The Power of Music


Last night I watched “August Rush,” a movie about the power of music. The movie itself was a disappointing flop. The director managed to turn a beautiful premise and a decent beginning into a cheap, Hollywood-style ending, whose insistence on the obvious, the explicit, the romantic, and the theatrical hurt every cell of my brain. Someone should give a re-make of this movie to any Spanish director.

However, the main message of the movie was beautiful: music is the force that moves the soul, that unites us, that makes us human, that brings forth the best in us. As various sounds of life punctuated almost every scene in the movie, I could not help but think of a symphonic orchestra as a metaphor for the best that humanity can offer, as a vision for the future of the world: an emerging glorious harmony that lifts every being into something higher than itself/herself/himself, brought together with a synchronized contribution of every individual instrument, with its different pitch, timbre, harmonics, loudness, and rhythm.

Think of instruments as nations, people, whatever. Every component of the whole is different and needed exactly because it is different. Varying sounds are needed for the symphony, for the beauty. Different cultures, races, genders, experiences, religions, sexual orientations, the colors of hair, the shapes, the heights, the biological forms, the minerals, whatever, all of them are needed for the beauty of the future that we will jointly create. Each individual contribution needed for the final rhapsody. You are not better than me. I am not better than you. We are both indispensable. Treat me as such. As I should treat you.

Network is Inevitable


I don’t remember when I heard this phrase for the first time, but I do remember that it hit me hard, like a cold shower, expected yet surprising. Network is inevitable. Network is inevitable.

I kept repeating it to myself over and over again, to make sure i don’t lose sight of it this time. Not that I have ever stated it that way, but I have been dancing around it for the last ten years or so, ever since I started exploring complex systems. Complex systems are those that have no easy solutions. Systems that consist of parts that interact, like people in a family, company, city, or a country. Or ants for that matter. Or even the neurons in the brain.

Now, why did it hit me so hard?

I always knew that networks are important. They are all around us. From food, road, biological, communications, and political networks to more personal ones, like our family, friends, and colleagues. But it was the word “inevitable” that cut so deeply in my mind. It represented the simple truth: we cannot live without them, the networks. They are inevitable. Without them there is nothing.

OK, OK, but still, why is it so important?

Here is why. This phrase reminded me of a pet peeve of mine: I often hear people say “I just want to help other people, to serve other people.” I find this so insincere and annoying. If everybody started helping other people, then who would build airplanes, roads, banks, and universities? Who would defend our country? Who would build the Facebook and the Internet? Who would plow the soil? I understand that the statement “I just want to help other people” implies that the person uttering it is a good, selfless person who sacrifices himself or herself for the good of others. But, isn’t it true that such a statement really makes them feel good about themselves, which in itself then makes it a selfish act? I think that in the literature they call this benefit a “white glow.”

My thesis has always been that we should help others not because they need us, but because we need them. We need them to be strong and successful. Because, if they are strong and successful, then we will eventually benefit from their strength and success. They will build better companies and cities, and we will find jobs in those companies and live in those beautiful cities. And if we are strong and successful, then others will benefit from that too. So, we need to be the best we can be and help others be the best they can be. And everything we do should be beneficial to others, not harmful to them. And that is how we help them.

And, this is where networks come in. It is the existence of networks that makes this theory of “help them to help yourself” work. The benefits flow through the network and come back to each node within it. To each person. And if networks are inevitable (and they are, since no one person, or one company, or one organism can exist on its own), then the weakness of each node threatens the whole network. Me included.

So, what is the message of all this rambling? Be the best you can be, and make everyone else a better person because of your existence. Take care of yourself, and of your neighbor. And, make everyone you meet your neighbor, regardless of who they are.



The Human Identity


I come from a country where identity is very important. National identity that is. Well, more like nationalistic identity in a country with multiple nationalities. You know, where your identity is better than the identity of others, clearly lesser people. People die for it. People kill in the name of it. And, in my homeland, they did plenty of that.

This identity that people cling to so tightly is more often than not something that was fed to them by others whose agendas needed soldiers to execute their dreams of power. These dreams are never accomplished by creating jobs, improving social conditions, protecting environment, or making democracy flourish. Instead, this hunger for power requires an enemy, a scapegoat. The power-driven “elites” manipulate history, communications media, and political narrative to instill in “their people” fear of others, the hatred of different. Then, the uninformed, the manipulated do what they are asked to do: kill.

They don’t even realize that by killing their neighbors who are different from them they are actually reducing the potential for their own success in the future. The reason for the miracle called nature is its diversity, its many forms of life. Similarly, the miracle of a successful society is the diversity of forms of expression of its citizens. And, the more diverse a society is the greater its chance for a longterm survival and prosperity.

Why is that? Because diversity of forms of expression breeds the diversity of problem solving methods that are needed for solving ever-increasing challenges of human societies. Nationalism promotes sameness, oneness. It wants to eliminate everyone else who does not conform to the preferred stereotype. By eliminating others, nationalistic societies eliminate their chances of success and longterm resilience.

Today, the world is again in danger of glorifying and promoting nationalism, racism, xenophobia, sexism, or religious fundamentalism, along with a myriad of other isms designed to exclude, to separate, to eliminate. In the age of science, technology, the Internet, and global trade, we are choosing to close our borders, to introduce trade tariffs, to start wars, to censure flow of information, to violently put down unrests of our own citizens. And this all is happening while our home, our planet is in danger of being negatively influenced by irresponsible actions of the human race, contributing to global warming.

So, when will we accept the fact that we are first and foremost humans; that being members of the human race is the only identity that we need; that all our differences in nationality, gander, religion, race, sexual preferences, culture, social status, wealth, or any other human condition do not matter? I hope it will be before it is too late.