Stars and moons are very different celestial bodies, but they work in perfect harmony to keep the universe in balance. They are an example of God’s perfection in creation. The universe is full of amazing things from the earth, sea and sky to plants, animals and people. Every unique element has its place and must be respected and honoured for its’ difference, as it is our differences more than our similarities that make the world such an interesting and amazing place.
The awesomeness of creation was revealed in the 1959 Academy Award nominated Disney animated film of “Donald in Mathmagic Land”. Here, Donald Duck enters the wonderful world of Mathematics. Mathematics is simply the language of pattern and number, a way mathematicians explain the harmony of things within the universe. The film illustrates the beauty of the Golden Ratio, the perfect number (Ø = 1.61803398875…). Isn’t it just beautiful! If you can’t quite see its magical qualities you will have to watch the film, which possibly is available on YouTube. This enchanted ratio appears throughout creation; in the proportions of the human body, in architecture, in classic art, in music, in the spirals of seashells and pine cones and many more places. Mathematics explains how everything in the universe comes together in perfect harmony. Even in chaos, Mathematicians find order and harmony. Don’t you just love mathematics!
In some ways, as human beings we may be different, but the Golden ratio would suggest that we are all perfect and the same. We are all perfectly proportioned. We know this to be true, as we are all made in the image and likeness of God, “and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” [Colossians 3:10-11], and, “so God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” [Genesis 1:27].
So, what does all this mean? It means that our diversity is to be cherished and celebrated. To achieve harmony we need to “create an environment where all can flourish, regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, gender, class, caste, or any other social markers of difference. Religion, ethnicity, language, social and cultural practices are elements which enrich human civilization, adding to the wealth of our diversity. Why should they be allowed to become a cause of division, and violence? We demean our common humanity by allowing that to happen”. Nelson Mandela New Delhi, India, 31 January 2004.
Today we celebrated our cultural diversity at Holy Cross College for Harmony Day. We are so lucky to have such a diverse community. It was wonderful to see students proudly dressed in their cultural costumes, demonstrating cultural dances and songs, highlighting different languages and traditions. The display of flags from different countries and the parade of costumes created a colourful and vibrant atmosphere. Harmony Day acknowledges our cultural diversity and is about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, united by a set of core Australian values. Today’s celebrations were a treasured distraction from the growing concerns in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.
As parents and teachers we can foster cultural harmony and a respect for diversity through our actions, language and stories. Many old fairy tales and folk stories are embedded with language and settings that are inappropriate in today’s context. Some have valuable morals or messages but may need to be modified to ensure cultural inclusivity and respect. A popular storybook of the early 1990’s was the tale of Stellaluna by Janell Cannon which promoted a wholesome story of acceptance of difference and the importance of allowing children to express their individual identity.
Stellaluna is a young fruit bat who becomes separated from her mother and finds her way to a nest of birds. She is adopted by them and learns bird-like behaviour. Initially, Stellaluna hung upside down near the nest and there she stayed until her hunger got the better of her. Eventually she climbed back into the nest and allowed the mother bird to feed her insects, which Stellaluna thought were disgusting. The mother bird tolerated Stellaluna until her chicks started to hang upside down. Then she put her foot down. Stellaluna could stay with the birds only if she agreed to obey all the rules that the mother bird had. Stellaluna agreed to the mother bird’s terms and so she slept in the nest, ate bugs without making faces, and when it came time to fly she did her best to land on branches upright, as the other birds did. It was not easy being a bat who was pretending to be a bird.
She soon grew close to the hatchlings as if they’re her siblings; however, even if Stellaluna can fly like a bird, it becomes increasingly obvious that she’s a different sort of critter with different ways of doing things. Eventually, Stellaluna finds other bats and reunites with her mother, and she learns how to behave like a bat. She introduces the birds to her bat family. Stellaluna and the birds decide that, despite their many differences, they are still friends.
The story of Stellaluna looks at friendships, overlooking differences to find common ground, and the universality of feeling like a bat in a bird’s world. One philosopher interpreted the book as showing that children are not either good or bad: children with non-conforming behaviours may be expressing their abilities and needs. Stellaluna’s behaviours, though discouraged by mother bird, were not actually bad behaviours, but rather an expression of her identity as a bat.
In keeping with the aspirations of Harmony Day we can learn from the story of Stellaluna and embrace difference and love our children and neighbours for who they and how they enrich our lives.
As in the words of the famous poem, Desiderata, “you are a child of the universe, you have a right to be here”.
When things are in balance the world is an awesome place.