Benjamin Zander, Reflection

Telling the WE Story


Ben Zander starts this last chapter with a story that is totally timely. He relates how he arranged for a group of students to study in England and invited his father to come one evening to speak to them. The elder Zander traced a subject that was dear to his heart – the long and memorable history of the Jewish people. He then began another story – that of the Palestinian people and their history and achievements. His son wondered where we would be today if there had been a similar respect for and understanding of both cultures before the time of partition in 1947.

So much of our history has been one of us and them – of politicians, of those who occupy Wall Street from different perspectives, of faith groups – even those within the same denomination let alone those of different traditions, of volunteer boards whose members have different interests and agendas. It applies right down to the level of the family where the scapegoat is perceived as the problem.

Zander’s solution is to look for the possibility of common ground emerging. It doesn’t mean that we should lose our sense of differentiation and identity. But it does mean that we look at the possibility. He sees it in musical terms as the melody that can be harmonized. It asks us to look at the best possibility within ourselves rather than staying in fixed positions, to entertain the possibility of relationship rather than the separation caused by fear or greed. Scripture refers to this as “listening with the ear of the heart” for something new emerging.

Roz Zander also tells a good story of her work as a therapist in dealing with an autistic child. Sometimes entering the world of another, even when that world is distorted will reach through barriers to a sense of “us”. Ben tells other stories of breaking boundaries, such as the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, a model that is now being used in other countries to heal the divisions of the past.

A key phrase for me personally came out of a conference in which remarks were getting heated about a future piece of legislation for the organization. It ended when a comment came from the floor. “There is no us and them – there is just us.”

We’ve come to the end of the book and it is well worth a read – not to be short changed by the very brief excerpts from it here. If you are interested in possibility – this is a place to start.


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