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Senior Correspondent

Of the four major tenets of Distilled Harmony, Foster Harmony is first because it has to be first. It has to be first because it speaks most directly to Distilled Harmony’s primary obligation to seek and live in resonance with the harmony of the universe. And, as we explored in the previous discussion, the harmony of the universe goes back to the string, the smallest, most elemental entity in the universe; an infinitesimal vibrating string that underlies the symphony that is existence.  It is our joy, our challenge, to craft a life that resonates with that symphony.

But, as we all know, you cannot achieve harmony with one note. I remember back in grade school when we had "music," a piece of the elementary curriculum that seems to be being driven out by the mistaken belief that music brings nothing to our current obsession with math and science. But let's leave that issue for another time. When we had "— which was mostly singing — we would all be relieved when, at the top of the page in our song book, we would see: "To be sung in unison." Unison meant we all sang the same notes. There was safety in unison because you could sort of sneak into each note and slide up or down the scale depending upon what you heard around you. Don't get me wrong, unison can be beautiful, especially when stripped down to the purity of one lovely voice singing a beautiful melody. Think opera. Think an aria. Think of that one voice stretching beyond what should be humanly possible. So, yes, there can be beauty in unison, just not harmony.

And then there is Enya. It is easy to put Enya into a musical pigeon hole: Irish roots with her family in the group Clannad, a beautiful voice, sometimes almost too beautiful, too pure. But what makes Enya unique is not her voice or her family history. Rather, she is unique in the way in which she makes her music. While she works with a producer and lyricist,everything that you hear on an Enya recording, the vocals, the instruments, the percussion, it is all done, created, sung, played by Enya herself. Track layered over track over track. She says that the song Angeles, on her album Shepherd Moons has about 500 layered vocal tracks. Plus all the instrumental tracks. In this guise, Enya is harmony, the far more complex, intertwined vision that is created when note after note after note weave their way into chords that become increasingly rich and varied.  

That is what the tenet Foster Harmony asks us to do with our lives. It asks that we bend every aspect of our lives, each note of each moment of each day into a rich and varied composition that echoes, and adds to, the overarching harmony of existence.  

Each tenet of Distilled Harmony carries a behavioral component — a “thou shalt” or “shalt not” implied by the tenet. The third tenet of Distilled Harmony is Distill Complexity. That tenet exhorts us to create a parsimonious, a precise, a clear path to understanding and creating a life in harmony with the universe. In keeping with that notion, as I discuss each of the tenets, I will try to provide a concise behavioral directive or objective that lies at the core of each one.  

For Foster Harmony the behavioral directive is: be gentle, be nice.

It sounds simple, but is, in reality, often very difficult. As a species, we seem inclined to act in ways that are anything but gentle and nice. The path of human history has been — from the dusty days of prehistory to this morning’s headlines — a bloody one. I'm not sure where we find an explanation; perhaps it lies in our mostly carnivorous past, or in our hyper-competitive present. Still somewhere, particularly for the male of the species, and certainly for the corporation or the nation state, to be gentle or to be nice has become synonymous with being weak.  

The truth, of course, is quite the opposite. Nowadays it takes little strength or courage to push a button that ends lives thousands of miles away. But sitting down with someone who finds you loathsome and finding, with them, a path to mutual harmony — that requires strength and resourcefulness — and practice.

To foster harmony in our interactions with others, we need to understand the nature of our own chord, the center of our own being. And that starts with our DNA. Even if we drifted off to sleep in biology, we have all watched enough NCIS or CSI episodes to know that our DNA resides in every cell in our body, and so it follows that our DNA is repeated billions of times throughout our body. What we often fail to think about, is the fact that our DNA — at its most — rests on billions more tiny vibrating strings. So that we are, literally, made of music — a chord that is ourselves, making us a walking talking symphony. That seems incredibly complex and totally beyond our control. Are we merely the accidental, yet predetermined, result of our DNA?

No, not at all. Our DNA is like the first note of the first bar of the first track that Enya lays down when creating a new composition. As we live our lives, we too lay down countless tracks; tracks that tune and refine who we are. So while our DNA declares us to be utterly unique, an N of one in all the universe, it does not mandate the nature of the final composition. Recent epigenetic research confirms that we reconstruct our DNA with our every thought and action. And while much research is yet to be done in this area, with the exception of severe genetic defects, it seems that our DNA is simply the physical score upon which we inscribe our chord — as I said, Enya's first note. And then, after that first note, that is where free will and personal choice come to the fore.

Foster Harmony asks us to make particular types of choices — harmonic ones.

You have no doubt met what I call the Eeyore people — named after the donkey in A. A. Milne's timeless Winnie the Pooh. Consider this iconic interaction:

“Good morning, Eeyore," said Pooh.
"Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning, which I doubt," said he.
"Why, what's the matter?"
"Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can't all, and some of us don't. That's all there is to it."
"Can't all what?" said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
"Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.” 

Eeyore people don't merely see the glass of existence as half empty. Rather, they refuse to acknowledge that there even is a glass. For the Eeyores of the world, life is an atonal soup, "without form, and void" to steal a line from Genesis. Foster Harmony says, "Do not be that donkey, do not be that person." Be instead the person who advocates for, and reflects in your own behavior, the harmony of existence. It would be, of course, callow and naive to attempt to see all of life's challenges as containing, somewhere, a hidden overflowing mug of gaiety. But it is equally erroneous to see monsters under every bed, a plot behind each new workplace initiative, a nefarious agenda driving all personal interactions. 

Do not be that person. Be gentle. Be nice. Foster Harmony.

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