"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."
- Mother Theresa
"Mankind must put an end to war - or war will put an end to mankind."
- John F. Kennedy
At times, the way seemingly unrelated events intertwine leaves you astounded.
This was a long week, but hearing the horrific news first from Beirut and then from Paris put everything in perspective -- reminding, once again, about things that are truly worthy of our concern and attention. I had tickets to a concert on the evening of November 13, 2015 and had been looking forward to it.
But on this day, I wasn't just going to a concert. Two of the three composers included in the program were French composers, Ravel and Debussy -- so, by going to the concert, I wanted to pay tribute to France and French culture and to show my solidarity with French people. What I experienced at the concert, however, was an empowering feeling of unity on a much deeper level.
First, I learned that there was another connection to France at the concert -- the pianist, Lise de la Salle, is a native of France and lived there most of her life. Before approaching the piano, Ms. de la Salle addressed the events in France and dedicated her performance to the people in the audience, but also to people in France. The speech was not scripted nor rehearsed -- it was genuine, full of sorrow, but sans artificial drama. As she was playing, I was surely enjoying the music, but I was also experiencing a profound feeling of unity with people in France.
These were the first hours after the horrendous events, the number of victims was being updated several times per hour, and this strong feeling of connectedness on the other side of the ocean, sitting in the concert hall, was very moving.
Then, at some point, I realized that I was being moved and felt connected to people in France by a performance of a French pianist who was playing a piece by a Spanish composer, Manuel de Falla, called Noches en los jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain). Moreover, the composer, being Andalusian, reflects the Arab influence on Spain in this work*. This was an interesting observation, but it was also a very important realization -- as this is not about Arabs against French, or Muslims against Christians. This, in fact, has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion.
It is disheartening that in the 21st century many people still use the words "Muslim" and "terrorist" interchangeably (ignoring the fact that Muslims are among top victims of terrorists). At the same time, it is most inspiring seeing non-Muslims standing next to their Muslim fellow human beings -- standing together for humanity.
Today my thoughts are with everyone affected by terrorist attacks in all corners of the world. My deep appreciation goes to those who risked their lives helping others, to those who lined up to donate blood for victims -- to anyone who helped even a single person in any way they could -- to those who stood strong to show terrorists that we are united and stronger than ever!
Lastly, yet this is very important, I would also like to mention the conductor of the concert - Jun Märkl -- who has done amazing work with each piece in the program. What was interesting for me to learn about Mr. Märkl is how dedicated he is to truly learning and understanding about people and different cultures. For the large portion of his career, Märkl was most known for his superb interpretation of the Germanic repertoire. But when he was offered the position of the Music Director at the Orchestre National de Lyon in 2005, he made a conscious decision to move to France, to learn the language and the culture in order to interpret French composers' music in the most truthful way. Märkl, who was born in Germany and is half German and half Japanese, also spent a lot of time in Japan closely and intimately learning about the Japanese part of his heritage.
If only each of us could show similar interest in other cultures, the world wouldn't be in such a crisis. Many say it is politicians and main stream media (some might make this list longer) that created this mess. But then again, we are the ones voting for those politicians (or choosing not to vote) and we are the ones who create the ratings for the media. I hope at the time when the world is clearly in a deep crisis, we can each find strength to look in the mirror and have a heartfelt conversation with ourselves and answer a simple question: Am I doing all that I can to make this world a better place for everyone?
* Manuel de Falla was largely influenced and guided by Ravel and Debussy.