I play flute; my sister Joanna plays violin. We find that duets written for different instruments rarely share the melody. We’ve become adept at swapping parts. Bowing marks become creative suggestions for my breathing and Joanna lowers those soaring flute melodies by an octave.
Not all duets are created equal. In our relationships large and small, we tend to mark some humans as “other,” and bully their voice into silence rather than listening and learning to share the melody. We tell narratives that calcify expected parts and reinforce the presumed leaders. In this issue, Jonathan Boone and his community tentatively celebrate as the Pope takes responsibility for a relationship gone horribly wrong. The only way forward, says Boone, is to truly share a melody line; truly embrace the voice of the other.
Martin Luther King Jr. said the moral universe “bends towards justice.” Here is one story that hums with justice: in 1847 the Choctaw nation collected money for Ireland during the Potato Famine, one colonized people recognizing another. In 2020, Navajo and Hopi lands were the areas worst hit with covid in America. And Irish people, remembering the gift from the Choctaw, sent generous goodwill donations to the Navajo and Hopi people. They considered it a favour returned.
Listening for justice, for right relationships and an honest reckoning of ourselves and the “other,” is a work that takes time. I could swear that I play more in tune with my sister’s violin than anyone else, from the sheer hours we’ve put into hearing each other. When Bruce Gillespie drew Moses receiving the Ten Commandments (p. 18), he wrote musical notes onto the stone tablets. He offers us the chance to reconsider what we expect from God, and what God might expect from us. But listening extends to the created world as well.
In a radio interview with On Being, Suzanne Simard, a groundbreaking scientist here in B.C., explained that scientists (and the logging industry) have operated from the assumption that trees compete for light. But the forest is not built simply for survival, she insists. It’s built for flourishing. The systems are meant for recovery; underground, the forest thrives by collaboration – trees and fungi and wild plants all engaged in a conversation more sophisticated than we ever imagined, nourishing each other, warning each other and helping each other survive fires, floods and disease.
With the trees, we share a Creator who intends just as much for our flourishing. We, too, are made for recovery, we are bent towards justice. Despite our broken relationships with each other, God and the earth, we are still connected. Our realities and futures are entwined. Each of us has a place in the music.
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