::: Sing A New Song

::: Sing A New Song – “World Anthem” symbolizes global interconnectivity

If someone played all the world’s national anthems at the same time, would the world hear? This week’s GoodLetter contributor recalls a life-changing personal experience and considers how it might also change the world.

Dear GoodLetter readers,

During the summer of 1986 in the Colorado mountains, I had the extraordinary privilege of working with the late John Denver and his Windstar Foundation. Together, a group of us designed an experiential event we called “State of Our Planet,” based upon many of the principles R. Buckminster Fuller had developed for his powerful “World Game.” Since “Bucky” was on the Windstar board, we had the benefit of his insights and wisdom. Like many of us, he was troubled by all the resources devoted to “War Game” scenarios at the Pentagon and elsewhere. He wondered why we didn’t spend, at the very least, the same amount of money and energy on figuring out how to make the world work better and invest our resources in life-affirming, environmentally sound projects. At that time, the world was spending a trillion dollars every year on military endeavors. In the US, we were spending more on military music than our total annual contribution to the United Nations. Fuller wanted to inspire us all to design artifacts for living (“livingry,” as he put it) to create happy, healthy, balanced lives for the whole human family, something he was convinced was well within our capability.

Imagine a map of the world about the size of half a basketball court. On this map, we placed 100 people, each representing 1% of the total human population of the world, in appropriate locations. After discussing issues of global food production and consumption, energy consumption, and other socio-economic issues, we asked the group to stand around the perimeter of the map and hold hands. The purpose was to demonstrate dramatically for the audience the striking reality of our world, rather than relying upon abstract numbers and statistics for an accurate picture of what we are doing to ourselves.

The presentation’s most poignant moment came when we introduced representatives from the “nuclear club,” the 13 countries that at the time had developed nuclear weapons capability. We gave each “country” a black Styrofoam “bomb” with a sparkler in it, turned off the lights in the auditorium, and began playing each of their national anthems, one on top of the other, until the noise in the room was deafening.

Then, we took 20,000 little plastic tiddlywinks (representing to scale, the nuclear weapons arsenal and the fire blast “footprint” of a one mega ton nuclear bomb blast) and had members of the “nuclear club” spread them out all over the map. Every square inch of land mass on this map was covered by these “make-believe bombs” two or three tiddlywinks deep. The silence in the room was as deafening as the noise had been.

After a few moments of silence, absorbing this sight, invariably women and men alike began to cough or moan and sob openly. Then, a magnificent thing happened. The young children in the audience spontaneously rose up out of their seats and began to sweep the “bombs” back toward the middle of the map and put them back into the container they came from. It was a powerful symbolic expression of taking responsibility to change an insane policy of mutual assured destruction. When all the “bombs” were back in their container, John Denver sang his anthem, “I Want to Live.”

What if someone played all the world’s national anthems simultaneously, not just those of the “nuclear club” members? The sound would create such a cacophony that most of us would run for cover. In these “loud times” of global uncertainty, many among us yearn for something we can appreciate and share together as one large human family. Music goes beyond our mind, it communicates on many levels and serves to open our heart and stir our imagination. Listening to the anthem can inspire a mood of gratitude for this precious Earth we share as one constantly changing, richly textured family.

Now, in the spirit of those “State of Our Planet” days, a new “World Anthem” exists that celebrates all of what shared humanity means. The idea for combining 193 national anthems into one came from Denver music producer John Guillot who co-produced a compilation CD of anthems of the world for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Using a sophisticated artificial intelligence computer system called “Experiments in Musical Intelligence,” developed at the University of California at Santa Cruz), the various musical elements of melody, harmony, tempo, rhythms, and lyrics were analyzed and combined into one “essentialized” musical composition. The result was a beautiful piece of music — not one that was composed by any one person or nation, but one that truly represents the synthesis of all the anthems of the world, both musically and lyrically. The Prague Studio Symphony Orchestra and a 48-voice choir recently recorded the anthem while linked from the Czech Republich to Los Angeles via high-speed Internet. The MindShare Institute, with support from the Tommy E. Short Charitable Foundation, produced the World Anthem.

We invest a great deal of energy and attention on distinctions that keep us apart as human beings. By so doing, we miss the beauty and joy of celebrating those shared qualities and values that bring us together. It has been suggested that we must intentionally provoke millions of conversations in order to discover a clearly articulated vision of how human beings want to live in these times of rapid change. What is the quality of experience we are seeking? Are we not all wanting to lead happy and productive lives that elevate the quality of our experience? This conversation is too often missing in public discourse. A key goal of the World Anthem is to move that discourse beyond the alternative into the mainstream.

What if we all dedicated our imaginations, talents, and energies toward a world that worked for all of us? What if nations and governments devoted their resources to improving the quality of life for their citizens rather than threatening their very existence? What would it take to eradicate fear, poverty, hunger, and suffering? These are compelling questions for all of us, and they are not all that different for the peoples of Afghanistan, Beirut, Bangladesh, Northern Ireland, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, or New York City.

As author Joseph Campbell said, “One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.” On behalf of everyone involved in the World Anthem project, I can say we are all passionate about improving the human condition. The World Anthem has the potential to create hope and promise for people everywhere, and our ultimate goal is to have it proclaimed as the world’s official anthem. Through music, we can celebrate our common bond of peace and create a context where individuals can share their ideas, thoughts, and dreams.

:: Bud Wilson

Bud is a creative consultant to the MindShare Institute and formerly co-designed the “Choices for the Future” Symposia for John Denver’s Windstar Foundation. He is an educator and project producer whose views on contemporary society have been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, CBS Evening News, and on WGBH Boston. He is a listed member of International Who’s Who of Public Service. This is his first GoodLetter.

(Thoughts on Bud’s GoodLetter? Inspired by what you’ve read? Send an e-mail to editor@goodthings.com — don’t forget to tell us your name, where you’re from, and if we can use your words in a future GoodLetter or on our Web site.)

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TALK ABOUT IT

As Bud asks, what if we all dedicated our imaginations, talents, and energies toward a world that worked for all of us? What would you do? Share your stories and ideas: http://goodthings.com/03_02_share.asp

LEARN MORE ABOUT IT

The MindShare Institute — producer of the World Anthem — works to ensure the rigorous exploration of quality of life questions by those in our society who currently manage the resources, control the public and private policies, and determine standard practices in business and civic affairs. MindShare is especially committed to engaging our youth and those currently isolated from circles of power and influence. Learn more: http://www.mindshareinstitute.org

The World Anthem: http://www.worldanthemproject.com

See Buckminster Fuller’s “Spaceship Earth” flat map of the world and learn about the Buckminster Fuller Institute: http://www.bfi.org/

John Denver’s Windstar Foundation: http://www.wstar.org/

The Joseph Campbell Foundation: http://www.jcf.org/

DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT

Listen to a clip from the World Anthem: http://www.mindshareinstitute.com/wa_music.html

Get your own copy of the World Anthem on CD: http://www.mindshareinstitute.com/wa_youcanhelp_ec.html

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