INVOCATION – a prayer for peace
In May of 2011 I remember seeing a photograph of New York City’s Mayor holding up the Daily News with the headlines “Rot in Hell!” and a picture of the recently killed Osama Bin Laden. The New York Post read “Vengeance at Last”. Those words and images went straight to my gut. Despite the fact that I can fully understand that some part of us wants and needs to react that way, I couldn’t help feeling a deep sadness as well. Is this really who we want to be? As a people, do we really want to be the kind of nation that wishes anyone to rot in Hell? Words like “Crusade” and “Islamists” and “the fight for good and evil” were tossed around in such a casual way that we didn’t have time to reflect on the violence present behind some of those words. We hear so much about the ways in which religion has separated us and been a destructive force in our day and age – whether it be a so-called battle between a “religious Christian Right” and an “Atheistic Liberal Left” or between the “Muslim World” and “Judeo-Christian” cultures. Is it really that simple?
What is our role as musicians when confronted with all the forms of violence – both big and small – that we meet daily in our lives? I do not pretend to have the answers. And sometimes I feel as it is more important to “sit with” the difficult questions than seek for a quick answer at all costs. All I know is that in my limited experience and in my travels I have found that most of us on this planet want the same thing deep down. Most of us desire that the violence end – a violence which shatters lives sometimes – and we long to live. Deep down I have found that we as human beings are all made up of the same stuff – whatever our religion, race, or nationality may be – and we each have a capacity for good or for evil within us. Within every faith and culture we can find a cry for peace. Perhaps music does have a role, a unique role. With music we enter into another space, another time, together. I wrote this piece in the hope that music can transport us beyond the place of thought, into the regions of the thinking heart, into the regions of soul. I began with the words which Einstein signed just days before his death in the beginning of the nuclear age, “We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity and forget the rest.” (The Russell-Einstein Manifesto). Whether we be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Environmentalist, Agnostic or Atheist … perhaps an hour together spent in musical contemplation of words which invoke our higher natures might do some small bit of good.