Today a friend post­ed a link to a music video on Facebook that took me down one of my favorite rab­bit holes: view­ing and lis­ten­ing to the bril­liant and pow­er­ful “Playing For Change” videos on YouTube.

For the unini­ti­at­ed, Playing For Change is an orga­ni­za­tion whose stat­ed mis­sion is to “inspire and con­nect the world through music. We believe that music has the pow­er to break down bound­aries and over­come the dif­fer­ences that divide us.”

The group pro­duces videos of musi­cians – famed and unknown alike – from all over the world per­form­ing main­ly cov­ers of well-known songs. The music is always top-notch. But the real hook for me is just see­ing peo­ple of all nation­al­i­ties, races, cul­tures, and lan­guages com­bin­ing their tal­ent into a uni­fied cel­e­bra­tion of our shared humanity.

I don’t mind telling you, watch­ing and lis­ten­ing to these exu­ber­ant per­for­mances near­ly always brings tears of hap­pi­ness to my eyes. There is some­thing that pro­found­ly touch­es one’s soul when expe­ri­enc­ing the kin­ship of our broth­ers and sis­ters from every cor­ner of the Earth per­form­ing music that is famil­iar and beloved.

I strug­gle with the words to con­vey such a spir­i­tu­al encounter.

It real­ly is true that music is a uni­ver­sal lan­guage. It has the pow­er to break down walls that sep­a­rate us. To over­come our dif­fer­ences. To reveal the truth that all of Humanity is one.

We are dif­fer­ent yet the same, just as the drum­mer and the gui­tarist play dif­fer­ent instru­ments, but the same song. Just as the sopra­no and the alto sing dif­fer­ent melodies that weave togeth­er a beau­ti­ful har­mo­ny of voice.

Different, yet the same.

It can be a strug­gle to see that truth in times such as these. When Europe seems to again be at the brink of war. When chil­dren starve while those with plen­ty to eat thought­less­ly toss out near­ly half of what they pur­chase. When African Americans and oth­er minori­ties con­tin­ue to suf­fer from sys­temic racism, while those who con­trol the sys­tem deny its very exis­tence. When we fight over wear­ing masks dur­ing a pan­dem­ic that has already killed mil­lions of human beings.

How do we learn to har­mo­nize? Can we?

I wish I knew the answer. I do know that I’m brought to tears by peo­ple — from the US, Italy, Japan, The Congo, Bahrain, Spain, Argentina, Nepal, and Jamaica – all join­ing their beau­ti­ful­ly accent­ed voic­es and their diverse native instru­ments in a joy­ous world­wide jam — of a 50-year-old Canadian/American pop song about shar­ing one another’s burdens.

In that one Zen-like moment, some­thing in my brain expands to include all of this – the peo­ple, the places, the cul­tures – that make up the beau­ti­ful diver­si­ty of human expe­ri­ence. And we all have this super­pow­er – it’s been hard­wired into us by mil­lions of years of shared evo­lu­tion. Or by our Creator, if you prefer. 

I sup­pose the real ques­tion, then, is how do we get more humans to expe­ri­ence this con­nect­ed­ness, this pre­cious glimpse of enlight­en­ment to our shared Humanity?

Once again, I have to sheep­ish­ly admit that I just don’t know. But here’s a start. Try it your­self and see if it impacts you as it did me. Then share it far and wide.

The Weight

 “The Weight” was writ­ten by leg­endary Canadian musi­cian, song­writer, film com­pos­er, pro­duc­er, actor, and author Robbie Robertson. He was a mem­ber of the American band The Band in the 1970s, which record­ed “The Weight” – along with oth­er pop­u­lar songs includ­ing “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” both of which were also penned by Robertson. 

In the Playing For Change video, Robertson is joined by famed Beatles drum­mer Ringo Starr and oth­er musi­cians from around the world in a new ren­di­tion of “The Weight.”

Take a load off, watch, and lis­ten. Can you catch a glimpse of the har­mo­ny of humanity?

  • Pete Koutoulas

    Pete is an IT pro­fes­sion­al work­ing in Lexington. Formerly of Campton, he and his wife have lived in Winchester since 2015. Pete is a for­mer week­ly news­pa­per pub­lish­er and for­mer colum­nist for the Winchester Sun. These days, when not work­ing he can often be found on his back porch read­ing or writ­ing, in the back­yard tend­ing to his toma­to plants, or put­ter­ing around in his garage or work­shop. Reach Pete at pete@wincitynews.org.