Friday, August 12, 2022

Diversity in Community


Several years ago, I was doing some research on an article I was writing for an education blog. I came across a musician named Eric Whitacre. He is a classical composer and a conductor who had an epiphany of “something greater” when he first heard a choir, singing in parts, come together as one. In response to that experience, he created a virtual choir. He asked all his social media followers to record themselves singing in parts to a score he wrote. He then asked them to upload their videos to his website. He combined their videos and created a virtual choir, the video of which is at https://youtu.be/2NENlXsW4pM.
When I first came across his work, I was profoundly touched. The sound he created was almost other worldly. Each member of this choir was a diverse, isolated individual. Some of them had ear buds in their ears, further separating themselves from their world. They were a mere dot someplace in the world. Eric Whitacre took their voices and blended each of them into an amazing sound of unity. Many of the singers noted that they experienced a sense of “community” even though they were never in the same room or had met in the “face-to-face” world.
I could not help think of this experience as I continue my series on different aspects of listening. Much of the ink that is spilled on paper or in cyberspace often deals with different aspects of diversity. Kay Lindahl, author of The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice, writes, “I began to hear each voice as a part of the whole. That is diversity. … If one voice is missing, we don’t have the complete picture. The practice is to hear the voices for what they are – distinctive, individual. … So now I listen for nuances. When we hear each person’s unique voice, we can better see their place as diverse individuals contributing to the whole.”1
St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 writes, “There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body.” Yes, diversity is truly important! But we can’t forget what being a member of a community is all about. St. Paul continues, “The eye can’t say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without.”
The beauty of diversity is that each of us, as individuals, are also members of a community that we call Church. We should celebrate with abandon our uniqueness, but not as a detriment to the whole. Our uniqueness is a gift which we leverage in our service to others. When we focus on our individuality as supreme, our world becomes myopic so we miss out on the interconnectedness of what being human is all about.
Eric Whitacre’s choir members as well as the Corinthians experienced that first hand.  Do we?
1 Lindahl, Kay. The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice. SkyLight Paths Pub., 2002. Pg. 66
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness

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