Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Single Candle

"Buddha Under an Olive Tree"
-in my garden-

When I think about lives that have changed the world, names like Jesus, or Buddha, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King Jr. come to mind. But as of Sunday night, a new name has been added to my list of "world changers"- Armand Dianglenda from the Congolese city of Kinshasha.

On Sunday night, I found myself watching the CBS program, "60 minutes." A featured story titled "Joy in the Congo" so inspired me that I have gone and online and re-watched it several times since then.  It told the tale of Armand Dianglenda, who upon retiring as a commercial airline pilot, decided that he wanted to establish a symphony orchestra in his home city of Kinshasha, the capitol of the Congo in Africa.

The Republic of the Congo is the poorest country in the world, and 10 million people live in Kinshasha - many in squalor, homes little more than huts, no running water, unpaved streets. So, the idea of establishing a symphony orchestra in a place like this may seem rather far-fetched. 

But,  Armand believed that his proposed orchestra would bring a sense of hope and purpose to the lives of his fellow citizens who were just barely managing to survive day to day. And so,  Armand Dianglenda, a single man with a vision, pressed on - determined that he was going to make his orchestra happen.  

However, initially there were a "few" obstacles to be overcome: Armand had no money and he couldn't read music.  He couldn't play a musical instrument and he knew no one else who could.  Besides, there were no instruments to be played and there was no place in which the orchestra might perform -  a few obstacles indeed.   

What Armand did have was a love for music, a passionate vision, a generous heart, and an enduring idea for helping his fellow citizens find new new hope in their very bleak lives.

And so, Maestro Dianglenda taught himself how to read music. He learned how to play the piano, the trombone and the cello. He went around to various organizations begging for used musical instruments, then he went to his church and invited his fellow parishioners to come and learn along with him.

Five people joined up - none of  them had ever held a musical instrument, let alone played one. 

But they also learned, and then more began to join - some to play instruments, others to sing in a newly forming orchestra chorus. They practiced at Armand's little home, now turned into a veritable music conservancy.

Then, a German news agency heard about this story and made a documentary about this newly emerging "miracle orchestra" in the Congo.  After that,  a whole array of musical instruments arrived from from all over the world along with professional musicians who came along to teach the folks how to play them. Professional opera singers also showed up in Kinshasha to offer master-classes for singers in the Chorus. 

The "60 minutes" story I was watching on Easter night ended with an excerpt from a Beethoven concert performed by the "Kinshasha Symphony Orchestra and Chorus" - an  "Ode to Joy."

I almost couldn't see the TV because my eyes were so flooded with tears as I watched them perform. 

There they were, 200 people strong -  all bedecked in tuxedos and native garb, french horns and timpani, violins and cellos, magnificent voices in such perfect harmony, faces beaming with joy at the miracle they had accomplished - "Joy in the Congo. Incredible! 

Many people may think that their one single ordinary life is insignificant and they spend their days figuring out how to "get by."   If Maestro Armand Dianglenda had that attitude,  there would be no Kinshasha Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and the bleak lives of all those many people would have never been transformed. 

Each of us is a single candle, but if we are willing, generous, courageous and bold enough to share the light,  we can indeed set the world on fire.

The Buddha taught:

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle,
and the life of the single candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared.

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