Ruth Broyde Sharone
It was all quite mysterious. It began in the fall of 2014. During my daily walks I started to hear melodies in my head that seemed to erupt, complete with lyrics, like fully formed children.
The first song that popped out was openly playful and made me laugh out loud.
What if, when you awoke, you were wearing a stranger’s shoes?
What if, when you awoke, you shared your enemy’s extremist views?
What if, when you awoke, you’d think in color-–not black or white?
What if, when you awoke, you could imagine not being right!
The subject matter was not surprising. After thirty years of working in the field of interfaith engagement, I had come to recognize that diversity and empathy are our greatest strengths and ultimately our greatest gifts to the planet. By harnessing the brilliance and genius contained within our diversity and by acknowledging our shared humanity, I sincerely believe we can achieve world peace and find solutions to the greatest challenges of our times.
First, however, we need to be able to imagine what it’s like to inhabit a stranger's shoes.
Throughout the years of my interfaith adventures, I had frequently contemplated the theme of tribal prejudices that keep us separate and alienated from one another. But I was still bewildered about the source of the song. It seemed more like a message from another realm rather than from my own interior landscape and experience.
Then I remembered something I had read when I was a teenager in The Prophet by Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran. Asked to speak about the relationship between parents and children, he responded: "Your children are not your children. . . They come through you but not from you. . . .And though they are with you yet they belong not to you."
I couldn't help wondering if the songs I was hearing in my head really belonged to me.
Although I played piano for many years, I had always felt most at home as an author and documentary filmmaker, expressing myself through the written word and the language of film. I never considered myself a songwriter, but that was about to change—and so was my life.
The chorus for the song tumbled out next, and in my mind's eye, I saw a standing-room-only audience representing all religions, ethnicities, races, and creeds.
What if . . .what if . . . what if we all could see . . .
The beauty of one expanding humanity?
In the two years that followed, I wrote some thirty songs during my walks (and they are still coming to me), including both serious and amusing lyrics. I shared my songs with my good friend Yuval Ron, a composer-musician and founder of an international interfaith ensemble.“You’re writing a musical,” he said.“Did you know that?”
No, I hadn’t noticed. But I recognized my desire to reach out beyond the boundaries of my interfaith community right into the heart of mainstream America. I felt sure the general public would be drawn to a musical performance with a great story, and so I began to develop an interfaith story about love and longing, hope and doubt, conflict and fulfillment. Perhaps people who had no direct knowledge of interfaith matters could be enticed into an auditorium where—through the irresistible power of music and the theater arts—they could first acknowledge, and then celebrate, the scope and beauty of our diversity.
I had long ago discovered the arts to be the most powerful vehicle available to convey our shared humanity, and I always made a point of including music and film when I presented on college campuses and in multiple community settings. I would specifically invite singers and musicians and dancers of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds to perform together as a way to demonstrate harmony-in-action.
Yuval recommended a very talented young arranger, KC Daugirdas, and within a year, on a limited budget, I released an album with eleven of the thirty songs I had written. INTERFAITH: The Musical was becoming a reality. Soon I began performing the songs publicly to enthusiastic audiences who resonated deeply with the subject matter. They laughed and they cried—and I hadn't even completed the libretto for the musical. "Broadway-bound on the wings of peace," was my tagline.
But then I had a major psychological setback. While participating in “Boot Camp for New Musicals,” I was advised to put aside all of my songs and just write the story. “There are songs you have written that won’t fit the story,” my teacher explained, “and then there will be new songs you’ll have to compose.”
I remember going into a panic. Write new songs? How would I do that when the songs I had already written had not been consciously planned? They just seemed to come through me, out of nowhere. I suddenly felt paralyzed in my work. I stopped writing my story outline, feeling incapable of continuing. I didn't even know the basics of musical theater. How could I presume to write a musical? "You're a filmmaker and writer, not a songwriter and playwright," said an accusing voice in my head. I faced a crisis of confidence entirely new to me.
It took me weeks to recover from my teacher's comment. When I did, however, it was with a new concept about creativity that I believe applies to everyone in every stage of life—from childhood through the golden years.
Creativity is an eternal well from which we all can draw, a well of pure potential that exists beyond time and space and is always available to us. This inexhaustible well has everything we might ever need—even when we aren’t yet aware of our needs.
That night I sat down and intentionally wrote a song.
I feel confident that whatever song I will need to write, I can write. Whatever I need to learn, I will learn.
I understand now that creativity has no limits.
BIO: An inspirational public speaker, honored internationally for her interfaith activism and leadership, filmmaker and journalist Ruth Broyde Sharone is the creator of INTERFAITH: The Musical. Co-chair of the Southern California Parliament of the World's Religions (SCCPWR.org) for ten years, she also pioneered groundbreaking interfaith pilgrimages to the Middle East in the 1990s. Her documentary God and Allah Need to Talk and her interfaith memoir, Minefields & Miracles, have received multiple awards. Ruth is a regular correspondent for The Interfaith Observer.
In 2013 she was inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Advisors at Morehouse College.
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