Continuing from the previous post’s metaphor, if we’re like most people (musicians) and we do wish to join the orchestra (society), then we join that group as an individual. We may be a brass instrument, or woodwind etc. But each of us will play as ourselves, with nuances and qualities that are unique to us.
We do fall into broad groups that we were born into, or that our families largely raised us to join. For example, the tuba’s may be jolly or forlorn, while the trumpets are bold and serious. The harps can hold a sense of ephemeral wonder but have no power, and the piano may be sophisticated yet emotional.
We each have things that we can do, and things we cannot. The orchestra is made great by playing together.
Our instrument is formed from our body, and environment. Each of us is introduced to our own instrument in a manner that influences how we play emotionally, which is why our playing represents our general attitude. And, as our qualities mix and combine, we find ourselves in many societal groups.
Alone, each instrument is itself beautiful and worthwhile. But working together, they can create much more sophisticated and beautiful music. Working against each other, they quickly become a painful, confusing cacophony. But the belonging has real value, so there are very few people who don’t long to be in at least a few orchestras or ensembles.
Now, let us say that each orchestra is in a studio, and history is literally being broadcast live. As our generous but demanding producer in the booth, we can imagine God, or some agent of the scientific Laws of Nature. , and what’s being produced is The History of the World.
Since their inceptions, each orchestra (society) began to play and they will not stop until there are no willing members to keep them going. If that sounds impossible, it would be if it weren’t for the fact that society’s orchestra is also a recycling system, like most things in nature.
People are born and people die. Real, daily society mixes together its most experienced with its least experienced. Rather than being completely filled with the very best musicians, anyone can apply to join any orchestra. But to get in, and to remain, we must find value in being in that particular orchestra, or milieu, and they must find value in us.
Being in an orchestra creates a lot of security for us, but it obviously restricts our freedom. Finding the right balance can be challenging. In the end, substantial parts of a good life can be spent simply trying to find the right orchestra. This means a more adventurous, varied life. But it’s still the life of a musician, not just the narrow, consistent one we often imagine.
Despite the mix of playing styles and experience levels, no matter which orchestra we’re in, The Universe is broadcasting it live. There are zero do-overs.
With this established, modern society can be seen as like any other orchestra. It has brass instruments and percussive ones, strings and woodwinds, and at the same time the brass and woodwinds are both wind instruments. Meaning, we each have multiple identities that are both separate, yet other definitions of us overlap.
If people are very aware of how all orchestras –or societies– truly work, then it makes little sense for a woodwind to criticize a trumpet for being brass. The very essence of the trumpet’s form and sound emerges from what it’s made of, and it’s shape. If it were wood and straight it could be a clarinet, but it’s a trumpet.
It’s likewise for how each musician plays. The entire point is that we’re all individuals who are sharing our music. Some of us are better at conveying power or force, others are better at creating a peaceful space. But like a woodwind asking a trumpet not to be brass; asking a player to play in the manner that we do, may be well-intentioned advice, but it simply mistakes the nature of any orchestra.
In society, we routinely see people asking others to stop being who they are, or they are told to play differently than they do. And many measure each other using perfection as a yardstick. And yet given the nature of the orchestra this makes no sense at all. For instance, it makes no sense for an extremely skilled and experienced player to be upset by the limitations of a beginner that they themselves once were.
As pointed out, the nature of this orchestra is a recycling system. So in the end, the existence of each identity depends on the other. Without the younger player to begin as, the older player cannot collect experience as they travel through time. But without the older player, the younger one has no future. To fight against each other’s perspectives is to miss the point and ruin the music.
To create the most beautiful music, the orchestra must have many kinds of instruments played many kinds of ways. But to continue playing, it must always recycle its members. Complaining about shortcomings in another musician’s skill set makes no sense in this context. Nor does suggesting a drum become a harp.
Yes, society can be noisy and not very harmonious at times. But it always has, within its potential, the capacity to create truly fantastic beauty. But to do this, no matter which instrument we play, and no matter how passionate we are about it, we must learn to respect the fact that others will express their own passion in their own, very different ways.
To live in peace is to be accepting about these intentionally varied qualities of the orchestra. We should simply surrender to that idea. If we’re in that studio, it’s because the producer intended us to be there. We were brought there to play as we play, not to comment on the play of others.
In the end, to live in emotional turmoil is to behave in ways that contradict the nature of an orchestra. Life is not about aggressive trumpets becoming gentle harps, or vice versa. Life is about finding beautiful ways to play –even tragic music– within the confines of what defines an orchestra, and by accepting ourselves as the musicians we are, using the instrument we play.
Passion should be positive, not negative. Everyone relax and let everyone else be. Without judgement and tension, it’s easier for all of us to harmonize.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.