Conversation with Dr. Kevin Shorner-Johnson
Today I’d love to share an Arts and Society conversation with a former colleague of mine. Dr. Shorner-Johnson joined the faculty at Pennsylvania’s Elizabethtown College in 2010. He is currently the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities. He also leads a ground-breaking new Master’s program in music education and peacebuilding (www.etown.edu/musicmasters) and a professional development network at www.musicpeacebuilding.com. Prior to his time at Elizabethtown College, Dr. Shorner-Johnson taught high school, middle school, and elementary band in Greenfield, Iowa and Athens, Georgia.
Linda: Welcome, Kevin! I enjoyed browsing through your website. It’s inspiring to see all the things you’ve been doing as well as the amazing people you’ve interviewed.
Arts and Society Listening
Kevin: Yeah, it’s been a gift. I think I was starting out with this whole peacemaking, peacebuilding thing from our college’s heritage. Of course, nobody has actually written a textbook on this area. So I was like, I need to go out and start doing interviews to start capturing this information. So we’ve got it. It’s been a gift, it really has, you know next week, we’ll have an interview coming out with somebody who’s written this beautiful book on compassionate teaching and what does compassionate teaching mean?
Kevin: After that, there’s an interview coming out with a teacher in Greece, who’s doing work with refugee communities. Following that an African American songwriter who’s traveled the globe writing songs. She’s working on the great migration of African-American peoples in the United States from the south to the north and such, so it’s fun, fun work. This means now, a lot more listening, which I think is what I most enjoy about podcasting.
Linda: Well, with music, you are listening. That’s a huge part of it.
Kevin: Yeah, I think that’s part of all the arts at some point, you know?
Linda: Oh, yes!
Kevin: It just depends on whether you’re listening with your eyes or your body or your ears. It’s so different from art to art.
United States Society
Linda: Are you able to get anything from the Des Moines Register online? Do you remember the editorial columnist, Rekha Basu?
Kevin: The name sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t place that.
Linda: She had an article in the Register; I will see if I can get a copy to you in some manner. Ms. Basu interviewed a black woman, Nikki Hannah-Jones, who was from Waterloo, Iowa. The Pulitzer Prize for commentary was won by Ms. Hannah-Jones! Her writing began with the year 1619 in efforts to record the influence of African-Americans and other groups back into history. She also created a widely used, free curriculum for teachers to share in classrooms across our country. What made me sad, was that an Iowa House Representative sponsored a bill to financially penalize any schools using the curriculum. https://nikolehannahjones.com
Kevin: Yeah, we’re in an age of defensiveness right now, I think.
Linda: There are people who are trying to make things right and I’m glad you are part of that.
Kevin: Yeah. The, hurt runs deep, I think for sure. I think people are wrestling. You know, I think there’s one way to go about the work, which is to be incredibly defensive about our really awful history of slavery. And then there’s another way to go about it, which is just to accept that it’s a beautiful challenge to make things right. I think that that’s where I’m at.
Kevin: Yeah, I think my own wrestling is that my family owned slaves in Northern Virginia. In fact, the slave quarters are still standing there in Manassas, Virginia, of our family. So, then my question was, you know, if I’ve benefited from the sale of our family’s farm property, I’m basically benefiting from black labor in many ways. So, I’ve been wrestling with what is my ethical responsibility to use that gift that’s been passed on to me in ways that are ethical and can change. I’m doing my own wrestling in that area as well.
Linda: Well, I’m sure it could have been any of us. I don’t know, I honestly don’t know.
Linda: In your podcasts, didn’t you interview someone from Africa? I can’t recall which country. It was basically about the proper response when one asks, “How are you?”
Kevin: I am well if you are also.
Linda: Yes. That sense of generosity is amazing in that culture!
Kevin: Yeah, Zimbabwean culture? It’s incredible. The sense of mutuality is so critical. So, tell me about your blog that you’re working on, what’s the kind of work that you’re doing?
This Blog with Arts and Society
Linda: Well, it kind of started out with ….did you know we lost our son?
Kevin: No, I don’t think I did. Sorry.
Linda: Thank-you. He drove himself to the hospital in the middle of the night right before my first day of school in 2009. It took til the middle of October before they brought up pancreatic cancer, because it’s really hard to identify. Through all that time, I was journaling. Also around that period, I had an open magazine that mentioned energy healing. So, I started learning energy healing. Talk about knowing that we are one! This work helped him a lot. He went through most of the traditional treatments that they offered, but he ended up passing in 2016.
Linda: We get so many signs from him. I have a friend to whom he comes through. Our son will smirk and show his sense of humor with her. His personality is just the same as when he was in the earthly realm. Around two and a half years ago, while my friend and I were chatting, he showed himself to her. I asked if he said anything about me writing any books? She told me, “Oh, my gosh, yes!” He showed her an image of my book that was already published before I even wrote it! Another thing he told her was, I would have a website.
Linda: Anyway, it’s basically a part of an author’s expectations to have a website. So it stemmed from that. I started my blog last April. My topics tend to be about arts and society, of course, as well as helping people with grief through the arts, and just the journey we’ve been through with our son. I eventually hope to have my book published. I’m currently looking for an agent and refining the book proposal for my manuscript, but that’s how my website started. One might say that losing a child was the seed of planting my blog. It has been a difficult challenge, however I’ve found through the process of cracking it open, joy has grown.
Kevin: Yeah. I can say bless you for your awareness of knowing that you needed to listen to those kind of spiritual signs. I think that that’s incredibly powerful.
Peace Building and Trees
Linda: Thank-you. When you talk about oneness in your interviews, as well as tree hugging, it made me think. Trees have energy, they’re alive. They energetically speak to me, but probably a lot of people may think I’m crazy if they heard that, but I understand what you wrote.
Kevin: I totally understand that. Yeah, you know, it was in the artistic peacebuilding class with our students and my colleague, Jon Rudy, who’s a professional peace builder. He had the students go out and they had to hug a tree for 30 minutes. The students were like, what am I gonna do for 30 minutes? They thought that we were on something, that we were just crazy, we were high or something!
Kevin: However, they went out and then they came back. Their response was that was so meaningful! In fact, some of them wrote, it was the most impactful moment of the entire semester! Because they had to accept that they might be able to be in relationship with a tree. It’s just so powerful, I think, when you start to have that awareness. I’m very open to the technology of energy. The idea that there’s a sense of energy moving through the world. I can talk more about what’s led me to that here in a second, but I want to hear it. Yeah, it’s just it. It is. I think it’s just really powerful for students.
Linda: So what led you to that?
Kevin: That theology of energy?
Linda: Yes, yes.
Kevin: Yes, so here’s a couple starting points that I can do on that, you know, one is an easy starting point. My colleague, Jon Rudy, teaches peace education classes, for the Mindanao Peace Building Institute in the Philippines. He’s worked all over the world, including Afghanistan and is such an incredible person to be with. I got the chance to teach that class with him. https://www.mpiasia.net/ Jon was the one who introduced me to my first book on peacebuilding, which really took me down this whole journey. It’s a book by John Paul Lederach who worked at Eastern Mennonite University. He later worked at Notre Dame, but he’s just one of the founders who have this idea of peacebuilding. https://kroc.nd.edu/faculty-and-staff/john-paul-lederach/
Positive and Negative Energy
Kevin: He also speaks a great deal about a sense of energy within peacebuilding. But with Jon, what’s a good example? You know, he’ll talk about positive and negative energy within situations as well as forces and being aware of that kind of energy. I think a lot of times, he uses that sense of energy to have people be aware of their bodies, to be aware of how they’re responding to the notion that maybe love is a form of energy. And, that maybe that’s a much deeper form.
Kevin: It’s one of his greatest comments, if, and when we were reflecting on the current politics of the United States, you know, we were reflecting on the amount of hate that is out there. His comment to me was, you know, hate is such a dead form of energy, it just doesn’t last very long. It can’t sustain itself, because it’s just, dead. It’s incredibly harmful. But it’s not a deeper form of energy. But yet, beneath that, there’s a reason why love is so powerful. It just keeps moving through time, was one of his comments, and I find that incredibly meaningful.
Kevin: Another one of his activities he did with students was that he had a sound clip he recorded while he was in Afghanistan. It was an audio recording, recorded in the middle of a gun battle that, I guess, some US troops were having with some Afghan soldiers at the time. He plays that clip on the loudspeakers, and you just hear bombs going off and shots whizzing by your ear and stuff like that. You watch the students as they listen to the recording and their body posture is contorting down into that safety mechanism. Right? He uses that as a way of saying there’s a lot of energy in this recording. It’s the kind of energy that makes us retract. Then, he says so what would be the kind of energy that might open up our bodies, that might open this up to each other?
Love Versus Fear
Kevin: He has another story where he talks about driving in a car with some Afghan colleagues to a Buddhist site there in Afghanistan. I mean, he’s a very brave individual. You know, he’s just like, somebody might kill me today, but I’m gonna choose to go in a spirit of love, without fear. He contrasted that to some US soldiers. This is not to say anything negative of US soldiers, but just the context in which those people were put. They were in this heavily armed vehicle with guns surrounding. They’re scanning the environment the entire time looking for any assailant to come. He contrasted these two types of energy. He uses that to talk about what does fear do to us? So that’s one story.
Linda: Oh, yeah, I went through that intense fear when our son was first diagnosed. I lost a lot of weight and hair. I couldn’t eat or sleep. It led to experiences as you describe. A lot of my reading has shown me that fear and love are opposites. When we’re feeling fear, our DNA contracts and when feeling love, it expands. When one does energy healing, that’s sending love to someone. So, it’s just exactly as you portrayed it.
Arts and Society in Prison
Kevin: I think my more transformative story for me goes back to Aswad Pops. So with Aswad, when I was getting into the peacebuilding, I heard a sermon. It’s the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount in the Christian tradition.
Kevin: There’s a challenge in there when you were in prison, he visited me. It’s like, I don’t think I’ve ever visited somebody who’s in prison. What would that look like if I took that on? So I looked for lists of inmates who were looking for pen pal relationships. I reached out to Aswad who was on death row in California’s San Quentin Prison. We had a three or four year pen pal relationship back and forth. I’m saying in past tense, because unfortunately, last year, he took his life to suicide.
Kevin: But he had this deep theology of energy, like he believed that love was a deep presence in the world, and that with this energy of love, he could transcend the walls of his cell in San Quentin Prison.
His number one wish was that if he was to pass away that his ashes would feed a fruit tree.
Kevin: That would be a way of continuing energy. He had so many profound insights, as I look back at those letters about notions of energy. I wanted to write to him I think you’re almost Buddhist or Hindu here, because of the way in which I see such a beautiful construct of energy. And so I think of him a lot. We have a fruit tree in our backyard. That in many ways reminds us we planted it a little ways after Aswad passed. But I think he’s another person who I would call my teacher in that area. I found great meaning in his sense of energy.
Linda: It was a gift to allow Aswad’s creative expression through those letters. It may have presented a measure of peace to him as a one-on-one example of how arts and society are intimately connected. These actions permitted him to plant seeds to grow and bloom in someone else’s mind.
Past in the Present
Kevin: Yeah, it’s really powerful. It’s so sustaining to know that the senses of energy can move through the world. I always want to hold on to the sense of awe and wonder in my theology. I look up at the stars sometimes at night, and I have to remember how insignificant I am in the world and just how vast is the universe in this place. Along with that, I think a theology of energy also gives me a great deal of all to think there are deeper senses of force or movement in the world.
Kevin: If we go back to Zimbabwean and African religious traditions, one of the things I find so powerful, and especially West African traditions is this idea of the past present. In African traditions, you often believe that the past is here in the present, so my grandmother who passed is still alive and still alive within me, or is still alive, maybe in some of the energy that I come into. Some of the African religious traditions are about remembering the names of the people who’ve passed, so that we keep their energy and their spirit alive in this world. I find that also to be incredibly meaningful.
Linda: You do have some of their biology within the cells. So the energy can’t help but be with you.
Kevin: So much of what we’re learning in science, especially, let’s just open up trauma. What we know about trauma now is that if my grandmother experienced a trauma, that that trauma actually encodes itself in DNA and is passed down. You know, I might still be experiencing that. Resmaa Menakem wrote a new book, My Grandmother’s Hands. He’s an African-American therapist, who lives in Minneapolis. He is dealing with the notion of racialized trauma and the fact that his grandmother’s hands picked cotton on plantation fields. He is still wrestling with the traumas of enslavement, even two generations passed because it gets encoded in DNA. Yeah, I’m in awe. https://www.resmaa.com
The Arts and Society
Linda: Powerful! Knowing that kind of thing, how can the arts help us to move from those spaces?
Kevin: So I’m happy to go on this energy theme, because I think I could do that the whole day!
Linda: Absolutely, I think that is a superb concept to connect arts and society!
Kevin: How can the arts help us with that? If I talk about music, in particular for an area to start with, that’s really my expertise in areas. Musics create a soundscape. They could bring tones and sounds into the world and sounds are fundamentally vibrations in the world. One of my really good colleagues at E-town College is an expert in Dharma tradition, so Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, to some extent. When he comes to guest lecture my class, he introduces the fundamental notion of Hinduism, which is that all the world was created by a single clap that puts the world into a vibration. That, from a Hindu perspective, everything that we experience in the world is a resonance of that original vibration.
Linda: Ah, reflect on this resonance, the very root of everything, of music, of the arts and society!
Resonance Across Time – Arts and Society
Kevin: Also within the Hindu perspective, like karma, this idea that maybe if I do a good act today, it might have resonance across time that thirty years from now, that kindness might be given to someone else who will pass it on. That’s also this notion of the resonance of energy across time.
Kevin: I think that that Hindu perspective has a lot to add to offer to notions of music, the arts, peacemaking and peacebuilding because from a Hindu perspective, there’s two. There’s two types of music within South Indian music. One is devotional music and one is meditational music. The meditational music tries to get back to the central vibration, which is this essence of home. Central vibration is that life force in the world. I find a great deal of power in that because it recognizes the fact that vibration is a transformative reality in this world, and music can contribute to the setting of a particular tone of vibration.
Universal Good – Arts and Society
Kevin: Then from that, I would also argue that we need to be really careful in the arts because I’ve argued a lot that we often just kind of throw a generalization out there that the arts are just universally good, and that everything that we do in the arts builds peace. However, in my work in peacebuilding, I can point to lots of instances where music was used for harm. You know, in Nazi Germany, they used Wagner operas as a way of codifying nationalism and believing the superiority of one race over another.
Kevin: In Iraq, we the United States, would oftentimes blast heavy metal music at detainees as a form of torture. In Azerbaijan, where I went, I did some studies on the use of Azerbaijani Mugham, which is this beautiful form of music, like one of my favorites in the world. It was, however, transformed as a tool of nationalism and patriotism to say, you know, we are sacred. This is beautiful, which sounds amazing, but then it was used as a springboard for the Azerbaijani Armenian War that just came to a close a few weeks ago. So true, then we need to be really aware of how we build soundscapes, and that our soundscapes are built from a sense of resonance and sense of love. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3DEyWWUwJI
Kevin: This is also a great clip of Mugham: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp8_KADCpMc&t=1216s
Linda: I totally agree that we as artists must make a conscious effort to have the highest good of all in mind as we contemplate arts and society. Choice of music as well as our intent is so important.
Arts and Society: Soundscapes of Love, Joy, and Passion
Kevin: So then, my work has been, who are the people out there who are building these soundscapes of love and joy and passion? I can name off just a few really quick, so I’m looking at my list of interviewees, Sonya de los Santos. What a gift she is! She lives in New York City. She has this one song called “Allegria” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3IYKnwN0kA, which is the song of love and joy.
Kevin: She is introducing children’s music into the world in Spanish, with the notion of making sure that Spanish speaking children in the United States and maybe even Mexico feel like they have a voice to turn to for children’s music. She has that interpretation of “This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdzI5sXxGXY , which she sings completely in Spanish. My kids love that song. It’s a sense of belonging and embracing. If you watch her videos, she is the essence of joy. That’s the kind of energy I get off of her music, that sense of joy. She’s one who I’d hold up. I did a podcast on yoga and that definitely has that Hindu American essence of vibration and self-care and returning yourself to some kind of vibrational center. https://www.soniadelossantosmusic.com
Linda: Sonya de los Santos’ music is certainly delightful! I can just see an energetic group of youngsters, beaming ear to ear while singing with her, proving once again the ties between the arts and society!
Three R’s: Racism, Reparations, and Reconciliation
Kevin: I’m starting to do some podcasts on racism and reparations and reconciliation from our racist history in the United States. I feel like the people whom I’ve highlighted, I admire so much because they’re holding us to account for the things that we need to change. But, I also notice that they’re doing their work from a deep place of love, and a deep place of wanting to create more loving and broader communities.
Kevin: Andrew Hart was a gentleman I interviewed who’s a theology professor over here at Messiah College. He’s looking at racism within the white Christian Church. But, he’s critiquing while staying in community. So, I think that his choice to remain in community while he critiques at the same time is done from a place of great love for the profession. https://drewgihart.com
Kevin: I’ve interviewed Brandi Waller-Pace from Decolonizing Music Room, a lot of the same thing is that she and many others are radically changing the field of music education right now to call into question, like, we have so many songs in our repertoire that came from black minstrel shows. So we’re trying to identify what those songs are, and either better contextualize those songs to actually deliver the history on the songs or remove them from the repertoire because of the racist history that they have. They’re doing it from a place of love for wanting to make the profession better, and for wanting a richer music education that speaks to all children and not just the privileged few children in music curriculum. https://decolonizingthemusicroom.com/who-we-are
Linda: Brandi Waller-Pace is an exemplary music teacher in promoting the needed connections between the arts and society.
Linda: When you brought up Nazi Germany, I have always wanted to ask someone who’s very educated in music, has the frequency of the note of “A” changed from 432 to 440 hertz? Perhaps one or the other is not as vibrationally healthy? How can this sense of being in tune impact arts and society?
Kevin: Yeah, I think this gives me a good segue. Over the last ten years, I have taught a course in world musics here at Etown College, which I have loved because it’s allowed me to explore so many musical traditions around the world. I think I’m opening that to say that there are many beautiful ways of thinking about vibration across the world. I feel like I’m opening up to new understandings of vibration across the world. You know, I think I used to believe that everything should be perfectly in tune for it to be a transformative vibration. But, if you look at the music in Indonesia and Bali, they make a gamelan ensemble. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHgdrzgtBik
Kevin: This is an ensemble of metal instruments like gongs and wooden instruments like xylophones that are put together in a group. They have a collectivist mindset, this idea that we should constantly live in community and everything should live in community. They actually make their instruments so that their instruments live in community with each other.
Kevin: To do that, they tune their instruments to be “slightly” out of tune with each other. We would say they’re out of tune, they would say that they’re in tune. Because one instrument maybe is at 440 hertz and one instrument is at 432 hertz, it creates these waves and sounds: wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, like that. When you hear it, they refer to it as a shimmering sound, and it does, it creates the shimmering sound. They refer to it as a beautiful part of the spirituality of their sound and their tone. That’s really opened me up to different understandings of maybe what sound is. They have this.
Linda: I find it fascinating to hear that there are such differing ideas as to the definition of beauty! This gives me new respect for various styles of music. Arts and society can enhance one another.
Arts and Society in Community
Kevin: So in Bali, they’re working from a Hindu perspective of music making. They talk about appropriate time, place and circumstance Desa-Kala-Patra and this notion that vibration should be introduced into a particular sacred place at a particular sacred time for a particular sacred purpose. And that that can transform space and lives and relationships.
Kevin: In fact, for podcasts now, I have an interview with a scholar on Balinese music making. So that’s coming out in the future. But I find that fascinating and even if I had a gamelan ensemble here in town, and I was going to do a concert in Philadelphia, and because I can’t transport all the instruments at the same time, I would have to ask permission of the instruments to separate them for a period of two hours, because to separate them violates their sacred sense of togetherness and community and I have to ask permission to break that.
Kevin: One of their major Life philosophies is suka duka, which means happy together, sad together, that we should experience these things together. So sorry, it’s a long-winded answer. But also, I say that because I think that we, European Westerners, maybe need to open ourselves up to new forms of sound and vibration. And I’m just starting to understand that through Hindu traditions, through Haitian traditions, African traditions, it’s there, there’s so many ways in there. So I think I say that with a great deal of awe in wonder for what’s out there. Oh, yeah.
Linda: Goodness, your studies of world music certainly illustrate the bond between arts and society!
Arts and Society Interconnected
Linda: That reminds me of a book, Tyee’s Totem Pole, I used to read to my elementary students before we learned about totem poles. I was always impressed with the Native American traditions surrounding the salmon run. When the salmon would come, the people would again have plenty to eat, then hold a big feast shared with nearby tribes. But, what put me in awe was the acknowledging of the being of the salmon. They would say, thank-you, my salmon brothers! They were very respectful of nature and their sense of community was important. It seems that’s what you’re saying with asking the permission of the instruments.
Kevin: Yeah, there’s so much to learn from indigenous notions of relationality. This idea that everything is interconnected in some ways. And I think that essence of vibration speaks really well to that notion of interconnectedness. I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface. I hope we can reclaim enough of this wisdom before it’s gone from indigenous traditions because we sure tried to do a good job of eradicating it as we colonized indigenous peoples around the world. There’s so much wisdom that needs to be listened to today as we encounter these huge problems like climate change and such.
Working with Insiders
Linda: Yeah, it’s very ancient knowledge. I think to reclaim that wisdom is exactly what could help our world. Switching gears, just a little bit, I’d like to focus on Mary Cohen, the choir director for the Glen Dale Prison. We saw a special on IPTV. It showed her working with these people and it was so impressive. How did she refer to them – insiders? Insider. These formerly hopeless people just had a sense of purpose and a musician provided it! Talk about the relationship between arts and society! https://music.uiowa.edu/people/mary-cohen
Kevin: Yeah, she’s one of my heroes! If you ever get a chance to read the book that was written about her work, it’s called Redemption Songs by Andy Douglas. https://www.andydouglas.net/redemption-songs/ It is such a moving, emotional book of the work and it’s so beautifully written. Andy Douglas is a creative nonfiction writer, so he writes with an artistic flair. It’s a gorgeous book, Redemption Songs. It’s just great.
Kevin: Yeah, I am in awe of the communities of artists who are out there. Working in contexts of incarceration, right now. There’s so much beautiful work being done in visual art. It gives it in systems in which we are taught to treat people who are incarcerated as if they’re less than human. The art seemed to stand against that and say, “These people have an ability to express themselves in a deep way.” I’m so in awe of the visual artists who are out there, the people like Mary Cohen, the person who I just interviewed, Martha Gonzalez, is also doing work in prisons, as well as some music from Mexico. It’s deep restorative work right now. https://ourstoriesourimpact.irle.ucla.edu/martha-gonzalez/
Linda: You’ve provided great evidence that arts are the great humanizing element. Arts and society belong together!
Peacemaking Versus Peacebuilding
Linda: This is extremely necessary, especially in today’s world! These people working with peacebuilding, the arts and society are crucial. So do we start with one person at a time, or how big of a group do you think the arts can start impacting?
Kevin: Yeah, so this gives me a chance to talk about the reason why I’m using the word peacebuilding instead of peacemaking. Peacemaking was/is a beautiful term that we’ve used for a long time. However, the problem that I find in peacemaking is that there is the assumption that at some point, peace is made, that you reach this point. You say, ah, we got there, we did it, we made peace. There’s truth in this because peacemakers can be very gifted at creating peace treaties that solve violent conflict at some point.
Kevin: There is definitely a place for people who are skilled, Foreign Service Workers who work on these very complicated peace treaties. But there’s a couple problems there, though. One is that there’s this assumption that peace is made and that you eventually reached this place. You can say, ah, finally, we’re here, we’ve got peace. The other problem with it, too, is that we’re just starting to really understand that a lot of times when peace treaties are reached, the oppression doesn’t stop. Oftentimes, peace treaties can deeply oppress a group of people. People have pointed out peace treaties have often oppressed the Palestinian peoples in the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
Kevin: So, in contrast to that, is this notion of peacebuilding. Peace, that the notion of building says that you’ll never actually reach that point where you finally can say, I’ve made peace. That constantly every day you wake up and you’re just asking yourself, to what extent can I build a little bit more peace in the world today? To what extent can I contribute a little bit more in the world today? So for some people, it sounds a bit hopeless. It was like so you’re saying that we’re never actually going to make peace? And I was like, we’re not, but at the same time, it gives a great deal of hope in this in the face of problems that seem unsolvable. So many of our problems are unsolvable.
A Spirit of Love and Humility
Kevin: But the best we can do is approach the problems with a spirit of love and humility. You know, that can I enter into this space today? That brings an essence of love into the space today, and that’s the essence of peacebuilding. I think it takes away some of our ego about I’m gonna do this and I’m gonna change this and I’m gonna solve this problem. I’ve stopped using that word, we solve problems and changed it to we enter into problems, and we work on them together.
Kevin: So to go back to your first question about how big a group to impact. Well, you know, peacebuilding can happen one-on-one, it can be a really talented music therapist, working with somebody who’s been traumatized and bringing a deep sense of love and humanity to that interaction, it can be as small as that. I think that helps us because that means that if that’s true, then anybody can be a peace builder.
A five year old child can be a peace builder.
Kevin: So, it really opens it up, which I think is a beautiful thing. I think I am this white male academic, and I don’t hold the corner on this field. In fact, I’m going to go out and I’m gonna find people who are doing this, they may not refer to themselves as peace builders, but I want to recognize that this is in their work.
Linda: Thank-you, Kevin, it was wonderful renewing connections with you. I am grateful for your taking time to speak to me with your insightful wisdom of how the energy of the arts can impact all people! I do see as a writer and an artist that even practicing art individually can help create a sense of peace in our world. From my experience, I know when healers and meditators work together in concert, our efforts are not merely added together, but multiplied exponentially. I strongly suspect the same to be true for the arts. When with loving intent, we make melody, create beauty, or build peace together, our efforts gather into the ethers. These collective efforts surely spread with exponential power, touching the hearts of the world. Arts and society certainly have a relationship. The peacebuilding journey on which you’re started has such immense, promising potential. Peace be with you!