantly of all…BE NICE.
The teeth and sharp bones of the modern world poke and prod at this belief-challenging those of who are orthodox in their devotions as well as those who are not, to confront issues head on that our ancestors apparently did not have to deal with.
Social concerns, political platforms, behaviors resulting in our continued degradation of Creation-it can feel so heavy and taut at times and when we look back to history in an attempt to learn from it-we often feel that there is nothing but silence.
These are new problems for a new and modern world-our religious celebrations, traditions, and ceremonies do not always answer them.
Cutting even closer to home is the tension between our own personal beliefs and the beliefs of our Church, Mosque, Synagogue, Circle, and Temple. No religious person that I know is 100% on board with everything their faith espouses-in fact, some of the most exciting and thrilling Theological discoveries come our of sharp disagreements between personal conscience and religious doctrine.
Our world rubs raw against faith and our personal beliefs bristle at times against it as well.
For some the answer is found in assimilation-the divide between the secular and the sacred grows thinner and thinner until there is no divide at all. Our houses of worship becomes worldly and allow us as a result to be fully of the world-this can be a sell out position or a study in Divine Immanence depending on who you talk to.
On the flip side, some religious communities become increasingly insular-they seek a sharp distinction between the organizing principles of their faith and the world in which we live with its sometimes callous disregard and mockery of those who see things from a different perspective, are branded more “conservative”, or perhaps most devastatingly of all-are found to be simply disagreeable with anyone who does not espouse their same principles.
Again-the move of separation can be held as escapism from modern life’s thorny problems or the creation of a modern day sanctuary wherein it is possible to truly and fully know thyself.
Many of us find ourselves in a middle ground-there are principles of faith and belief that we adhere to, that illuminate our soul’s longing and purpose.
And yet. And still.
We have thoughts, feelings, beliefs and even expectations that sometimes experience painful disagreement with the faith(s) around which our lives navigate. It can leave us feeling confused, disheartened, longing for a “simpler” time devoid of these complicated social and political issues.
Empty…desiring strong leadership, a path marked the “right way” and sorely tempted to buy into attractively packaged “simple” solutions that are anything but simple and often leave greater problems than they have solved.
Broken and Fractured...in my own practice I hear this again and again-unsure of what the right way to live really is, but sure that considering that question-with an end to answering it, is our most essential life work.
What we do not feel is harmony.
Harmony is peace, tranquility, serenity.
Or is it?
The word is Ancient Greek in origin and it means to fit together, to join. Sounds good so far-isn’t this what we seek in our own lives? Reconciliation with each other, with our time and culture, with our God(s)?
The key is in knowing what is being fitted together and joined, in music harmony is created by joining different pitches, tones, and notes to each each other with the ancient understanding that the whole is greater and more beautiful than the individual parts. The separate tones and pitches though-they may well be dissonant with each other-another musical term that means pretty much the opposite of harmony-disagreement, separation.
Like so many things to a point its a matter of perspective. If you were to listen to only two parts in what should be a four part harmony the sound might be displeasing, cacophonous, it might even be broken and fractured. When joined by the other two parts though that broken sound can soar into something sublime and beautiful-rich in texture and meaning-complete and completely joined.
Harmony is not unison-it is not everyone of us agreeing with everyone else-in our congregations, our neighborhoods, our political communities for the sake of going along to getting along or “niceness.”
Harmony is flat, boring, and actually absent without its inherent tension.
Nor is it simply dissonance-disagreeing to disagree, becoming fossilized and hardened in one way of looking at things and discerning truth from fiction because its easier that way. Harmony emerges from different strands-each unique and each incomplete without the others.
Our differences-with the world in which we live and the faiths by which we abide are too often seen as a lack or indication that something has gone terribly awry instead of the sign of our continued, vigorous, search for that which is holy, blessed, and true.
To our own ears the voices sound rough, unruly, and separate from one another and the Divine-but I wonder amidst that feeling of loneliness, does the Divine hear something whole, complete, and beautiful?
So my petition for the day for you is-May you experience harmony in your life-the real kind-that is full of the kind of creative tensions that births the stars and beauty that simply shines forth!