Dichotomies — the good, bad and the ugly

Touching, concerned  and always caring Facebook asks me:  How can we spy on you today?  I mean…What’s on your mind?

Dichotomies on my mind. Lots of them.

The basic idea of dichotomy:

To go left or right, that is the question.

Now we need to realize that there are good and bad dichotomies, positive and destructive, harmonizing and polarizing.

Some of the most popular ones — because they further well-known and much practiced agonistic energies, make it easier for us to quarrel (still one of mankind’s favorite sports) — are rich-poor, male-female.

These are polarizing dichotomies, creating tension and dissent.

With them we move further away from each other, stand in far off corners, view The Other through  military field glasses. Then we discharge our verbal missiles, tirades, accusations and complaints. This happens not least on social media where the temperature is always high, untempered by the presence of real bodies which usually add an element of decency and consideration.

In short, such dichotomies give us ammo so that we can continue ranting, shouting, accusing.

Rich-poor is complicated and one can, and should, argue that it is not wrong to reason in those terms. I agree.

Male-female is different and much more complicated.

Some suggest, with a big dose of populism, that “male” implies “rich” and “female” implies “poor”.  That depends on who is talking. Place a loud-voiced, high-heeled feminist beside some poor bastard from Gambia and take a good look at the picture. Two different kinds of poverty.

Now I am myself starting to heat up and become polarized. That’s exactly what we don’t want, so let me just say that there are much better dichotomies than male-female .. if we want to move forward towards benign harmony rather than malignant (but FUN!) discord.

And that’s a rather big IF.

Let us turn eastward.

While we in the West talk about gender and men vs. women our oriental sisters and brothers talk about Yin and Yang. It’s a different planet of thought! Just look at the Yin Yang symbol.

To begin with, it is round. Not a square or rectangle.

It has two halves, kind of,  but they are curvy and flowing, not boxy. They look like playful fishes chasing each other. No straight lines anywhere.

What is more, they contain their opposites.; the white “fish” has a black part and the black a white. So even thought it looks black and white there is also grey here.

These aspects already defuse polarization and black/white thinking. They say in effect: “You contain your opposite and shadow”.

To glance for a moment into the political domain, I find it interesting, and significant, to see how much RAGE Donald Trump has aroused by saying something very basic like “there is blame on both sides”.

Why is this not popular? For many reasons, but one root reason I believe is our lack of Yin-Yang thinking plus our love of black-white thinking. We just don’t well understand what is round, and love what is square too much.

In this transformation of Yin and Yang have already turned more “Western”, more stiff, immobile, with more sharp, hurting corners.

The next step is the home base, our bad old, all to familiar camp fire.
THIS is our most used dichotomy. No roundness, no shared opposites, no fishes,  no forgiving! Just two enemies facing each other in black and white.

Going back to the round Yin and Yang we can also imagine it as a coiffure.

What is also interesting is that Yin and Yang turn into each other. Yin starts small, in a careful way, then grows bigger and bigger until it turns into its opposite.

Well, not opposite. This is another great thing. Yin and Yang don’t oppose, they complement.

Does my right hand oppose my left? No…

Is my opposable thumb the enemy of my other four fingers? No…

Those are really stupid questions. But they are only stupid because in some areas we understand the flow of Yin and Yang and how they help each other. In other areas, we don’t.

And don’t even WANT to.

If we are honest, we have to admit that a part of us ENJOYS polarization – Enmity – Opposition – Strife – Battle – Quarreling – Debating.

Polarizing is FUN! That’s the war-cry of this part of us.

Another part wants peace, harmony and co-operation. But that part has to live together with the fight-enjoying, belligerent part.

This is not so strange, and even not so bad. What is regrettable is that the parts don’t know each other. It’s like Yang not knowing that it has a Yin spot, and vice versa.

WHITE, let’s say “the good guys” (supposedly totally without blame) don’t know their black side, and usually BLACK (the “crooks”) never hear about their white side.

[A very interesting reflection about the black called “psychopathy” is found in THIS VIDEO.]

There is a wonderfully saying that I loved long before I understood it. Its very sound, so musical, charmed me.

“There but for the grace of God go I.”

It’s a fascinating, mysterious sentence, and now I have also learned what it means.

Look at that poor bastard there in the street. It could have been me, if I didn’t had been more lucky in life. His fate could have been mine..

No, life and success and happiness is not just about luck. It also takes intelligence and wisdom.

But realizing that we who see ourselves as “white” (on the inside, not talking about skin color here) also have “black” in us, that we are actually, colorwise, GREY,  and that life is more like fishes waxing and waning than a rectangle, and finally that we probably enjoy violence and opposition more than we think — ALSO takes intelligence and feeling.

So let us use our intelligence for differentiating between benign, harmonious dichotomies and belligerent, polarizing ones.

Even if, or precisely BECAUSE the latter often are more exciting and enjoyable.

Harmonize or polarize?

How to spell Peace – part I

Of course everybody can spell “peace”. Five letters, 2xe, 1xp, 1xa, 1xc.

But that is just the word “peace”. I mean the reality PEACE, not the word.

Seems to me that most of us can spell both the word war and war itself.

War to me is a spectrum. Just as WARM can be anything from say 20 degrees to 60 degrees Celcius and more,  WAR has also gradations.

There is a very neutral state between peace and war, both peace and war, neither peace and war.

But as things heat up (listen to the language) neutral moves into more hot, and hotter still. Finally it is red hot and we burn our fingers.

I call the three gradations of war “Agon” (neutral), “Antiagon” or “Antagonism” (warm) and “Agony” (hot). (Agon is Greek for battle, contest.)

The last stage Agony is practically “war in bloom”, what we usually think of as war:  people battling each other, bombs, shooting, missiles, torture, blood, killing.

When I say that everybody knows how to spell war I don’t mean that everybody is a soldier, shooting and killing others. I mean that the milder states of the war-complex, mainly “Antagonism”, is something we all know and practice (in different forms and at different levels).

What then is “Antagonism”? By that word I mean a energetic, most often emotional, relation between parties – people or groups – where we for a time become contestants, opponents, even mildly enemies.

This happens in many ways  and in many forms. However, all of them have a certain recognizable taste to them.

Again there is a scale. Antagonism can be two friends joking in a teasing way, pinching each other figuratively. The antagonistic energy can be there for seconds or minutes.

Or we have the domestic quarrel — small or large– going on all the time in the world. Maybe a big hurdle or just a question of who forgot to turn off the stove.

Or the debate (even feud) between two scientists, or really anybody — standing on different sides of a question. Each one defends his side, his point of view, and often becomes even more a believer in his faith because disputed by the other party.

Antagonism can be subtle, almost loving, more marked, a disturbing irritation (as when somebody we like says something unkind to or about us (“How could he say that…??”) and, moving to Agony, actually violent.

Very few of us are total strangers to antagonism. A number of us are also familiar with Agony, the more gruesome stages of the energy.

That is why I say that we can all spell “W-A-R”.

What would it then mean to spell peace?

To a large degree, to be able to neutralize and stay away from war in its many forms and disguises. To really recognize Antagonism and put out its fire. Or lets say — before you think that I am talking about denying conflict – to tire of and leave behind pyromanic tendencies.

To stoke on the fire of Antagonism, to water the war seeds, different ways of saying the same thing: We are moving away from harmony, towards conflict

From Harmonize to Polarize.

(As to “rights” and why that word drags down peace work, see this article.)

I don’t mean that conflicts should be denied or given euphemistic names.  I just think we should upgrade our questions, from “Who is right?” and “Can I not demand my own rights!!” to “How can I be better than what I criticize?”

Conflicts look very different seen from the vantage point of these different questions. Wanting to be right is a very different impulse than wanting to be better.  (Better than who? Yourself yesterday.)

If there is very short advice leading peacewards this might be it:


This could be one letter of peace. Now we are starting to spell the reality, not just the word.

If trying to improve ourselves is a step towards peace, slogans like “hate hate!” typify the opposite direction, making us MORE like what we criticize.

Here is an insidious, thus dangerous war seed — namely the impulse to see ourselves as entities already being right, having nothing to LEARN and everything to TEACH.

The premise is that in some mysterious way we have gotten (cheaply) tickets to the section of life’s theater called The Right Side. Those we disagree with, criticize, attack and wage war against are sitting not on the Left Side but on the WRONG SIDE.

A current example of this is people who are shocked, indignant and furious because Donald Trump has made a statement about “blame on both sides”. Something one would have thought to be a truism. Not so, it seems.

Enough! That was today’s spelling lesson.

–To sum up: As long as we take it totally for granted that we understand peace — without actually looking at the function and dynamics of harmonious and polarizing tendencies  — we will just repeat ourselves, going through the same old (more or less antagonistic) movements as before.

The spelling of war we well (TOO WELL) understand. With the spelling of peace we are beginners.

A musical map of peace, part 7

Time to wrap things up. No need to go into all kinds of details, there will be time for chiseling and polishing later.

Summing it up:

  1. There are two “halves” to the map, a left side and a right side. Two keywords for Left and Right: Conflict and Concord.
  2. In the outer corners, war in bloom and peace in bloom.
  3. The left side is much more known, explored and experienced than the right. We know a lot about war, competition and conflict but what does “peace in bloom” mean…?
  4. In the center, a neutral pair of “twins”: Agon/ and Concert.
  5. From this center we move into antagonism and violence towards the left, into consonance, music and friendly concord towards the right.
  6. The right half needs much study and thought. In music we are just as familiar with consonance as with dissonance: in general everyday life consonance and harmony are not well understood.
  7. In a way, war is also not well understood, if you allow for intermediate stages like “crypto-war” and “war-seeds”. (All of this is about the left side.)
  8. We are used to define peace with strong elements of war present. (Power of balance = weapon based peace.) Let us now define it with elements of music.

These are the parts of the map:

CENTER: Agon/Concert

LEFT SIDE: War in bloom – Agony – Antagonism-

RIGHT SIDE: Musica subliminalis (mirroring, bonding, entrainment)- Musica instrumentalis (music making)- Musica humana (harmonious living in everyday life)- Peace in bloom

As you can see the left side is immediately understandable even by a small child, while the right side needs much explanation and clarification.

My understanding is that we know so much more about “left” than “right” = are better at quarreling than listening, competing than cooperating, disagreeing than finding common harmony, hanging out in the War room than in the Peace room.

Phew, I now the declare the map finished, at least ready enough to be used.

What follows from now on will be clarifications in practical contexts. The adventure continues in the same galaxy, but in a more musical key hopefully…

Why Venus?

People ask me about this project: What’s with Venus…?

They look a bit suspiciously at me, as if I wasn’t reliable, just making up fantasies about peace. Or maybe they think it’s some kind of science-fiction fairy-tale.

Others ask:  “Are you a real Venusian?” (No comment.)

So I guess I should address these doubts and this suspicion. Why DID I bring Venus into the picture, what’s Venus got to do with peace?

First question first.

I brought Venus, or rather Venusian qualities and concepts (harmony, beauty, love, music, balance, art, etc.) into the picture because, as I see it, peace is a rather empty word. It is like an almost empty handbag. It looks great and wonderful from the outside, but there’s not much in it.

Many people say that peace is / should be more than absence of war — i.e. something negative — but I lack a clear picture of WHAT MORE.

What more should peace mean, what should we fill our handbag with?

My suggestion: Venusian qualities. Partly because they are the counterweight to war (Mars is the bringer of war, Venus of peace), and partly because the Venusian qualities are not just lofty (as many ideas of peace are) but also enjoyable.

I see it as very important that peace should be both active and enjoyable if it is to compete with  the warlike energies in our world.

War is certainly active, well-financed, well organised, done with (sometimes devilish) intelligence.

Enjoyable it isn’t, in the sense that nobody wants to be shot at or bombed. However, if we look at the bigger picture, all the different activities pertaining to war and violence (movies, books, plays. computer games, constant mass media coverage of conflicts, killings, etc.) receive much more attention and interest than activities of peace.

I sometimes write on Medium.com. When you launch a text there you add keywords and can see how many people have subscribed to that subject.

Peace: 4k.
War: 7k

Or let’s search Google.

Peace, around 907 000 000 hits.
War , around 2 140 000 000 hits. 

So war wins! Definitely our interest if not our hearts.  (And what gets our interest gets our energies.)

You might call this anecdotal; I see it as a clear sign of where our attention and energy go.

Peace as an absence  — in spite of the well meaning intention that peace should be more than something negative,  peace is still often defined as “Freedom from disturbance, cessation of war or violence” — just isn’t very interesting. War, in spite of its horrible aspects, catches our hearts and minds much more easily.

Second question: What’s Venus got to do with peace?

Far too little! That’s why I am launching this project, to bring them nearer to each other…
So that they can fecundate and pollinate each other. Often. Sure, we can have peace festivals and events of different kinds, but peace needs to be part of everyday life, not just a holiday or feast day.

Bringing Venus into the picture is also a way to try to balance the global tendency of solving problems with violence.

“If we have enough weapons on both sides nobody will dare to shoot first…”

This is called “balance of power”, but has very little to do with Venusian balance.

This weapon-based, almost war-based thinking is very primitive. The impulse is still to kill, dominate, oppress, but we stop ourselves… by rearmament! It is as if Dr Jekyll tried to be a moral and honest man by turning more TOWARDS, not away from, Mr Hyde.

I hope you can see the paradox in this kind of weapon-based peace. My suggestion is: let’s upgrade to something better, something truly peaceful.

If we want peace Venus is our planet. Not Mars.

Building a peace map


A musical map of peace, part 6

Let’s move on with our map. I fear that even though this is supposed to be a musical map, the music has to wait a bit. (We have something to look forward to!)

What becomes increasingly clear is that we are looking at a picture with two halves. The center point seems to be the twins Agon/Concert.

WAR-AGONY-ANTAGONISM-AGON¦CONCERT (subliminalis/ instrumentalis/ humana)

Somewhat arbitrarily (or intuitively) I have put war to the left and peace to the right. Let us pursue this left-right dichotomy further.


Left and right is not just normal but the norm in much of our thinking, especially in politics.

Sure, we have gradations like “far left” and “extreme right”, but these don’t reduce and soften the polarity but only make it stronger, even more tension-filled and explosive.One probable reason for the ubiquitousness of left-right thinking is that is it so easy. We have a body with a left and right side, a left and a right hemisphere. But even more basic is the view in front of our nose: our two hands.

The word “right” has a double meaning in many languages, indicating both a direction and a value (the right thing, right thinking). In Hungary this is extremely clear in the name of the radical right wing party Jobbik. “Jó” means good, “jobb” means “right” as direction and “better” as value, while “Jobbik” means “even better” or “even more to the right”

Now that’s a good meme for a party that wants voters (and which party doesn’t?).

It would now be quite natural and predictable for me to make the suggestion: Let’s get away from our left-right thinking. Let’s be holistic and look beyond; think outside the box, go outside our differences.

But what my map has uncovered, what it has turned up to be, IS actually a left-right model. Only different from the usual political one.

So I will retain the left-right model but redefine, magnify and widen it. In doing this it actually will become holistic, go beyond our usual thinking. It will include, encompass and “hug” our bad old political left-right model.

So, all of the political left-right model will be on the left side in my map.

Agon and antagonism go well together with our usual political thinking, which is mostly competitive, aggressive, critical, polarized, exaggerating differences of aims and agendas in order to get a clearer “profile”. (One doesn’t want voters to think: “These parties have so many similarities that I might as well vote on the one or the other.” That way political defeat lies, or at least party defeat. Which might not be such a bad thing from my perspective.)

So polar tension is magnified, not diminished. And all this competitive tension takes place on the left side of our map.


The right side of our map, on the other hand, is almost apolitical.

It lacks exactly that tension which seems to be the stuff of politics. It does not talk about ratings, statistics, winners, losers.

Of course success and failure, even fiasco, are not unknown in art, music and theater. They can sometimes act as thrill and “spice” in art and music (at least while we still enjoy the excitement of Agonistic energies).

And right here I want to STOP because I hit on a very good word for the Left Side: Agonistic

That would be the adjective, and Agonism the noun.

In this way, all the polarity, quarrels, fighting and wars between left and right can now be moved to the left. They are the New Left. A different kind of Left.

Thus we arrive to a


If is tempting to think in terms of the classic dichotomy Yin And Yang, but I don’t see an obvious correspondence at the moment.

One should not invent unnecessary neologisms but here I feel that we can benefit from two new words.

Agonism would be the first one, our new left side.

The right side, following the logic of having concert as the twin of Agon, could be Concordism, our new right.

AGONISM: Contest, competition, battle
CONCORDISM Concord, friendliness, co-operation
In this way we can continue talking and thinking about left and right. We can still look down on our hands, but see a new meaning in them.

The old left and right (battling, competing, warring, explosive) would both be included in the New Left side. While the New right would be a largely unwritten page, leaving us with new hopes, giving new aspirations and new optimism.

Part 7

A musical map of peace, part 5

Let’s continue exploring and building our peace map, which is more and more turning into a peace handbook or manual.

It must be like that, because a mere map does not help. Yes, orientation IS important, especially when it comes to an area that we think we know but actually haven’t assessed in a really careful, open-minded way. But we also need to know the steps to take to reach peace; just looking around is not enough.

–And as you notice this is a map in progress, meaning that I am “discovering” it while I go on. It’s not something that was finished when I started writing. You can regard it as a stream of consciousness thing (which is often pretentious) — or a journey to which you are invited. Presenting finished ready-mades to readers is standard procedure, but I choose another road.

One important aspect of the map is the division into two halves, with a neutral area in the middle. And as with Yin and Yang both sides seem to contain traces of the other side.

One half deals with, works according to the Win-Lose model, the other with Win-Win. One could say that one is dualistic, binary, oppositional, while the other is more wholeistic and friendly, with no element of duel.


On the left side you have two teams (or individuals), on the right everybody is member of the same team. (In a way in sports you have the peaceful version as well, but only on one side, within the team [or within the contesting individual, who surely wants to be in harmony with himself].  In peace there are no sides, just one big team, one big orchestra if you will.)

We’re in this together.

A very important thing if we want to go from theory to practice, to really move from the left to the right side , is maintaining interest.

So much advertising has been done throughout history for the dynamic values, interest and excitement of sports, contests and battles. We have books, plays, movies, poems, symphonies, odes, statues, monuments, all (critically or positively) concerned with  war, battle and fighting.

Positive or negative does not much matter; all attention is “good” attention, as the moderns like to say.

So most everybody knows, feels and understands the left side.

If peace is to have a fair chance one must demonstrate that it too can be dynamic, interesting and exiting. Otherwise it will, in all frankness (and we badly need to stand on the terra firma of frankness) remain the concern of a small minority, a group of idealists who don’t “understand” that peace is not really possible, who are too stupid to see that if one wants peace “one should prepare for war”, etc.

Thus peace remains, in spite of all the grand things said about it, a pastime for a minority.

So what can we do?

We need to find  Win-Win without boredom, build peace that is not bland, create harmony that is not tasteless and wishy-washy. It is now my task to demonstrate and convince you of this. I daresay, a beautiful and wonderfully challenging task. May the Higher Powers guide my hand and thought in this endeavor.

Of course we cannot expect peace to be dynamic, interesting and exiting in the exact same way as war, sports and contest are. That would be no progress at all, we would remain in the same place, just renaming things. (And we already live in the age of Beautiful (but false) Euphemisms.)

So we need to actually move and travel and transition.

Now there is a very important and interesting transition / conversion from the excitement of war to the excitement of peace. A word for that transition is “refinement”.

I note that some people are afraid of that word.

However, they probably would not protest if invited to a Michelin restaurant where they could eat food the level of which, and the rarity of which, was up in the stratosphere compared with what they usually ate, and drink wine far far above their income.

That kind of refinement few people would protest against. Everybody would gives one’s taste buds a chance to try something truly sublime for a change.

Yes, I’ll have a bite of that.
That one also looks interesting…
Maybe that one, too, but not too much!
And surely we must have dessert!

If somebody invited us to listen to their million dollar stereo equipment to compare it with our 20 dollar MP3-player, we also would not protest.

Yes, let’s listen to some true HI-Fi sounds and see what they “taste” like.

Sounds good to me.

Again refinement is just fine.

And if we were offered a free sample of the most expensive and delicious spa treatment–aromatherapy, massage, pedicure, the works — we also probably would just accept and enjoy.

Looks good.
A caviar facial, yes.
And a 24k gold facial mask!
Let’s not forget the pedicure.

Again we would welcome refinement.

— So let’s remember how much refinement we would gladly accept — and have that insight as a springboard for moving on.

There are novel untasted joys around the corner, new sensations and experiences beyond the McDonald’s fast-food paradigm. Instead of preferring refinement here but not there, this way but not that, let’s open-mindedly explore new areas of dynamism, interest and excitation. And let’s abandon our foolish fear of a word that basically means more, higher, further.

Now that was a lengthy pep talk but I think we need it. A theory can be fabulously brilliant but if nobody feels an inclination to try it out it will remain academic.

Peace can be described in glowing terms but if war-like activities attract us more we will remain in the Talk-the-walk sector. And we clearly need to move into the Walk-the-talk area.

This is a big enough chunk for now. To be continued soon.

PS:  Somebody protests: “What you have described is not refinement but luxury.”

Yes, but luxury can be inspiration and invitation to refinement, to move and progress beyond cheap thrills, from eating to tasting, from hearing to listening, hopefully from war to peace.

Let me end (after all, this is supposed to be a musical map) with a piece of luxurious music.

Part 6

Aim for the stars (or at least the planets)

There is in paxology a certain fear of aiming high. A fear of sounding too idealistic, too naive,  too starry-eyed, etc.

Also, many people “know” that peace, world peace even more, is impossible. They have all kinds of more or less intelligent arguments  and theories for asserting this.

But people who “know” what is possible and impossible are, even though they might be well-meaning, not helping .  On the contrary, they are themselves unwitting obstacles to peace.

What we dare not think we surely will not attempt.

This is also important when it comes to definitions of peace.  “Well-managed social conflict” is not good enough.  Careful, conservative definitions that still contain elements of war (“war can never be really stopped”), and also definitions that are limited to a political kind of thinking, are working according to an inverted saying by Ralph Waldo Emerson: Aim below the mark to hit the mark.

Emerson actually said Aim ABOVE the mark to hit the mark.

So which accidental shall we use,  the sharp that raises?

Aim high. Aim at the sun, and you might have a good chance of at least hitting a planet. Why not Venus?

Or the lowering flat?

Be careful and conservative!

And your very carefulness (in many situations a virtue) will hinder you from even reaching the stratosphere.

The fear of sounding idealistic or even Utopian (not one of my fears) is weighing us down and ties us to the ground —  a ground where war, war seeds and the interest in and fascination for war-related things (much encouraged by mass media, for whom bad news are “good” news) has become the norm.

We need a peace norm, and for that we need to be more, not less, “starry eyed”. It would actually be naive NOT to aim high, considering how many obstacles there are to peace. Let’s not add weak faith to the list.

Only the bravest efforts and greatest idealism will succeed in getting us there. Careful pragmatism will only redecorate the room, keeping the same old furniture, the same old curtain, same old carpet.

We need a new room, a peace room.

Not good enough…



A musical map of peace, part 4

And now let’s turn to the right and see what can be found on the other side of the map. “Found” is not really correct. This is at least as much about constructing as finding a map. Other map-makers or explorers would see a different landscape.

For me the center point of the map is AGON as I have pointed out. It stands for battle, trial of strength, contest.

Now it so happens that there is an other word that also means contest, a word that takes us right into the heart of music.


The etymology is, as most often, not unequivocal, but here is what I have found.

CONCERTARE: To contend, contest, dispute, Latin from “com”, with + “certare”  to contend, strive”.

In my mother tongue Hungarian this (and much else) is wonderfully clear. Piano concerto = zongora verseny = piano contest.

So here we are, right in the middle of our map, with TWO contests.  AGON (again) is a contest with more or less formal framework, with differing temperatures and styles (from boxing to figure skating) .

But what about the concert? What kind of contest is a piano concerto? Who wins and who loses, the pianist or the orchestra?

In the musical world that is one idiotic question! Or maybe philosophical. One can say that as a rule everybody wins. This is often the case with orchestral concerts. The conductor, all the musicians, the soloists and the choir win. And let’s not forget the audience.

So this seems to be a real win-win situation.

After meditating on the workings of music making I come to a rather stunning conclusion: What so many talk about, not least in business and also politics, namely win-win, is something that is found all over the place in music. We walk the talk, while most others talk the walk.

Music is a win-win domain, while so much of life (It’s a jungle out there)  is win-lose. Sports obviously. But much of life is conducted as sports, for example business and politics, two domains that shape our lives immensely.  (Or is it immensilly?)

I will get back to the win-win aspect of music, but now let’s look at the question of harmony.

Harmony is a word that belongs very much with music, and as we shall see harmony exists on many levels, from unconscious harmony to willed, intentional harmony.

I will postulate three kinds: subliminal, instrumental and human harmony.

Two of these corresponds with the kinds of music Greek music theorist Boethius talked about. (It could perhaps be said that all three correspond, but that is theoretical and I will leave it for now.)


The first kind of harmony I call Musica subliminalis.

Harmony  is about uniting in a group, a chord, a concord; several parts finding their place and function in a larger whole. I think that loose definition will do for now.

Interestingly, one has found that when people meet, a uniting / harmonizing / tuning process takes place on many levels, totally unconsciously.

Our movements follow our words closely, which is not so strange, but also the words of others. We fall into (or rise up to) imitative behavior very easily (seems it would be more difficult not to imitate each other).

There is something called emotional contagion where your smile tends to bring out “smiling” emotions in me, and vice versa.

Or your sadness…

brings out mine.

And so called “mirror neurons” are mirroring the behavior of others, as though we ourselves were acting.

Neuron, neuron, on the wall…

So, in many microcosmic ways we seem to be geared towards harmony, in the sense of doing things similarly, imitatively, in concord. Harmony is already in us as a base or foundation. One could perhaps say that musicality is already in us, in latent, potential form.


Harmony of the second kind we know well, even though we can know it even better. It is what is called music making. I say “called” because there are other kinds of music making. We’ll come to that soon.

Here things are no longer unconscious. We are playing and singing with musical intention, more or less practiced and polished technique, more or less flair. This is what Boethius calls Musica instrumentalis (which comprises both playing and singing).

As I said, this is a know domain and activity. However, by scrutinizing it closer we will see that there is much more to learn about it, not just for musicians but for everybody.

Actually, there are confusingly many things in the musical domain – composers, instruments, concerts, music, audiences, media (CD, LP, videos.), musicality, etc. The aspect I want to single out is music making, the act of playing or singing.

It we concentrate on music on the other hand, we know that there is a lot of aggressive music, both in classical and even more in modern popular music. But now I will look at playing and singing.

What can be said in a general way about music making? What are its basic elements?

Of course one needs TECHNIQUE. For some instruments, and some levels, this is the result of many years of hard work and practice. But most people have a voice and can sing. Joining a amateur choir is within reach of many many people.

One part of this technique, not so often mentioned or seen as central, is LISTENING. I would say that this is the entire half of music, the Yin side. It is very important for what is to come, and generally for life and humans. (We have one mouth but two ears, that in itself should be a pointer to the importance of listening.)

So, musicians listen to each other, to the music, to themselves. They are actually experts in listening, at least in music making. Nothing guarantees that they will be good listeners in conversation; other rules apply in that sphere. But in music making, we musicians must be in command of the technique of listening.

Music making is also radically wholistic. That word is much used, and often misused, but here it is clearly correct. It means that in music making the importance of the whole is supreme, and unquestioned.

In life we might be in many ways partisans, dissenters, rebels, disagreeing with everybody, but in music making we must be, and are, in agreement and harmony.

This is exemplified by the not uncommon case of an ensemble that has played together a LONG time, are fed up with each other, but still go on playing. They don’t like each other, arrive in separate taxis to the venue, but then they walk onstage and… what happens?

The play the same piece, in the same style, same tempo, same key! Of course! That’s how music making works. It is a protected peace zone.

One more aspect of music making, especially when it comes to more professional musicians, can be called breadth. A pro musician must to be able to play music from Bach to Bartok, at least. He cannot afford to have hobby horses, to love one or two composers at the expense of everybody else. His musicianship needs to be versatile and urbane.

Technique, listening, holistic attitude, versatility — these are four important keywords for music making. There are of course more, but these four capture a lot of the essence of music making. (Technique alone has many many subdivisions. Listening can be seen as technique, as well as holistic attitude and versatility. And one could write a whole chapter about handling silence.)

I think this is enough for now. Let’s put away our instruments and have a coffee break. In the next installment we will look at harmony of the third kind — the novel, exiting and very essential (for Venusian peace) phase of music making without instruments.

Part 5

A musical map of peace, part 3

Let us continue building our map.

We will remain on the left side, moving towards war in bloom. It would be nicer to talk about peace, harmony and music, but if peace is to have a chance we need to understand why the “competition” is so strong.

Let us start at our center point, AGON.

Let AGON stand for game, competition (as we find in sports). As I see it the impulse to compete (we don’t have to call it good or bad) is very basic to Man.

But of course it has its dialects, intensities and temperatures. It can stay within clearly defined and regulated bounds, or it can overflow into “hot”, emotionally loaded manifestations.

Think of a tennis match. The match is over and the contestants part. Now imagine that they still harbor hard feelings and anger. Then the match is not over. It has overflowed and infected life outside the framework of the game.

One could say that the energy has moved to the next stage.

AGON is delimited and “cool”. When it heats up, it gets personal, intense and moves to the stage of ANTAGONISM.

AGON >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> ANTAGONISM

If the two tennis players go even further in their enmity they might resort to actual physical (not just emotional and verbal) violence. This I call AGONY. Now we have a private war going on, size Small but still a war.

Difference between Agon and Antagonism: temperature, intensity and added emotional element.

Difference between Antagonism and Agony: actual physical violence.

Let’s zoom in on more nuances. AGON relates to (delimited) sports, contests, parlor games, card games, etc.

Regarding the emotional element it is hard to draw clear lines. Even in a card game or Monopoly we can become emotionally involved, angry or sad. But usually this wears off after a short time. We don’t go for weeks fuming about our loss.

A positive side of AGON relates to self-development. With sports and games we can train and improve our bodies, coordination, reactions and also our emotional control.

This can be in teams or by ourselves, with stronger or weaker elements of win-lose.

In more harmonious, inward-directed forms we can challenge ourselves to a duel, trying to win over ourselves, not others. These higher aspects of AGON are beautifully illustrated in the movie Peaceful Warrior.  As the title says, here war (agon) and peace are harmonized.

Now let’s look at the nitty-gritty sphere of ANTAGONISM.

Not all of us are into sports or games but I think hardly anyone is free from some kind of antagonistic impulses /  activities.

These range from ephemeral and lightweight to heavy, problematic and poisonous.

And here it becomes very important to not just point a finger but observe the three fingers pointing at us.

Outlook we have, often in excess, but inlook (English for introspection) is just as much needed. At the root of ANTAGONISM I see these impulses:

  • I want me to be right and you to be wrong
  • I want to be better / stronger / richer / more beautiful than you
  • I want to be in control, and you to be controlled
  • I want 100 times as many Facebook friends and “likes” as you have (modern variant)

Let’s be radically honest and admit that it can be wonderful to be ADMIRED, RIGHT,  the BEST, the most BEAUTIFUL. Getting lots of praise and “likes” can create a wonderfully warm feeling in our breast.

But this is not = the antagonistic impulse. The latter wants to see someone lose, and is much more concerned with seeming than being.

Lavish praise does not make us good –quite apart from the fact that praise from some people carry no weight at all. Winning an argument does not make us right — even though we “won” this particular arguing match against a particular (perhaps very illogical) opponent.

Still we allow ourselves on some level to feel like KINGS under such circumstances. Other parts of us know better, rather thinking ourselves beggars for being so easily flattered. But the impulse to be king is usually stronger than the insight of begging.

So we fight, in true antagonistic fashion, for these prices, medals and awards, even though deep down we know that they are not gold but tin, not substantial but mere image, no true adventures but cheap thrills.

What does antagonism look like in real life? Here are some examples.

  • quarreling about who’s fault something is
  • debating religious / philosophical / political / etc. questions
  • trying to prove that you have been unjustly treated
  • trying to prove hos silly and credulous other people are (popular with “skeptics”)

“Quarrel”, “debate” and “proof” are important keywords. Generally, we find ANTAGONISM in all situations where the impulses mentioned above enter.

ANTAGONISM can be of shorter or longer duration. Family feuds can go on for generations, while a heated quarrel fires up, fizzles and dies down after some hours, maybe days.

From the more intense forms of ANTAGONISM we move towards AGONY and war in bloom.

However, war needn’t have emotional components. It can also be a simple, cheap case of stealing.

“I want what you have. But since it doesn’t look good in these modern times to just take it away from you, I will find or fabricate some crime on your side which will serve as motive for me to declare war on you, you terrorist, you!”

So far the left, dark side. In the next part we will finally look at the other, brighter side of our map.

Part 4

A musical map of peace, part 2

In my first text about a peace map I wrote  basically this:

Between a “black” region of war and a “white” region of peace we have a grey area that needs to be explored better.

We can regard the whole thing as a garden with flowers in bloom and seeds not yet in bloom. (These seeds might never bloom, just remain inactive.)

War in bloom

What is usually called war I call “war in bloom”.  As to peace in bloom, let us for the time being regard it as an unknown quantity/ quality.

Let’s focus in the middle, grey region. What do we have there?

That is no easy question. What is the middle point between war and peace? Is there even such a point? Is this perhaps mainly and abstract, semantic question?

My aim is to speak in as practical terms as possible. Quite obviously this map needs to be a map of human impulses and tendencies. We must address the question “what impulses lie behind war?”.

One could say that war is an activity while peace is a state. That would make peace a passive, thus potentially uninteresting and boring phenomenon. This passive aspect of peace I believe is an important reason for the disinterest (to be perfectly honest) many people hold for peace.

“If peace is when nothing much happens, why should we work for it, why concern ourselves with “nothing much”…?

But it need not be that way. Peace can be just as much activity as war. However, we don’t have as good understanding of peace-as-action as war-as-action.

So let us look at that middle point. My suggestion is that we write AGON in the middle between war and peace-

WAR ————–AGON—————– PEACE

What is agon then? A greek word for contest and competition. In ancient Greece, agons were contests held during public festivals. Our modern Olympics are modeled on these contests.

I will use the word basically as meaning competition/ struggle, and regard is as a neutral point. (Obviously it is relevant to sports.)

Let us now build the left part of our map. What other stations can we find between agon and war (in bloom)?

I suggest the next step be antagonism: anti (against) plus agōnizesthai (to struggle, from agōn). In antagonism we don’t just compete in a match, we are opponents, adversaries, even enemies. We are one step closer to war in bloom.

Our map (left side) now looks like this:


I suggest we insert one more phase before war, namely agony. Agony already hurts, already bleeds. We are moving more and more into the red area. Just as with a clipping microphone distortion sets in.

I am for now content with the left side of the map, which looks like this:


So, from the neutral central point of agon, found in sports, we move into more and more hostile, combative, belligerent energies.

In part 3 we will look more closely at these three stations. I believe important insights about peace and peace work can be discovered there.

Part 3