Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Musings Before the Holiday Noise

I was listening to Beethoven's Third Symphony, the "Eroica," the other day. The onslaught of chords that begin this symphony has always evoked in me at least two sets of contrasting feelings and impressions. One is a sense of awe in regard to the utter confidence and certitude that these chords display; the other is goose-bumpy fear and wariness of that certitude. As I have grown older and more conversant with the language of music, I have come to be more attentive to the silences between these chords. When I think of these chords in relation to development theory and practice, it now strikes me that development may be seen as a panoply of "chords" each for a time trumpeting certitudes and pieties: modernization, dependency, grassroots participation, neoliberalism, microfinance, etc. And to pursue further the idea of silence, it seems to me that silence is indeed a form of invisibility. I have learned to listen for the silences in Beethoven's symphony. But the silences would not be so deafening were it not for those opening chords! Perhaps when confronted with the "chords" of development theory and practice we should learn to listen for the silences between them?

And I think too of Milton's phrase in Paradise Lost:

No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv'd onely to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes

In this season of wish lists here's mine. I want Kumarian Press to give sound to silence (apologies to Simon and Garfunkel), give light to darkness (apologies to Milton), give development practitioners insights and ideas so that the vital work that they do imparts hope and purpose and does not draw nectar in a sieve (apologies to Blake).

Last, I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday and look forward to posting more blog thoughts in 2011. And of course, please do send me your ideas and book projects!

Jim Lance
Editor and Associate Publisher
jlance [at]

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