Music for a troubled world

Originally published as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

"A perfect echo" is whatMonitor Middle East correspondent Nicole Gaouette hears in the hearts of Israelis and Palestinians. In her conversations with ordinary people on both sides of this saddening punch-counterpunch conflict, Gaouette detects a perfect echo in the hopes they hold in common - for their children, for secure homelands, and for prosperity. When it comes down to the heart's desire for harmony, we all sing the same songs.

In the Israeli-Palestinian situation, as in every conflict, the splitting of people into warring sides goes deeper than a history of bad blood between tribes. Deeper than ethnic and religious differences. Perhaps at the bottom of it all is a temporary denial of humanity's connecting chord - a loss of harmony, or music, in its deepest spiritual dimensions.

In an article on humanity's musical roots, Dartmouth College neuroscientist Petr Janata says he believes that "if you completely remove music from human cultures around the world, it would definitely have a devastating impact on society" (Chicago Tribune, Sept. 21).

It also should hold that if human cultures were more infused with the principles of music - collaboration in performance, harmony out of blended differences, animation through sympathetic rhythms - the impact on society would be immensely beneficial. Chords, melodies, rhythms, (and sometimes words) act like global cords, unifying people across all that would divide.

Researchers are discovering that music may be more intrinsic to human nature than language. Music, however, is not a matter of genetic inheritance, and our inborn response to music points to a higher source, a divine Principle.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "... God, the divine Principle of harmony, is ever with men, and they are His people" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 573). Her theology didn't come out of a sheltered life. She knew and wrote about the awful toll of human conflicts, from the US Civil War to the mid-1890s Armenian massacres and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. She also knew from personal experience the toll of discord in marriage and other human relationships. But to come to know God as the divine Principle of harmony, and oneself and others as spiritual beings, was, to her, the path of healing and harmony. It was a path that Jesus had mapped. He, after all, provided the original road map to peace: to put God first in the affections, and to love others as we love ourselves.

Jesus wasn't offering the world just pleasant aphorisms about God and peaceful relations. Love of God and love of neighbor were, and are, the fundamental laws of human harmony. The reason we sing the same songs in our hearts is because we all have the same divine composer and arranger. The Principle of harmony has authored us to live in harmony.

Health - in society or in the body - involves rediscovering God as the divine Mind who composes us as whole ideas, in agreement with our Maker and one another.

You don't have to have training in music to love harmony. But as anyone who's played or sung in a group knows, the better you understand the principles of music, the better the music. There may be no quick fixes for long-running discords such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But as with music education, harmony-making begins at home, one resolved chord at a time.

Peace is participatory. By adding our tones to those perfect echoes coming from Jerusalem and Gaza, we may some day hear what the Bible promised: a new song. A song of peace.

Sing unto the Lord a new song,
and his praise from the end
of the earth, ye that go down
to the sea, and all that is therein;
the isles, and
the inhabitants thereof.
Isaiah 42:10

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