The latest school shooting, this time at a high school in California, was fresh on my mind last week when I attended an unusual event in Phoenix a program put together by the InterFaith Action Coalition of Arizona to promote understanding and acceptance of world religions.
Various choral groups and vocal soloists performed music that expressed their cultural and religious beliefs and practices, which included, among others, a chorus of Baptist preschoolers, an operatic soprano, a chorus of Sikhs in traditional white costume who sang, chanted and drummed, African-American Gospel singers, and a Soka Gakkai Buddhist chorus that chanted ancient sanscrit prayers and then led all the groups in singing a roof-raising celebration of unity called "We Are One" as the closing act.
In addition, a Moslem boy demonstrated the traditional Islamic call to prayer and a Jewish man blew the Shofar, the ram's horn that has called the people to worship since ancient times.
I was most impressed, however, with an ensemble from Horizon High School, perhaps because the performance of this talented group of four young men, four young women, a violinist and pianist, was in such stark contrast to the image of the recent carnage in that California high school still lingering in my mind. One member of the group, a Jewish boy, sang three traditional Jewish songs in a rich, mature baritone with such skill and passion that it brought tears to my eyes. The violinist played with the authority of a young Jascha Heifetz. At one point in his solo, I noticed my granddaughters, 9 and 11, had stopped squirming, their eyes fastened on the violinist. In fact, it seemed that all of us in the large audience in the Phoenix Symphony Hall had stopped breathing.
If only all young people could experience the life-affirming joy of making music and sharing it with others, I thought. Interestingly, only the vocal soloist was Jewish; the other teens did not represent any particular faith, but were there to assist in their classmate's presentation.
Afterward, I picked up a brochure at a table in the lobby a list of quotations paraphrasing The Golden Rule. What if this list were posted in all classrooms, I thought. Or better still, all homes. Would it help us parents, children, teachers, whomever to curb our anger before it turns into violence? It's significant to me that this basic moral rule is so universal, spanning all cultures, religions and time. Here are the quotations from sacred writings of various religions:
Baha'i "Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself."
Buddhism "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."
Christianity "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Confucianism "Do not to others what you do not want them to do to you."
Hinduism "This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others that which would cause you pain if done to you."
Islam "No one of you is a believer until you desire for another that which you desire for yourself."
Jewish "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Native American "Respect for all life is the foundation."
Sikhism "Don't create hatred with anyone as God is within everyone."
Taoism "I am good to the man who is good to me; likewise, I am also good to the bad man."
Wicca "And it harm none, do what ye will."
And from other sources:
Aristotle, Greek philosopher "We should conduct ourselves toward others as we would have them act toward us."
Booker T. Washington, African-American statesman "If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else."
Robert Ingersoll, secular humanist The only possible good in the universe is happiness. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to try to make somebody else so."
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