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Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society.
IT IS AMAZING THAT THERE CAN BE ANY SEMBLANCE OF HARMONY IN THIS WORLD. Since there are so many “discordant elements” in the world, both outside and inside of us, it is a wonder that there can be any kind of accord or consonance. But there can be. And we ought to pursue the value of harmony more diligently than we do.
Sometimes, we’re a bit naive in our concept of harmony. Our vision is out of harmony with what real harmony is like. For example, we often act as if achieving harmony between individuals required removing any differences between them. But differences shouldn’t diminish harmony (unless people are separated by some actual evil). In fact, harmony is impossible if everybody is singing the same note.
And when it comes to harmony within ourselves, we can be equally naive. We suppose that perfect inner peace would mean the absence of any difficulty, unpleasantness, or sorrow. But what about God? Assuming that He enjoys perfect peace, does that mean there are never any difficulties to be dealt with? Never anything but pleasure to experience? Never anything that breaks His heart? How silly. God is not different from us in that He never encounters anything alien — He’s different in His attitude toward what He encounters. So Seneca was right: “Let tears flow of their own accord: their flowing is not inconsistent with inward peace and harmony.”
But harmony doesn’t come without any effort or discipline. And it’s a pity that we so rarely pay the price. True, the harmonies available to us in this broken world are, at best, only an inkling of true perfection, but even so, we are the losers when we fail to exert ourselves in the direction of harmony. All the discords and disunities in the world notwithstanding, we can still learn to blend our voices better than we have in the past, both on the inside and the outside.
“Faith and love are apt to be spasmodic in the best minds. Men live on the brink of mysteries and harmonies into which they never enter, and with their hand on the doorlatch they die outside” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).