The Tone of Life

    Volker Brendel:  We have just launched the Tone of Life website (www.toneoflife.org). This took considerable effort, both technically and in producing the content. It was not the easiest of births, because of the nature of what we are trying to do and convey. I suppose if you have a business, let's say you are a car dealer, and you need to set up a website, it is pretty straightforward to determine what should be on the site. You tell your potential customers what brands of cars will be available, what types (new or used or both), what models, your opening hours, maybe some characteristics of your approach to business, and so forth; all fairly straightforward, and there are many examples to follow.

    In our case, we wanted to create a landing place for anyone and introduce them to our core interests. How to put this into words? This is what we came up with (from the first page):


    The Tone of Life is the spirit behind the finest and noblest qualities of character in every one of us.

    This site is a meeting place for people who are discovering the truth of eternal being and a deeper purpose in life. You will find here transcripts and audios of talks given by individuals who voice the tone of life. In these talks, we seek to reveal facets of the divine potential in everyone, and how the tone of life can ring clearly in every moment of our living.

    Our intention is to create a space above the chaos and noise all around, where we can rediscover the truth of divine identity and our shared destiny.

    We are each a window through which the light of spirit shines. Together, in communion with many others who share a quickening awareness of true purpose, we can uplift our world."

    I think these words are both accurate and, you might say, a bit vague. But let's examine this, meditating upon some of the words. "The tone of life is the spirit behind the finest and noblest qualities of character in every one of us." There is acknowledgment here that we are referring to something inherent in every human being, and that the tone of life, this force, is the spirit behind that expression. There is also appreciation for the outer job we have, which involves expressing the finest and noblest qualities of character, as well as the recognition that there is a source that inspires us to do that.

    "This site is a meeting place for people who are discovering the truth of eternal being and a deeper purpose in life." We are conceiving of this web site as a meeting place, a virtual one, intended for people who are discovering the truth of eternal being and a deeper purpose in life. The emphasis here is on "discovering"—indicating an active, ongoing process. We seek to reveal facets of the divine potential in everyone, in a space above the chaos and noise all around. I think everyone can relate to the experience of chaos and noise, and there is longing in many people to experience a place of peace and calm.

    "We are each a window through which the light of spirit shines. Together, in communion with many others who share a quickening awareness of true purpose, we can uplift our world." I think these words provide a prescription for a magnifying glass with which to examine our life experience. Every moment of our living is an opportunity to express the tone of life. We may review any aspect of our life experiences through this lens—what has been the quality of our spirit, we may ask ourselves? How clear was the window which we have provided for this light?

    I would like to tell you a couple of stories that initially might seem at first glance to be hardly connected but lie at the core of this same topic. The first story relates to our farmers' market in Bloomington. It is a wonderful community meeting place where, every Saturday during the growing season, our local farmers sell their goods. There is a lot of music, and we have enjoyed procuring our groceries for the week in this joyful atmosphere. However, in recent weeks, the farmers' market has been troubled. Things started with media reports that one group of long-standing vendors at the market had been active on social media on what is widely considered to be a somewhat right-winged forum. Apparently, this was discovered by some left-winged activists. For the sake of our consideration, I am using right-wing and left-wing as broad-brush labels—the details are not relevant to my story. At any rate, the left-wing folks started to publish their findings and protest at the market with signs of admonition not to buy anything from the particular vendor in question. Now, said vendor defended themselves saying that while they participate in certain forums in their private life, their conduct at the farmers' market had been impeccable for many years, and what they were doing in their free time was essentially a matter of their freedom of expression.

    Nonetheless, the situation soon escalated as the left-leaning group started pushing the issue and protesting more vehemently, in such a way that this whole story became ever more widely reported. Before long, a rather more right-wing group decided to offer their help to the vendor, calling them up to say that they were going to show up with a few people at the next market. Now, these are people who insist on the right to bear arms. The vendor reportedly declined, indicating that the local police provided sufficient oversight. However, the rather more right-wing group did show up, with weapons. A left-wing protester overstepped the boundary set up for protests and got detained. The Bloomington mayor then decided to cancel the farmers' market for a couple of weeks for security reasons. An alternative market sprang up on private grounds to provide the farmers a venue to sell their goods at the height of harvest season, and after more incidents of protest marches and agitated meetings about concerns, the old setup is back in place amidst added security measures.

    The vendor accused of being extremist on the right admitted to being in a group that emphasizes their European heritage and identity, and because that group has been implicated in some more serious misdeeds, there is for many cause for concern; the vendor is on record declaring that all they are interested in is expressing their own pride in their European heredity.

    For me, the whole series of events is a case study in escalation: a rather peaceful and cheerful farmers' market was drawn, through assumptions and counter assumptions, scheming and counter scheming, quite a turmoil. How could this happen? We'll revisit this in a moment.

    A seemingly completely different story concerns my experience at a scientific conference I attended recently in Washington, D.C.. This conference was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and concerned sequencing genomes at an unprecedented scale, both of individual human beings for the purposes of guiding their medical treatments and ultimately focused on the sequencing the genomes of every species on earth. While the latter may sound utopian, the Wellcome trust in the UK has already provided funds to sequence all the 65,000+ species in the United Kingdom (Darwin Tree of Life Project). The interest in the health arena emerges from the thought that by knowing what is called your genotype (your cells' composition of genes) precisely, we can create personalized drug treatment; both when you are ill and as a preventive measure.

    One of the aspects of interest in this scenario is the idea that having endless amounts of data will allow us to proceed on a path to a better life. We might reflect on that thought! But the way this narrative is correlated with my first story involves the moment when the issue of giving credit came up. Several researchers reported that in the process of sequencing every species you have to go out and collect specimens, including in remote parts of the world. How will credit be shared? You come in as a foreign researcher and collaborate with locals. How should your findings be published? Who gets the credit? How is it shared? Furthermore, documenting all the data, putting them into databases, involves a considerable effort of time, and people raised concerns about young scientists—questioning whether they have enough time to do this while they also need to write up papers and tell wonderful stories in order to advance their careers?

    It was not hard to see how again the question of identity jeopardizes all these well-meaning efforts, even in the realm of science where we purport to deal with the pursuit of truth. In reality, how science is done is fraught with the same human nature concerns that come up in all other fields. In the end, the human ego is involved, and the human ego likes to pay attention to itself, and to be recognized for its great contributions. There is always in these circles a strong emphasis on the storytelling: wrap up your scientific discovery into a story that can reach the largest possible audience, goes the advice, and make sure that you are the one who gets credit for this.

    Our effort here is to provide a meeting place for people to rediscover the truth of eternal being and a deeper purpose in life, at a plane that is above the noise and chaos of the world. The essence of the conflict at the farmers' market is a search for identity. In the absence of the real experience people search for a context that provides identity. Often this is through culture—my cultural identity. I identify with that or, with my religious identity or, with my political association. Inevitably, these usurped identities will find reasons to clash with other such usurped identities, and very easily these clashes can escalate—you belong, you don't belong; you do this, and you are not part of us; you enter into what we have built, and you're not welcome; and so forth. Walls are built around false identities and defended.

    The efforts in the health field assume an identity of the human being that is guided by biochemical processes. If we just have enough data, we can figure out what is going on with you, what's wrong with you, and what will happen to you in the future; let's give you the right cocktail of drugs to make things better. Even a modicum of mathematical thinking will quickly show that this approach is doomed, because there are simply too many possible permutations. On the margin, for very particular cases this can be helpful. But because molecules do not act on their own, and drugs do not act on their own, the number of combinatorial possibilities of multiple molecules interacting is astronomical and can never be understood by the human intellect.

    Moreover, there is a cost to be paid: if for various reasons we pay more and more attention to the drug-based approach, the holistic view of who we are can get lost and simple remedies (ultimately the remedy of ascending to a plane that is beyond the noise and chaos of the human world) are deemphasized, at our peril.

    Over the centuries and millennia, the question of who we are has been correctly answered by individuals who knew who they were (and are). In many ways, they tried to help others to come to the same understanding. We know there has been a rule-based approach—the idea that we need to lay down a few commandments, and the proposition that if you follow those, you will prevent harm to yourself and to others, and calm things down enough that you may have a chance to figure out who you are. Obviously, some people are still following this approach; but apparently, even this must be simplified. Ten commandments seem to be too many to remember for most. Bringing it down to two is more accessible, but still it only goes so far. Then there is a mental approach that says, ok, there have to be some rules; but think about it yourself. You have been given the capacity to think. Use it. Figure out who you are, and what is beneficial to yourself and the world around you.

    That approach helps in other ways, but ultimately, at the deepest level, the question of identity reigns supreme: who is it who is obeying the rules, and who is it who is doing the thinking? I am. "I am" is the label of our divine identity. As we recognize that identity as foremost, everything else falls into place.

    We must use some words to describe all this. We use words on our webpage to provide a description of this meeting place. But ultimately, what it's all about is the rediscovery of the truth of our divine identity and our shared destiny.

    There is a wonderful set of volumes by Alan Hammond, friend to many of us, entitled Our Divine and Cosmic Identity. In my experience, this is the clearest expression available in the English language of the theme we are considering. In the introduction to Volume 3, Alan writes:

    " 'Our Divine and Cosmic Identity' can be a daunting, questionable idea to human beings. Yet it is the truth, and out of this central awareness emerges personal fulfillment and global transformation.

    There is only one Power animating all physical form. We may call this Power Life. Life is animating your form. You are an aspect of Life, the Creator."

    There is no alternative left to human beings. Through continuous refinement, we may associate more and more harmoniously with the Tone of Life. That is what we seek to express in every moment of our experience. We have to use words, but the words are not the Tone. The words clothe the Tone, and many words can and should be used.

    We have moved into a phase in our collective destiny in which it is our individual honest experience that is of utmost value. Never mind your outer circumstance; your background, your cultural, professional, gender identities; and so forth. At the core is your experience of life. If your experience is above the chaos and noise of the world, inevitably you will come to the experience of the One Life animating everyone and everything. That is the one place where all the conflict disappears, where we are truly able to focus on our creative mission. It is delightful to make our contribution in the community of our known friends and with everybody else who expresses this spirit.

September 1, 2019

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