A man gives money to a Persian, an Arab, a Turk, and a Greek travelling together to spend together as they wish. The Persian said he wants to use it to buy "angur," the Arab said he wants to buy "inab", while the Turk and the Greek were for buying "unum" and "astaphil."
Owing to their ignorance of each other's languages, they didn’t know they all asked for wine. Thinking they each wanted to buy something different, a violent quarrel arose between them.
At last a wise man who knew all their languages came up and explained to them that they were all wishing for one and the same thing.
- Rumi: 13th century mystic poet
I have sometimes wondered whether my Jewish bloodline, Unitarian upbringing, Zen Buddhist practice, African xylophone/ Bulgarian bagpipe/ Bach organ/ Jazz piano/ body percussion/ banjo plucking musician self, my author-musician-Orff teacher self, might ever prove useful to the world and if so, how? Though not wholly eloquent and fluent in any one of the above, they all help me move closer to the “wise man who knew all the languages.” Perhaps I can help others see with certainty that all the different names for Spirit are obstructions to the incontrovertible truth—they are all one and the same thing. All of them. Each may carry a different accent or flavor or shine the light on a different facet of the many-faceted diamond of our spiritual self and viva la diferance!! The God I know is plural and each one of her thousand faces has something to offer. And how rich that Spirit is when one can enter through crossed-legs, hands on drums, dancing feet, singing voice, sounded poetry and more. Each doorway reveals a different room in the house of God.
I once attended a seminar with the poet David Whyte on the theme of belonging. I asked him since I didn’t belong wholly to any one of the above, where was my home? He replied: “At the crossroads.” That feels right. And as a teacher of children and adults, my hope is to reveal the splendors of that intersection, raise multi-languaged people capable of conversing with all the travelers passing through.
Musically, the students at our school are equally at home with Fats Waller, Frederic Chopin and Finnish folk songs, can move seamlessly between 60’s Freedom songs, Frosty the Snowman and Filla-may-oree-oree ay, can find music on whatever is put before them, from Ghanaian and Thai xylophones to Indonesian angklung to congas and djembes to recorders and Norwegian overtone flutes to guitars, banjos and ukuleles to rubber pigs and chickens to violins and clarinets and trumpets. They can dance the Samba, Salsa, Swing and Scandinavian folk dance. They can sing in English, Spanish, French, German, Bulgarian, Thai, Mandarin, Ewe, Xhosa, Quechua, Maori and more. They partake of the great stories in drama that go from Caps for Sale to Macbeth, that cross borders to visit The Odyssey, Don Quixote, Sundiyata and The Ramayana.
The crossroads is the place where the market sets up, that buzzing, hustling, bustling place of exchange of goods, ideas, culture. As good as any—and better than most—image of what a school can be, a place at the intersection of a past filled with glory and horror, a present alive with the excitement of meeting the “others” until they become familiar, on the way to a future filled with both the hope and the skills for peaceful and rich co-existence on our tiny planet. The Internet gives us instant access to the treasures of the world, but electronic signals alone are worthless without the human heart and mind prepared to seek them out and receive them.
So come join me at the crossroads with a glass of angur or inab or unum or astaphil—take your pick—and let’s toast to the Community of Spirit that we can share— once we understand the languages.