One thing to notice about a symphony is that it is, first and foremost, an alignment of wholes — all players in their own place with their own instruments, their own voice. Each also shares the desire to harmonize, blend their voices, and create beauty. Mental health advocacy and a symphony should be more alike.
The thread that ties the players and music together is responsibility, each one, all together. taking personal responsibility for the music’s perfection, for their part, and, ultimately, for the harmony. The alignment of wholes, all commited to producing the same grand result, say Handel’s Messiah. each with their own instrument, in their own voice.
So if mental health advocacy and a symphony are alike, what is the first the piece to play? The end of poverty etc.? Can the players all commit to this, to playing their own instruments, and harmonizing.
Buying in to Mental Health Advocacy and a Symphony
In community organizing, it’s called buying in. If that doesn’t occur, nothing of real consequence will occur, certainly not transformational change.
Clearly a symphony occurs at the moment all the players and the conductor begin playing together, and that’s when the audience begins to listen.
I am reminded of the powerful Biblical notion: ” Where there is no vision the people perish.”
The fact is consumers are dying. Yet, our vision is “Whateva” — many “sorta visions,” and we are dying by the thousands.
One last point about the mental health advocacy and a symphny metaphor:
The audience ain’t listening. In my 10 or so years around the consumer thing I’ve met maybe one group that truly has felt it has a voice that is heard. Sadly, they’ve not been able to effect massive change either — some better outcomes, but fundamentally within the same deadening paradigm.
Effectively, they’re still playing the same game only a little better. I’m sure they disagree with that, but folks are still poor, dependant and dying earlier in their area like elsewhere, better outcomes aside.
How can we make mental health advocacy and a symphony more alike?
You Don’t Have to be Yo Yo Ma to Play A Part
You know who the whole symphony turns to in order to stay in tune? The oboe.
Also, you don’t have too many instruments playing self-sufficiently or independent of the whole. The orchestra depends on each person to play their part together. This takes a significant amount of practice time TOGETHER, learning how to stay in tune with each other, blending in with each other, but also supporting soloists when the time comes.
Mental Health Advocacy and a Symphony Practice Teamwork
We don’t just sit around in practice rooms “working on ourselves,” and then magically sit down and play a symphony together. You’ve got to practice, practice, practice alone and TOGETHER. And there is room for a variety of skill levels from third chair to first chair. We don’t all have the same skill or talent.
And not every person can play every instrument equally well. So, you don’t have too many trumpet players telling cello players how to play, or bassoon players telling trombones how to play. We respect each other’s difference,s special talent, and skill at their particular instrument.
And rarely, do you point to someone like Yo Yo Ma and say, “oh everyone can be Yo Yo Ma if they just worked harder or tried harder.” Some people just are extraordinary. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t play in the orchestra.
People often point to certain leaders who have done extraordinarily well, who have totally recovered ,and say that everyone can do this. I suppose that this inspires some people, but personally, it makes me feel discouraged. It’s like saying I can be Yo Yo Ma if I work harder.
It is true that some things are given, like the piece, the notes, the key, and time signature. And we all have to trust and follow the director.
I really do believe that one thing that would help “our movement,” if indeed there is one, would be to be more tolerant and respectful of each others’ differences, different abilities, skill levels, talent, and instruments.
I hate to say it, but the vast majority of musicians don’t make a lot of money, and I don’t know what the average life expectancy is for active musicians. I would say it probably isn’t the same as the life expectancy for the average person.