Most people want to fit in. In a group of friends, in a neighborhood, in a church, in a team at work. The feeling that you're making a valuable contribution to accomplishing a bigger purpose satisfies the heart in a special way. But sometimes it's all too easy to feel left out or unappreciated.
I had an experience last month that gave me a new view of fitting in. I attended a five-day music improvisation workshop led by Bobby McFerrin. At one session someone suggested that we sing for a woman who had become ill and had left the workshop early in the week. So at the end of that morning's session, we sang for her. She wasn't able to be there, but we sang with her in mind.
One hundred and fifty-strong, we united in the musical phrase that Bobby gave us. As with many of the exercises in group improvisation that we'd done, the music took on a shape of its own, evolving into different melodies and rhythms. At one point he directed us to sing one note, and some singers began to harmonize on that note. Some beautiful chords emerged. Then one beautiful chord grew louder and louder until I was sure it could be no louder. The sound enveloped us, and I was part of a whole that was bigger than sound, bigger than the group. The unity I felt moved me to tears.
Over many years I'd been familiar with the concept that God and each of His children are one and, therefore, that each of these children - brothers and sisters - is in unity with one another. That concept is illuminated in a prayer that Jesus prayed as recorded in John's Gospel. Speaking of God's children, Jesus asks God "that they may be one, as we are" (John 17:11).
I've loved that idea, and I've felt this oneness from time to time in a unified spirit with others or on a shared spiritual journey with a friend or sometimes simply during an inspired moment.
At this particular instant, as I sang as part of this group, I felt that our circle of singers, sending compassion and comfort to the woman in need, was encompassed by a greater circle, drawing us together as one.
After we reached maximum volume, the sound crept down to an almost inaudible tone. Then, utter silence. We all stood motionless. As one moment moved into the next, the silence ended. Tears flowed. People exchanged smiles and hugs. I soon felt the urge to leave - to listen silently to the reverberation of that sound in my mind and to let it settle in my heart.
That sound and that silence have stayed with me, and I continue to ask myself what it all meant. One significant aspect of the experience has been recognizing my part in its beauty.
My voice was contributing to that vibrant circle of harmony. And so was each person's.
Every voice had its place. It was, for me, the epitome of synergy.
The harmony of that chord has also become for me a microcosm of the harmony of the universe - of diversity in unity, of unity in a shared mission. The various colors of the sound produced something beautifully dissonant at times, but not discordant.
This experience has helped me feel more deeply that I truly am unified with others; my brotherhood and sisterhood with people I encounter in various aspects of my life feel more real. The deep bond that exists between us because we are indeed brothers and sisters is becoming more tangible.
This vision of unity helped me when I returned to my life at home and at work. A few days before the workshop started, I had been given some additional responsibilities at work. This news had deeply troubled me for a number of reasons. I traveled to the workshop as planned, but when I came back, more questions flooded in. Working just part time on the new team, how would I fit in?
I remembered the chord. I already did have a more significant place than I had ever realized. I had a place in the chord that is the universe of God's creating. I would be giving in the way that was best for me and that would do the most good. Wherever and however I needed to fit in was already established, because I did indeed already fit in in God's universe. Fitting in was a moot question. Because I am, and each of us is, part of the chord that is the harmony of the universe. I have a place. We each have a place.