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Harm and Harmony
Harm and Harmony are two contradictions par excellence. But as so often, opposites attract, and so they may both appear in below reflection. Although we may believe, we already know so much, there are so many new aspects of life waiting for us to be discovered. And there are those little things that really count, even more when they come up in exchange with those we care for. Travels and international friendships may help open up our horizon, broaden our spectrum. Again, it is not the big adventure on a checklist of "to dos," but the little conversation that may really count, touch and stay in our memory.
Tian Hou Gong Temple, KL
Harmony Museum, PA
Visiting a Chinese Temple in Malaysia, I would learn that Feng Huang is Mandarin for Phoenix. The colorful bird in mythology that lived in the desert for 500 years and then consumed itself by fire, later to rise renewed from its ashes. A fabulous bird rising from the ashes like some friends or even family members possibly reappearing after a long time. After a period of "out of sight, out of mind," as the saying goes. Out of harm's way, not close enough to be hurt or hurt others, but re-emerging later. Another form of deja vu or "Have I seen you before?" As if rising from the dead, shadows from the past are being filled with life and presence. Literally, Feng means male bird and Huang means female bird. In Chinese tradition, once you see the Feng Huang, you also can see the dragon, which always flies together with Feng Huang, They support and complement each other as only true life partners can. This celestial couple is the symbol of everlasting love and also the symbol of luck and harmony.
Western fascination with Far Eastern philosophy and designs would lead to growth of a rather commercially oriented esoteric movement, which often barely scratches the surface of the raided ancient cultures. And so, "Feng" is a word also prominently appearing in Feng Shui, with a different meaning though. I have picked up basic information about Feng Shui from discussions in the office, suggestions on how energy flows and how to place furtniture best in rooms. Years ago, before a meeting, a book titled "My life with Feng Shui" was exchanged. My remark "Written by Kim Shui" lead to one of those strange looks in return, before the joke about the fictitious husband, who had written about his life with Feng Shui, was fully understood and taken ironically as another example of deadpan humor. It was only much later that I found out that in this context "Feng" means wind and "Shui" stands for water. A theory about wind plus water, so to say. An ancient Chinese practice of placement and arrangement of things to achieve harmony and energy in your heart and home. Harmony, a pleasing combination of elements, in agreement with each other. A dream of perfection, like in the Kim Wilde song "(I'm dreaming for a) World in Perfect Harmony."
There is a Harmony Street in Melaka, a historic city in Malaysia, where a Mosque is located peacefully right next door to an Indian and a Chinese temple. A fine example of religious tolerance and co-existence. The same street, locally known as Jalan Tukang Emas, as most of the architecture of Melaka, the capital of the Malaysian state of Malacca, is shaped by centuries of colonization by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British. The National Monument "Tugu Negra" in Kuala Lumpur remembers Malaysia's liberation war in the mid-twentieth century. Its depiction of a group of soldiers holding the Malaysian national flag bears similarity to the Marines Memorial found on Arlington cemetery right outside of Washington D.C., which honours the American flag rising on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima during World War II. It is no coincidence that both monuments were designed by the same Austrian sculptor Felix de Weldon.
And there is the small town Harmony in Butler County, Pennsylvania, founded by German settlers in 1804 on their quest for religious tolerance and freedom far from home. After 10 years the utopian community of separatists from the Lutheran Church went on to settle in Indiana's lower Wabash Valley in a place they called New Harmony. Unsteady, after another 11 years they would move back to build another town, Economy, today a part of Ambridge, Pennsylvania, just 18 miles south of their first settlement. Living a celibate life, the Harmony Society had bad chances to survive. Purifying themselves through work and prayer in the awaiting of the near coming of Christ, they were living their ideal, even at the price of separating themselves from others and from the world.
Just another sunny day on Harmony Street in Melaka, Malaysia.
Striving for harmony, we do not have to take it that far. It is a whim of history that present-day Harmony, PA, before it received its pleasing name, had been referred to as "Murdering Town" and known for an assassination attempt of an Indian scout on president George Washington on the threshold of the French and Indian War. On the other hand it shows us the powerful force of the undaunted belief in the good that may allow us to turn a formerly cursed place or any unfavourable fate into something positive. Even though we must admit that we may have too often felt the bitter taste of defeat, as a result of the unsatisfactory imperfection of our human nature. As we may also fail on our way, over quarrel and impatience, we shall not surrender. For harmony is not just a word. It is a wish we want so much to come true, a feeling buried deep inside, a whisper from far away to wipe away sadness and frustration. One of these straws of hope to hold on to in a changing world. In the midst of so many positive developments, accompanied by those that do more harm than good. An echo from far away like ancient - or contemporary - Chinese wisdom: Harmony is an opinion, a purpose or nature. Harmony also means respect and tolerance. It comes through understanding, acceptance of differences, which gives richness to our lives.