The words “world peace” were virtually nonexistent in our corpus of English literature before the 20th century. Then came the 1900s, and we began to see the world, and we realized the world was not peaceful.
The phrase crept into our texts. The Great War came and went, and the frequency of those two words climbed with the death toll.
Two decades later, nations clashed in the greatest conflict in history. World peace had never been so distant a reality nor so popular in concept. The phrase peaked in 1945. It’s been on a mostly steady decline since.
Why? Have the lion and the lamb finally set aside their differences, or have we just grown too weary to keep trying?
Neither. Despite what the books might say, world peace is already here — you just have to join the choir.
In March, that month we all became amateur epidemiologists, I tweeted at my favorite contemporary composer asking if he could buoy us with a quarantine composition. To be clear, Eric Whitacre has no idea who I am; it was a long shot he would even see the note. Still, he graciously replied that something was maybe in the works but that it wasn’t anything he could just “throw together.”
Indeed, you don’t just “throw together” 17,527 participants from 129 countries singing to original music.
What Whitacre had created was his sixth virtual choir, an assembly of ordinary folks capturing their assigned vocal parts on video while following his prerecorded conducting. After untold amounts of manpower and editing hours, the final product is a stunning allegory of harmony, a 3 minute and 21 second embodiment of world peace.
May we sing together, always.
May our voice be soft.
May our singing be music for others
and may it keep others aloft.
Sing gently, always.
Sing gently as one.
May we stand together, always.
May our voice be strong.
May we hear the singing and
May we always sing along.
As one and then 40 and then thousands of faces glide across the screen, each adds their voice to the global chorale, forming the visual of nations fused through shared experience.
This isn’t a marketing stunt. It’s not a ploy to sell Coca-Cola from an Italian hilltop. Think on it for a second: Whitacre has achieved what every naive child prays for on their knees each night; he literally brought the world together in harmony — emissaries from 129 countries pleading that we “sing gently, always … as one.”
Watching his video is what gratitude looks like, what comity sounds like, what beauty feels like. Even a year of woes can’t take those moments of wonder from us. Masks and lockdowns can’t stop a baby from drawing its first breath. Earthquakes and fires can’t stop flowers from blooming again one day.
But sometimes, as quick as hope comes, it vanishes. Where is the energy to improve humanity when we’re just trying to make it to tomorrow? When we’ve surrendered to our polarization, our contempt, our differences just so we can survive another day of getting dressed from the waist up, our pixelated faces feigning a smile while homeschooled children scream in the background?
When so much consumes us, where do we find peace?
A different choir answered that question two millennia ago. To shepherds they rejoiced at the birth of a babe in a manger, the promised messiah, the Prince of Peace.
Their heavenly song lifts us today if we’re willing to join them.
I can’t pretend the new year will be much better than the last, even with the miracle of medicine on its way. But I do know I’ll get through it all right in the end if I just sing along.