This week, we celebrate our Day of Harmony, in which we honor our connections to each other and to the Force. This day also falls on the International Day of Peace, so I was moved to spend some time meditating on the relationship between harmony and peace. We often equate these two things, or at least think of them as some kind of spiritual tag team, as when we speak of the world “living together in peace and harmony.” But rather than jumping into some semiotic discussion about how peace and harmony are interrelated, I thought I would share a few thoughts on how to put that interrelation to work in a practical sense.
Our new Novices are exposed early on to the ideas of Alan Watts, maybe especially the idea that each of us is a function of the whole of the universe just as a wave is a function of the entire ocean. If you take this concept seriously, therein lies the key to grasping our connections to each other through the Force. When I am able to rid myself of the illusion that my existence stops at the boundary of my skin, I get a glimpse of that universal connection. I can then recognize that everyone and everything is equally connected. Viewed from that perspective, becoming angry at, or jealous of, or frustrated with another person is no less ludicrous than taking on a grudge against one of my own fingers.
“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.” – Alan Watts
As a musician, the word “harmony” has a specific meaning for me: two or more notes that blend together in a pleasing fashion. You can create harmonies with voices, with instruments, or with both: my singer sings an A, and I sing an E below, with our guitarist playing a riff on a Cmaj, and we’ve made a harmony in A minor. Standard rock stuff. If I sang an F instead, one half step higher, we would still have a harmony, but it wouldn’t sound like an A minor harmony any longer. But if I sing an E flat, a half step lower, instead, I introduce dissonance: an A and an E flat are tritones to each other, so our musical sense doesn’t register this combination as harmonious. But the thing to remember is that even though we might not like the combination of notes, might not find them pleasing to our ears, there is a place for tritone combinations in music. They create a specific resonance that has a distinctive feel. Were it not for tritones, neither Black Sabbath nor Edvard Grieg nor Metallica would sound the way they do.
Any interaction with another can be viewed the same way. I might not enjoy listening to the combination of our respective notes, but I can appreciate the effect this combination creates, dissonant though it might seem in the moment.
One more thing about harmonies: by definition, the two or more notes cannot be the same. If Kate sings an A, and I sing an A, and Brett plays an A, we have a lot of sonic activity but no harmony. Unison has its place in music as well, but it’s never going to be as tonally interesting as a harmony, even a dissonant harmony.
“Peace doesn't mean never offending anyone. Peace means never taking offense from anyone.” – Aaron Dennis
Even in a moment of conflict, a Jedi can recognize that the conflicting parties have an interrelationship. Just because someone brought an E flat to my A minor harmony, the song needn’t come crashing to a halt. Nor do I have to switch to an E flat myself. Appreciating the music of the universe means appreciating the dissonances as well as the unisons and the harmonies.
Today, as all days, we are one with the Force.
Peace be with you.