Listen to the narrative of the other

listen to the narrative of the other

At times there is so much ugliness in humanity, often expressed in how we separate from each other, whether individually or in constructs such as tribes, religions, nations, race.

It is always driven by one thing. Fear.

At the present moment we are seeing so much of this in this time of pandemic, very human and understandable fears being leveraged by the unscrupulous to break us further apart rather than bring us together.

This morning, then, I simply bring you a beautiful piece of music, a reminder that we are all unique and at the same time together, that humanity is a beautiful collective to which we all belong, that humans, when they come together, can create moments of profound and heart-stopping beauty from love.

As I prepared to write today’s post, a piece of music was in my head, Variation IX of Elgar’s Enigma variations, also known as “Nimrod”.

As I listened to various versions of this, the one I found most powerfully moving turned out to be by a youth orchestra in a performance with a powerful story, playing in Ramallah, Palestine in August 2005.

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was founded by Israeli conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim and his friend, Palestinian author and scholar, Edward Said.

Humanism is the only – I would go so far as saying the final – resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history. Separation between peoples is not a solution for any of the problems that divide peoples. And certainly ignorance of the other provides no help whatever. Cooperation and coexistence of the kind that music lived as we have lived, performed, shared and loved it together, might be.

Edward Said

The orchestra was founded in 1999, Said died in 2003, then in 2005 Bareboim took them to play in Ramallah, on the West Bank. In that concert they finished by playing Elgar’s Nimrod variation as their encore, but before that Barenboim gave a moving speech, then let the music communicate.

This is not going to bring peace, you know that. The fact that these wonderful people play together here will not bring peace. What it can bring is understanding.

The patience, the courage and the curiosity to listen to the narrative of
the other, this is what this is about. In this context everybody has been able to express himself freely, and perhaps just as important, to hear the version of the other.

This is why we come to you here today, with a message of humanity.

Daniel Barenboim, 21 August 2005

Humans are and humanity is beautiful and capable of great beauty.

Let us listen to the narrative of the other.

Let us hear the version of the other.

Now, picture yourself in that concert hall in Ramallah after that speech, with the music of Elgar and the collective spirit of the orchestra expressing their full selves. Close your eyes and listen, be ready to wipe away the tears that will form.


Also published on Medium.