Monday, August 29, 2011

As Branches of a Great Tree

In the searing heat of a summer’s mood that tests our own, shimmering haze blurs reality. What is real and what is a mirage, as of water upon the road? Where is summer’s beauty, and how shall we understand pain in its midst, able yet to find solace? How quickly we thirst and tire, reaching then for the hand of another, and for a staff to hold and find support, realizing we are joined to each other as branches of a great tree, shelter from the heat both given and received.

Held in the intricate web of one word, these are the questions that emerge from the beginning of the Torah portion Mattot (Numbers 30:2-32:42). The plural for “tribes,” as in Moses speaking to the heads of the tribes, mattah is the singular. It is a fascinating word that suggests much more than a gathering of people joined through bloodlines and history. Mattah also means branch, or staff, or rod. As for each person within the tribe, so for the tribe itself, all are part of a greater whole, each but a branch in a majestic tree, the tree of a people, of humanity, the tree of life. Each one as a branch becomes a staff to support another along the way.

As the portion Mattot unfolds, there is no tree to give of its shelter, no place to hide from the searing heat of violence and brutality. Moses is told to take vengeance upon the Midianites for leading Israel astray. We come back to the same root that offered shelter and support, realizing now that it can also mean to deviate, to distort, to turn aside, as from the true path. It is not that we are led astray, we turn aside, so easy to blame others. Turning to violence, wreaking vengeance, this is the turning aside that still waits for return in the world today. The very one we would harm is another branch in the same tree who is meant to be the rod and staff of our return to the path of life. It is not clear in context, and so the commentators wrestle, whose vengeance is it to be, God’s or Israel’s? In the space of ambiguity, is one or the other saying no, do not do it? Or, in the timelessness of Torah, is it about us, and never ending cycles of violence and revenge, the text a mirror in which to see and be horrified?

How could Moses harm the Midianites, having found refuge among them when he fled for his life from Egypt? His wife, Tziporah, was a daughter of Midian, and her father, Jethro, a Midianite priest, was Moses’ beloved mentor and guide. There is indication in the text that Moses stepped aside and did not join the battle against Midian. A beautiful teaching in the ethical tradition of Musar says, it is not in the realm of justice for a person to bring distress upon someone who has done an act of goodness for them/she’y’hey maytzar l’mi she’asu lo tovah, and surely, Moses was raised in Midian.

So ubiquitous is the distress and pain brought by one person or people upon another. There is also so much goodness that shines through the darkness. In the Jewish calendar, we first enter a time of darkness amid the brilliant light of summer, followed by a period of comfort in which hope is nurtured. With the seventeenth of the mid-summer month of Tammuz, we enter a period of three weeks that bring us to Tisha B’Av, day of mourning and fasting for tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people. Through the lens of our own being and experience we look to the tragedies experienced by others, in the past and in the world around us now, reaching out and crying together. In the midst of summer, we strain not to lose sight of beauty and goodness. The period of the “Three Weeks,” as they are called, is also referred to as Beyn Ham’tzarim/Between the straits. As at Passover time, when we seek to come through the narrow places, the straits that hold us in, that is our challenge now as well. Not to cause pain, distress, meytzar, to one who has done an act of goodness for us, that was Moses’ challenge. It is also our challenge, brought into focus during the weeks between the straits, not to look at the world with narrow vision, keeping others and ourselves in such narrow straights that there is no room to reach for or extend a hand, to be the staff to guide each other out into the light. As we find our way through the darkness of destruction and despair, from the day of mourning that is Tisha B’Av, we enter the “Seven Weeks of Comfort,” which bring us to the edge of the new year, opening us to the possibility of renewal.

Looking ahead to the weeks of comfort, the Slonimer Rebbe says of the summer days between the straits, they are as the furrowed ground from which shall begin to blossom the great light revealed. Looking beyond the haze of summer’s heat, may we see in that pure light, no longer a mirage upon the road, the tree of many branches that joins us all as one.

Victor H. Reinstein

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The High Price of Gold

We have all heard the news. Gold is trading at $1800 an ounce, up from $600 just five year ago, and some predictions say it may go to $5,000 an ounce. Now is the time to bring your jewelry, watches, coins, even your dead relatives gold fillings down to the local dealer who wants to pay you “top dollar” for your “old” gold. Not long ago some pundits and politicians wanted to sell the gold in Fort Knox to pay down the national debt. All this talk about gold made me curious. I wanted to learn more. I am no expert on the subject that’s for sure, but a little research on the internet proved even more rewarding than a trip to the pawn shop.

Barrick Gold Corporation is the world’s largest gold producer. According to the company website, their goal is “to be the world’s best gold company by finding, acquiring, developing and producing quality reserves in a safe, profitable and socially responsible manner.” The company’s 2010 Annual Report (available on the website) gave investors the reassuring news that with higher gold production and lower total costs, Barrick achieved record financial results. Reading on in that Annual Report, I learned that the company mined 3.1 million ounces of gold in North America in 2010 at a cost of $489 per ounce. The company projects that it will mine 3.3 to 3.46 million ounces of gold in North America in 2011. The Cortez Joint Venture (in the Cortez Mountain Range, Nevada) yielded 1.14 million ounces of gold in 2010. The company says that it plans to take even more gold from the mine in 2011. It is the third largest gold producing mine area in the world and Barrick owns 60 percent of it.

The mine is located on land that up until 1946 was owned by the Western Shoshone Tribe. The Ruby Valley Treaty of 1863 (also known as the Treaty of Peace and Friendship) acknowledged Indian ownership of the land, but gave mining rights to non-Indians. In 1946 the Indian Claims Commission extinguished Indian title claims outside recognized reservation areas, thus nullifying the treaty of 1863. The Western Shoshone argue that the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley recognized Mount Tenabo (the highest point in the range and an ancestral site) and the Cortez range as their land and they have never relinquished ownership of it. In spite of efforts by the Nevada state legislature to privatize the land, and attempts by the federal government to buy the land and the government’s abuse of the land, the Western Shoshone have consistently argued that this is their sacred land.

Since Barrick began mining in the area, two gold mines have petered out. In order to keep the Cortez mine going, the company pumps between 20,000 and 30,000 gallons of water out of the mine every day, 365 days a year. The Western Shoshone say that as a result of all this pumping the water table is dropping and the aquifer is being contaminated. The Business and Human Rights Resource Center reports that on November 20, 2008 the Western Shoshone Tribe and several non-profit organizations filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management to stop Barrick Gold from proceeding to develop “the largest open-pit cyanide heap leach gold mine in the U.S.—the Cortez Hills Expansion Project.” The expansion project includes Mt. Tenabo. On January 20, 2009, a district judge recognized that the project would “desecrate the mountain and decrease the tribal members’ spiritual fulfillment.” Nonetheless, the judge denied the Indian claims and ruled that the financial cost outweighed the religious considerations. The Shoshone filed an appeal and on February 6, 2009, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth District granted a temporary restraining order protecting an 8 mile radius around Mount Tenabo. Barrick Gold responded to this development by filing another appeal. In June 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the company. The US government now classifies 90 percent of the land as public land.

Tim Crowley, President of the Nevada Mining Association, testifying before the Nevada State legislature on February 14, 2011, told the legislators that the mining companies directly employed 11,600 people in Nevada in 2009, and the companies paid $204 million in state taxes that year. In his testimony, he also pointed to an 1875 Nevada law that gave private companies operating for a public purpose the right of eminent domain. According to the law, mining is recognized as a public use of the land. Therefore, mining companies have the right to take un-used land, or land that is not being used for a public purpose, and use it for a public purpose. Under the provisions of this law, the mining company has the right to mine Mount Tenabo. The state legislature took a dim view of the idea of granting a private company the right of eminent domain. Legislation was introduced to repeal the 1875 law, and on April 29, 2011, the Governor of Nevada signed into law Senate Bill 86, ending the right of private companies to use eminent domain. However, this has not slowed the Barrick operation, which is moving ahead at full steam. The company reports that net earnings for the second quarter in 2011 rose 35 percent to $1.2 billion, compared to $859 million for the same period one year earlier. Second quarter gold production was 1.98 million ounces at a total cost of $445 per ounce, net cash cost was $338 per ounce.

In a final irony, the Barrick Gold website has a link to a March 17, 2011 company news release which extols “Sustaining a Native American Culture: Barrick Supports Shoshone Language Preservation Program.”

David P. Hansen

Barrick Gold,

See “Native Americans Bear the Nuclear Burden.” Western Shoshone land has been the site for 928 U.S. and 19 British nuclear explosions.

The Western Shoshone Defense Project website has a number of links that are helpful. See for example, “Update to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 76th Session,” submitted by the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone and the Wells Band of Western Shoshone,

“Case Profile: Barrick Gold Lawsuits (re: Western Shoshone Tribes USA), HYPERLINK ""

For a history of court cases see “Western Shoshone Land and Sovereignty,” HYPERLINK "" For more general information and links see “How to Kill a Nation: U.S. Policy in Western Shoshone Country Since 1863,”

“Statement of Tim Crowley: Nevada Mining Association,” February 14, 2011. http/

Ed Vogel, “Bills that Passes or Failed in 2011 Nevada Legislature,” Las Vegas Review-Journal,

Friday, August 19, 2011

Secret Nonviolence in Mexico

The successes of nonviolence always seem to be closely guarded secrets. Try to get media coverage for good news, where people begin to resolve violent conflicts in nonviolent ways. There just isn't much interest. But get a good brawl going, or a juicy killing, and the streets are full of TV stations from across the globe.

So it's no surprise that the only news we hear out of Mexico is bad news. Headlines are usually about how many murders or kidnappings there were, or how many mass graves were discovered. I honestly didn't expect the regional South Dakota news media to respond to some good news out of Mexico, when they were invited to a couple of presentations in Eastern S.D. recently on the efforts to change a culture of war into a culture of peace.

There's an organization in Monterrey, Mexico, called Mesa de Paz. Sixteen separate NGO's (non-governmental organizations) in the Monterrey area came together to form Mesa de Paz. All were working for nonviolent resolution of conflicts, in the family, community, campus, church, etc. All had experience in nonviolent conflict resolution. But they were all working in their small niche. People were more and more aware of how they needed to work together since the escalating violence in Monterrey was becoming larger than any group could handle. Together they believed they would be better able to evaluate the situation, to make joint decisions, and to choose a focus for some cooperative efforts. So they spent a year together, building trust, analyzing their situation and making plans. Eventually they decided to focus on building a nonviolent movement among the youth.

One thing they decided early on was not to have any committees. We all know what a committee is like. It doesn't do anything much, except meet. Sometimes the committee will talk about how it needs money to do something. So maybe there will be an event to raise money. Then if money is actually raised, it will take several meetings to decide how to spend it. Then it will be time for new officers and deciding whether to repeat the fund raising event.

Mesa de Paz avoided committees. Instead, they chose what they call "gears." These are groups of members based on skills and interests. Gears move. Gears work together to make a larger vehicle move. And this notion has proven useful for nonviolent activists in Monterrey.

The youth organization (there are some "young" old members) is called Uno Uno. The commitment is to create a culture of peace one person at a time. Right now there are about thirty members. It is marvelous in its diversity. They expect their efforts will grow to three hundred and then three thousand and so on, till they have a culture of peace. But let me explain the work of the gears of these thirty young people.

One gear is public education. These activists (at the moment led by two nursing students), publish a two page nonviolent newspaper, with comics, every month. They make 20,000 copies. Twenty members of Uno Uno take 1,000 copies and distribute them in public places, one by one. They don't leave a pile here or there. They put each one in the hands of a live human being.

Another gear is made up of artists, including graffiti artists. The drug gangs do graffiti. The cartels hang things from bridges over the roadways, like bodies. So this gear does it's own graffiti walls, in gang neighborhoods, about alternatives to violence. And they hang banners over the roadways, calling people to think about what they can contribute to a less violent society. When this gear needed paint, they told the members of Uno Uno, and most everyone was able to contribute a can or two. They didn't need a fundraising committee.

A third gear is about rehabilitation. There are no half-way houses in Monterrey. When young persons come out of a juvenile detention center or prison, they go back to the same streets where they got into trouble. There is now a half-way house, with ten beds, and their first resident, 16 years old. This house will soon be full and another house will follow.

A fourth gear is about bringing peace among rival gangs. Most killings in Monterrey are committed by young people against other young people. There are 4.6 murders a day. The last time I was there, six young people were killed in a gang war and their bodies dropped off at their homes in the middle of the night. Kids in the gangs have a life expectancy of three years. It's why one should be outraged at how the U.S. ATF allowed all those automatic weapons to "walk" across the border. Guns for kids to kill kids!

This fourth gear just brought together 400 plus gang members, from rival drug gangs, to one auditorium. Normally they would be on the streets expecting to kill each other. This night though, they were present to sign a peace pledge, with appropriate ceremony followed by dancing. It happened because of the daily, 24/7 efforts of a few former gang members, who know the ropes and who understand that most of these kids want to live, and love, and simply need an alternative and a chance.

There's more to Uno Uno than I have reported. I'm confident there will be much more in the future. It's good news. It's happening in Mexico. Take notice! There are Arab Springs and Mexican summers. It's high time for a Northern Hemisphere fall!

Carl Kline

Sunday, August 14, 2011

For the Sake of Every Child

In this season of summer’s fullness, my small synagogue community has been blessed with the birth of many babies. Each one is so precious, and in all of her or his fragility each one is a reminder of the preciousness of every child, and of life itself. Every child represents the hope of transformative possibility and is a link to that time when all children shall be safe and free from want and war, when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and a little child shall lead them.

In reflecting on the mournful dirges of Tisha B’Av, said on that sorrowful summer day of fasting, of tragedies recalled, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov looks at the word kinot/dirges and sees within it the letters of tikun/repair. And formed of the same letters is the word tinok, baby. Every child born is a link in the journey from despair to repair.

In a commentary on this Torah portion that begins with such violence, the M’or Eynayim, Rebbe Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, sees the coming of the Messiah through the gathering together of humanity repaired, Each person needs to repair and prepare that facet of the Messiah that belongs to her or his own soul. Nurturing that aspect of the Messiah that is within ourselves, may we journey together from despair to repair for the sake of every child, fulfilling the promise and making whole God’s covenant of peace.

In a very personal way, the Torah portion Pinchas, emerging in dissonance, speaks to me of children, my own. This portion is the Bas Mitzvah Torah portion of my youngest daughter, Tzvia. The most important verse to me in this reading from the Book of Numbers is the first verse of chapter twenty-seven, And the daughters of Tzelophchad…, of the families of Menashe, the son of Yosef, drew near – and these are the names of his daughters: Machlah, Noa, and Choglah, and Milkah, and Tirtzah. In a single verse is the name of my son, Yosef, and of my eldest daughter, Noa.

Each is present in the story of the other, their little sister singing the song that joins them all. The story itself is one of triumph and transformation, of an injustice made right. Upon their father’s death, the daughters of Tzelophchad petitioned Moses for the right to inherit. Brought before God, the merit of their claim is acknowledged and the legacy that is passed through the generations is passed for the first time to daughters.

Reading the presence of children into the narrative of Pinchas brings both jarring irony and hopeful counterpoint to a portion that unfolds from the brutal violence of a zealot. In the context of Israel’s turning away from God to embrace neighboring idolatry, an Israelite prince flaunts his having sex with a Midianite woman in the service of Baal P’or. Appointing himself both judge and executioner, Pinchas takes a spear and runs it through the man and the woman. Adding to the assault on moral sensibility in this account that represents what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel refers to as the “harsh passages” of Torah, God appears to compound the violence, saying of Pinchas, behold, I give to him My covenant of peace/hineni notayn lo et b’riti shalom. Of all people, why would God give a covenant of peace to Pinchas, a violent zealot who has just killed two people?

As so often, beneath the surface of violent passages of Torah there is tension, even a stream of nonviolence waiting to be drawn forth. We are called to wrestle with these passages, as though God has placed them before us as a sacred call to confront violence in the world around us. The passages concerning Pinchas are not simply of an ancient narrative. They are about us and about our world, about violence and transformation. With much struggle in the commentaries around the person and deed of Pinchas, the hint of another way begins in the scribal writing of the word shalom as it appears in a Torah scroll. The straight letter vav, not unlike the shaft of a spear, is to be written as a broken letter, in two parts with a space in the middle, truncated. The Covenant of Peace is a promise to be fulfilled when Pinchas is not broken by violence. So too, it is about us.

In Jewish tradition, Pinchas is identified with Eliyahu Hanavi, Elijah the Prophet. Elijah is the harbinger of the Messiah, the one who will announce the coming of that time when swords will be turned into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Elijah too was a violent zealot, taking it upon himself to kill the prophets of Baal. In the presence of children, Pinchas and Elijah are transformed, as are we, growing in worthiness to receive the covenant of peace, coming to be the one who will announce the coming of the Mashiach. At every b’ris, the covenant of circumcision, both Pinchas and Elijah are present. The point is made through the chair of Elijah at the ceremony that every child is a link to that time into which a little child shall lead. Ever since the birth of my first child, Noa, a daughter who shall inherit, I have also placed a chair for Elijah when celebrating a B’rit Banot, a ceremony marking the entry of daughters into the Covenant of Israel. And along with Elijah’s chair, there is sounded the tambourine of Miriam, whose name also appears in Parashat Pinchas, and who shall lead us singing through the parted waters to the land of promise.

Rabbi Victor H. Reinstein

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Whose Side Are You On?

In A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn wrote, “In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.”

Given the either/or option, it would seem like it should be easy to choose, but it isn’t. According to the World Council of Churches (WCC) report on World Military Expenditures, A Compilation of Data and Facts Related to Military Spending, Education and Health in 2004 world military expenditures reached the astronomical level of $1 trillion dollars. That came out to an average of $162 per person. The U.S. accounted for 47 percent of the total, earning recognition as the world’s foremost contributor to global military expenditures. It’s something to think about as we listen to elected politicians debate national debt, deficits and the need to cut spending.

Another WCC resource is the report Overcoming Violence: The Ecumenical Decade 2001-2010, available here The Decade had a number of goals, one of which was “to move peace-building from the periphery to the center of life.” That, too, seems like something that should be easy to do, but it isn’t. Authors of the Overcoming Violence report wonder if people have come to believe that militarism is a given. Do we believe that militarism and war are enduring realities we have to learn to live with and accept as facts of life? Given the “great debt/deficit debate” in the U.S. and the comparatively small debate about the relative merits of the “war on terror,” it seems it has become a fact of life here. It’s hard to reconcile spending almost half a trillion dollars on militarism and war with the argument that it wasn't intended.

I think that many people of faith would choose not be on the side of the executioner, but there are at least two things that make this a difficult choice. One reason is that we are locked into an ethic of realism. President Obama’s favorite theologian is Reinhold Niebuhr, a founder of Christian realism. Niebuhr did a lot of great things and he has a lot to teach us, but I am increasingly convinced that his concept of justice as a balance of power is not one of them. There are biblical and philosophical traditions that define justice as harmony and right relationships. I think we will all be safer and happier if we can move away from realism and toward right relationships. A second reason that helps to explain why we are stuck with a bad choice is that we are ignorant (to be blunt). We are not sufficiently aware of and committed to other choices. In the following three paragraphs I want to draw your attention to several opportunities you and I have not be on the side of the executioner.

R2P is a project that was formed 28 January 2009 by representatives of eight non-government organizations. R2P stands for “Responsibility to Protect.” Accordingly, the government’s threefold responsibility is to protect, react and rebuild. The WCC report Overcoming Violence says that violence accounts for 1.3 million deaths a year. One-half of these deaths are due to suicide, one-third are due to homicide, ten percent are due to war and acts of collective violence. In addition to R2P, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) was formed in 1998. The Ecumenical Network on Small Arms (no website available) was created in 2001. The focus of the former agency is on making the connection between gender, women’s rights, small arms and violence. The focus of the latter is on passing legislation to control, reduce and remove small arms.

The Treaty of Pelindaba offers another chance to choose not to be on the side of the executioner. The treaty was signed in 1996 and came into effect with the 28th ratification on 15 July 2009. The treaty establishes a nuclear free zone in Africa. It was the first international treaty to establish a nuclear free zone. According to the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, today there are five nuclear free zones in the world covering more than 110 states. Forty-nine of the fifty-three members of the Organization of African Union have signed the treaty (including Libya). The treaty protocols invite the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and the People’s Republic of China to agree to not use or test any nuclear explosive devises against any nation that is party to the treaty.

Another opportunity to choose not to be on the side of the executioner is join the 73,946 people who have signed the “Charter for Compassion,” which was initiated by Karen Armstrong on 12 November 2009. You can sign the charter here.

David P. Hansen

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Highest Form of Magic

My young son Nathan and I recently started reading the Harry Potter series. I'm only halfway through the second book, a total Muggle, way behind Nathan, but already I'm hooked. I didn't want to be, I'll confess. I'm averse to being trendy, almost on principle, and Harry Potter is all the rage. But I understand why, now. How can anybody resist a good story, especially when the words leap straight from the page onto your tongue? I mean, you see the word "Hogwarts" and you just have to say it, and as soon as you say it, that part of you that only pretends to be grown-up wants to sign up for a few witching classes. And once you've said "Quidditch", how can you not want to play a game or two, even though you know it's pretty much impossible for us earthbound Muggles?

Michael Gambon playing "Dumbledore."
And then there's headmaster Albus Dumbledore. With such a fabulous name, the old fellow probably had me from the start. But he had me for sure when he announced to the entire student body of Hogwarts, after they had just bellowed out the school song at the first assembly of the year, every little wizard and witch to his or her own tune and tempo: "Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here!" The old fellow was actually wiping tears from his eyes, and I, a Muggle musician, was wiping my eyes as well. (Well, almost.)

Music. The highest form of magic. Beyond all Potions and Hexes and Charms, beyond all Divinations and Transfigurations and Teleportations. It doesn't hurt, I suppose, when the music's being conducted by a silver-haired wizard whose baton--er, wand--shoots out long golden ribbons into the air that twist themselves into words to be sung (and, I also imagine, notes to be played). Each to her own tempo, of course.

Daniel Barenboim.
I know another wizard with tremendous faith in the magic of music. He's known among Muggles as Daniel Barenboim. He says he's no wizard, but don't believe him. Just listen to him. Just watch him. As a pianist he can summon a world out of his fingertips just as surely as Dumbledore can conjure Gubraithian fire. As a conductor he can draw forth the heart and soul of an orchestra, just as surely as Dumbledore can pull out the innermost thoughts and feelings of sorcerers, dragons and ghosts.

Like most wizards, Barenboim doesn't pay much attention to boundaries that ordinary Muggles won't step across. Consider, for example, the boundary between Israelis and Palestinians. Barenboim crosses that ugly border so often and with such disdain for what it represents that he enrages some Muggles, while inspiring others.

Barenboim's efforts to ease the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are his marvelous obsession; an obsession that has taken many forms. One of the most visible has been the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which Barenboim formed in 1999 with Palestinian intellectual Edward Said. Dubbed "an orchestra against ignorance" by the New York Times, it's composed of highly talented musicians, aged 14-25, from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Israel and also Spain, a "neutral" country now serving as the Orchestra's home base. Members gather in Seville each summer to study with some of the world's finest musicians, then they perform on tour. So far the Orchestra has appeared in Europe and in North and South America. It has given one concert on the West Bank; otherwise, public engagements in Israel and in Arab countries have been impossible to arrange.

At the concert on the West Bank, held in Ramallah in January, 2008, Baranboim interrupted the program to address the house. "You, of all audiences in the world--I don't have to explain how much courage it takes for each and every one of [these young people] to come and play with the other." The wizard went on to say, "This orchestra is not going to bring peace. You know that. What it can bring is understanding. The patience, the courage and the curiosity to listen to the narrative of the Other."

"It is our duty, all of us," Barenboim said, his hair as silver as Dumbledore's, "to find a way to live together. Because either we all kill each other, or we learn to share what there is to share."

I invite you to watch the wizard Barenboim conduct these young Muggles in an excerpt from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. They have crossed so many boundaries, including those of ingnorance, intolerance and hatred, to attend this wizard's Hogwarts. Watch them watch his wand--er, baton. Watch their energy. Watch their souls pouring out. Watch arms bowing, hands drumming, fingers flying, heads bobbing, lips pursing and puffing. They aren't like most grown-up Muggle musicians--not like me--but like him. The wizard. The wizard they trust to keep them safe. The wizard they trust to teach them to listen. The wizard they trust to help them make great music. The wizard they trust to help them transfigure the world.

And that, my dear friend Dumbledore, is the highest form of magic. Music is mighty good magic, I'll give you that. But the highest form of magic is trust. And because of trust, we Muggles can sometimes become something more than mere Muggles.

Note: If for some reason you can't see the viewer below, click here to watch the video.

Deep peace,
Phyllis Cole-Dai