Mastering the Human Instrument

From cacophony to symphony
Added: Tuesday, 5 August 2008

watch original V-Blog in Persian

watch original V-Blog in German

I have a German video blog on Youtube that was suddenly featured as blog of the day for two consecutive days in the German-speaking world. As a result I got a lot of messages and comments. It was fascinating to see how people began discussing issues among themselves in discussions that branched out among the comments posted. That feedback was extremely fruitful for me, as it highlighted what concepts viewers were struggling with. I often think, Doubletake attracts predominantly like-minded people, whereas the audience on Youtube was completely random and very critical. So their feedback was more representative of what the world at large is thinking. Three major concepts emerged that people were really struggling with and that I'd love to address. These are basic assumptions we make about life - as a global society. Paradigms, that I'm suggesting, can be turned on their head.

Firstly, the concept of 'unity' (of humanity/ unity in politics/ culture/ religion) seemed to evoke fears of 'uniformity'. A lot of people felt that an international auxiliary language for example, which would help us communicate better as a human family, or the process of 'globalization' (a very loaded word) would ultimately undermine diversity and create a 'bland soup of uniformity' – to quote one of the viewers. But I'm suggesting this would not be case at all. On the contrary, our very diversity would become more vibrant.

One of my favorite analogies highlights this very poignantly. When you take the keys of a piano, each and every one of them is unique and different. You wouldn't want them to be the same! But there are two ways that you can play a piano. You can randomly bang and hit the keys and create a loud, chaotic and painful cacophony of noise, or, you can play these keys with a measure of love and know-how and create a harmonious, melodic symphony that allows every single note to emerge at its most beautiful without compromising the diversity of the keys in any way!

The first scenario highlights how our world is functioning at present, and the second how it could be. Now a lot of people say that this second option is nothing but a 'dream', a 'desire', a futile 'utopic' image of what this world could be like. But I venture to argue the opposite. It is not a dream, it is a necessity of our day and age. The world used to function on a win-lose paradigm, where one nations'/ groups'/ factions' interest existed in isolation or opposition to that of others, but now we're living in a very interlinked, interdependent world, where our survival is no longer dependent on the fittest, but on the wellbeing of even the 'weakest' link - the entirety of the human race.

Besides, it is only the "can do" attitude that has achieved any of history's greatest feats: the abolishment of slavery, the discovery of electricity, aviation...anything! Of course it's possible! We must just want it!

And yes, globalisation is a loaded word, because people associate it with the materialism and self-interest that fuels it at present. But does it matter what fuels it? The end result is that we come together. I always say it doesn't matter whether you protect the environment for idealistic reasons or for selfish reasons (because you can no longer breathe the air around you and your life depends on you protecting the environment). The result is the same! The only draw-back is that the second options causes a lot more prolonged pain and suffering in the process, which is obviously what the world seems to want. We keep doing things the way we've always done them, until we are literally forced to do them differently. Oh mankind's stubborn clingings....

Secondly, a lot of people felt very strongly that it is in human nature to be aggressive and have conflict. It's something we've always done and we'll always do. I suggest it is not! It is in our culture, it's something we've learned to do, because our circumstances have required it so far. But those circumstances have changed. We live in a world where our survival depends on our reconciliation and on our unity in diversity. So as soon as we get through this pubescent phase, we can decide not to react impulsively and aggressively. If I park my car in my neighbors driveway, and he comes out and yells at me; hauls the worst insults at me, I still have a choice whether I submit to my own aggression and anger or whether I chose to control it. That's the beauty of the human soul! We have free will. We can decide. There are no more excuses. To say we've always waged wars and fought is a weak, weak attitude. Because it requires no change and no evolution on our part.

Lastly, after reading Michael Karlberg's "The Culture of Contest" I suggested that our western liberal democracy is being held back by the black and white party political system it subscribes to. I outlined how Baha'i elections are held internationally as an example of a system where you do not have interest/ lobby groups and parties, and where your constituency is the whole (community/ humanity). A lot of people felt that the elimination of parties or camps would, once again, compromise diversity and force people into a homogenous mind-frame where it's about conforming. They felt that we naturally have different interests and priorities. Yes we do – but they don't conflict! I (Karlberg) argue(s) that it is precisely partisan politics that compromises our diversity of thought and our various different interests. Because it arranges everything into right and wrong, left and right, black and white. You're either with us or against us! One party's victory is another's loss. Whereas reality or truth is multi-facetted. Our various perspectives should not be seen as oppositional but complementary! Our various points of view give us a more complete picture of issues.

A simple example demonstrates this. Take any object and have a few people sit around this object. You can have either of them describe what they see from their point of view and yell at each other to try and disprove the other and prove that their perspective is right. Or you can accept that each of these views is complementary and gives you a more complete idea of the reality of the object in its entirety! The oppositional paradigm is passé.

It might all sound so simple. But all the things I'm saying about unity in diversity has unbelievable consequences for politics, for economics, for the environment, for religion! Why do we insist that religions are to be seen as oppositional (we're going to heaven and you're going to hell) when they can be seen as complementary? They are all revealed by the same loving God and can be seen as the successive and complementary stages of one and the same unfolding revelation.

As long as we see each other as isolated entities with our own unique interests that conflict with those of other human beings and groups, we hold back the necessary process of turning our cacophony to a symphony. Judging by some of the fears and concerns of people responding to my video blogs, I have a feeling that people are very much in desperate need to make a change, but that this process is going to take a lot longer than I'd like to think...

Recommended Books:
Michael Karlberg: "Beyond the Culture of Contest"
An abridged version is also available titled How everyone can win.(Beyond the Culture of Contest: From Adversarialism to Mutualism in an Age of Interdependence)(Book Review): An article from: One Country

Greg Dahl: "One World, One People: How globalization is shaping our future"Cover image

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