A few years ago when I signed up for a singing class, I got much more than I bargained for. Thirty eager singers arrived to find an empty classroom – no chairs, no piano, no musical instruments, just a beaming lovely woman – the teacher? Intriguing!
After the obligatory welcome and pep talk, we were asked to sing a note using the syllable AHH. The instructions were emphatic – hold that one note for 5 minutes; take short breaths when you must. The room erupted into cacophony as every note in the 12 tone scale was sounding. Painful! Where were my earplugs when I needed them?
As I struggled to hold my note I noticed that the sound of the room was changing. The dissonance was slowly ebbing away and before the five minutes were up the room pulsed with a hum of harmony.
The teacher beamed. “Now you know. We are wired to be in synchrony with each other.”
A few years later, I learned this lesson in another way.
My husband was a musician whose dominant sense was sound. He heard ideas; he heard emotions; he heard his dreams. Sometimes he would wake up bright eyed and happy, head into the living room, and spend the morning writing down the music he had dreamt the night before. Those were happy days indeed.
Ernest was a man at peace with himself – his body, mind, and spirit were in synchrony. Harmony pervaded our home. Once, we watched as two of our guests argued their way up to our front door. Within a few minutes, however, the hum of harmony was evident among the four of us. Ernest was like that. Guests who arrived at our home in disarray would leave happy.
Towards the end of his life, Ernest would sometimes wake up angry and complain that he had tried all night to arrange a certain melody as a duet, or quartet, or a simple song. All he got was disharmony. The staff paper was torn by the many erasures created as he struggled to force the music into a cohesive form.
During the last few months of my husband’s life anger turned to dismay as his dreams became mostly discordant sounds. This tragedy coincided with a loss of his gift of perfect pitch. “I do not know my body. We are not in agreement anymore,” he murmured disconsolately. We were both deeply saddened by this turn of events because we knew the music he was hearing was the sound of the end of his life.
It is from Ernest that I came to believe that harmony is synonymous with peace. If there is to be peace in our time, then, like Ernest, we must create harmony within ourselves – only then can we help others create peace in their lives.