When I use the word harmony to describe what we are trying to achieve here at Harmony Interfaith Initiative, people often imagine an idyllic version of that, for instance, the beautiful resonance produced by the Vienna Boys’ Choir singing a classical work of art.
Knowing about that tendency, I go on to explain that even though the choir image might represent our aspirational goal for a harmonious society, punk rock bands and experimental jazz quintets also create their own unique versions of harmony, which is why we should not dismiss any effort in the social context.
In the Ear of the Listener
Everyone knows the saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” A similar statement could be made about music, as in, “harmony is in the ear of the listener.” What may sound beautifully to one person will probably sound like utter rubbish to another, which is why there are so many types of music. Music appreciation is subjective.
The premise for engaging in shared human experiences (which is something we encourage here at Harmony Interfaith Initiative) is fairly simple. If people can be around each other doing co-human things—i.e., things that everyone does, such as eating food, helping others, creating, talking about their family, sharing their life story, etc.—and not feel threatened, anxieties are reduced, empathy is increased, trust is built, and perceptions are changed.
More in Common
Here’s the thing. Birds of a feather flock together. People self-segregate. This is both natural and normal so long as it is not coerced. Individuals choose to be around others who are like them.
And yet, most folks make a noteworthy discovery when they set aside visual and ideological distinctions and mingle with people who they previously thought of as completely different, essentially, that they have more in common than they realized.
Inner voices of doubt and fear can be powerful detractors. “Who do I think I am?” “What can I possibly give to the world?” “I am so flawed that I can hardly be the change.”
To overcome limiting beliefs, we, the aspiring peacemakers and bridge-builders of the world, must find ways to empower ourselves.
Self-Confidence Can Increase or Decrease
Thankfully, self-confidence is not static. You can have a lot of self-confidence in one area of my life and little in another. In addition, the feeling can fluctuate from one year to the next, and, since self-confidence can decrease, it can also increase.
In the context of social harmony, the goal is not to be better than anyone else, rather to be confident enough to take action. As such, self-confidence can be defined as:
This dual definition subtracts chest thumping and narcissism from self-confidence and replaces it with solution- and action-orientation.
In a media landscape that thrives on division, it’s comforting to find companies that believe in our shared humanity and are willing to bet their branding on it.
On the face of it, brands like Heineken, TV 2 in Denmark, and President’s Choice in Canada have very little in common. One sells beer, another is a Danish television station and the third is a food company. Yet, they have all made commercials that celebrate a belief in humanity.
That is why we are sharing their ads here. Not to take a stance for or against their products, but rather to applaud warm and content rich commercials that tugged at our heartstrings when we first saw them.
Connecting Through Co-Humanity Can Decrease Anxiety, Change Perceptions, Generate Trust, and Elicit Empathy
In our workshops, we use four words to underscore the importance of co-human experiences: trust, empathy, perceptions, and anxiety. Allow me to offer more detailed definitions of what we mean by that, starting with the Merriam-Webster dictionary designations:
Anxiety: Apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness, usually over an impending or anticipated ill.
Perception: A capacity for comprehension, a mental image.
Trust: Reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.
Empathy: The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another.
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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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