What will a book about social harmony and bridge-building need to include to be considered a worthy contribution in challenging and divisive times? How will it supplement the efforts of interfaith and interideological initiatives across the country? How can I make sure I am not wasting people’s time?
Those were some of the questions I returned to again and again as I wrote Co-Human Harmony: Using Our Shared Humanity to Bridge Divides, which was published on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 21, 2019, and here are some of the answers I came up with.
Out With Clichés and In With Strategies
Platitudes and clichés were the first to go. If it were enough to tell people to be friends and be nice to each other, then there would be no need for my book in the first place. No, the challenges of our times demanded something much more; a connective language, achievable goals, guides to interactions that have worked in the past, dialogue facilitation guidelines, and, most importantly, steps that each individual could take to increase his or her capacity for compassion.
All of these are included in the book.
Furthermore, I gathered conflict resolution ideas from Betty Williams and Padraig O’Malley—who were both involved in the Northern Ireland peace process—a variety of communication ideas from interfaith organizations all across America, dialogue guidelines from professor Leonard Swidler and four other contemporary sources, examples of service and compassion from Mother Teresa, Mandela, and Gandhi, and, with the help of giants in the field, insights about the psychology of division, extremism and revulsion.
Easy To Read
I was aware of the fact that most people have enough of everything except time, so I constructed a logical narrative that would easily move readers from one idea to the next, made an effort to encapsulate the information whenever possible, and included plenty of headings, subheadings and bullet points for easy navigation.
My goal was to write a book that could be read in a few hours, but, in line with our value to simplify without diluting, I also wanted people to be able to refer to it again and again over a lifetime.
An Emphasis on Creativity and Personal Initiatives
As an avid reader myself, I knew from experience that reading what someone else has written is only one part of the experience, that the reader’s thoughts and insights are equally valuable. That is why I decided to encourage active note taking and included a personal initiatives section at the end of each chapter, all based on the notion that reading changes minds but only action change lives.
Resources and Supplemental Tools
It took me eighteen months (plus a lifetime of experience) to gather, test, and refine the material in the book. From the feedback I have gotten, I know that it serves as a resource for those who want to do something constructive to counter persistent social acrimony, and that the ideas have already shown themselves to supplement interfaith and interideological initiatives, both large and small.
Inviting More Perspectives
Although I augmented my own ideas with concepts and strategies from trustworthy sources, I knew that the prism of my worldview and experiences would limit my writings.
That is why I sought input from nineteen other bridge-builders, healers and harmonizers (click here for a full list of contributors). With their help, I created a content-rich and mind-expanding addendum that is completely in line with the spirit of interfaith and interideological dialogue. I know that readers will benefit from taking a look at ideas about bridge-building and social harmony from several perspectives.
It Has Already Changed My Life
Most importantly, writing the book has already changed my life. In fact, if I am being completely honest, the book was written for me as much as for anyone else.
Before I started down this road, I repeatedly fell prey to destructive emotions in reaction to the prolonged religious, cultural and political divisiveness that we are experiencing as a country, but, after this long writing process, I have access to an array of solutions and practices that have already proven their worth. It will probably take me the rest of my life to master them, if I ever get that far, but, thankfully, I am content with progress over perfection.
Thanks for taking a closer look at the thinking process behind our new project here at Harmony. I hope that reading the book will do for you what writing it did for me.
Rev. Gudjon Bergmann
Founder and Lead Educator at Harmony Interfaith Initiative
Author of Co-Human Harmony: Using Our Shared Humanity to Bridge Divides
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Our Vision and Primary Goals
We are an educational and social good interfaith organization. We provide people with access to strategies, methods, and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge-building across divides. We use the term interfaith broadly to mean 'a strong belief in someone or something' and focus on improving interrelations between people who have different worldviews. Our primary goals are to remind people of our shared humanity and to support new and ongoing efforts.
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©Harmony Interfaith Initiative
Registered in Hays County, Texas
Founded in 2018
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