We are all soul musicians

Mensch thought-leader of the month

By Barbara Nussbaum

My life’s message is best expressed by Dr Leland Kaiser (z”l), “We are all soul musicians, and all we need to do is to listen to our unique soul notes, have the courage to play them and then become part of the magnificent orchestra we are.”

I am a poet, a non-fiction author, a social innovator, coach, and facilitator. I am the founder and director of Finding Us in Music™ (FUIM), a methodology that draws on the importance of connection, both from Ubuntu and from Judaism.

Through my work and studies over many decades, I have learned that we can all be imaginative and empathic co-artists and co-creators of a kinder more harmonious world. With some guidance we can see and hear ourselves and others differently. Most people simply need an invitation. I learned that it is through listening to each other, with no judgement, with grace, generosity, respect and with reverence that people can build bridges of belonging. 

Thousands of people on three continents have been beneficiaries of FUIM. Working both in-person and online, in universities, in companies and non-profit organisations, this small group engagement process empowers people to name and claim who they are, at core, through a music track they choose. Through a careful process of presentation, listening and feedback, each member’s music and story is given attention. A gentle, safe and generative design helps the group to uncover and affirm the previously ‘unheard frequencies’ of each other. Heartfelt contemplative listening and speaking with authentic kindness are the magic ingredients which create an unexpected social alchemy.

My journey began at the age of 16 while reading about a union leader in John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath. The book inspired me to want to make a difference. A paragraph in the study guide described a compelling idea — we are all connected to an oversoul. To my then-adolescent mind, we were all part of a large pancake in the sky — stronger together as a connected force. 

Over the course of a life-time, other musicians and writers from multiple cultures and religious persuasions have refined and focused the way I have expressed my life’s purpose. Like John Lennon, I am a dreamer. For Bono, music is the language of the spirit and can help awaken us to the magic within. As Ben Okri writes, “I believe that to be alive means that we are all artists and co-creators… and that humanity is the greatest work of art we can create together.” 

Inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I believe that the world is inherently good, and beautiful, and that “reality itself is a veritable work of sacred art.” Influenced by positive psychology I believe that beyond the stupidity of war, selfishness, and greed, and despite collective trauma and the many ways in which we can be destructive, we can also transform who we are. 

We can help each other to see and reveal the divine sparks of light that lie within us. Music can be distracting, alienating or simply a background noise. Or the complete opposite. If we listen to it with a clear intention and a sacred heart, music can be a transformative language. As Dr Nathi Nzama of Tygerberg Medical School, Stellenbosch University expressed, “During our FUIM group, I got to have a microscopic view into all of my team members’ souls, and to understand their narrative.”

We need to answer that age-old call to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. Just listen for the soul notes that are yours to play and then offer them to the magnificent orchestra that we are. Use music as a way to name and claim your unique gift for our world. Share your music track with someone important to you in a safe environment. 

Barbara Nussbaum is a member of the Mensch Network, and in June 2022 a winner of the prestigious Social Change Maker of the Year Award at the Women in Management TOP 50 Professional and Career Women Global Awards in Dubai. To find out more visit https://www.findingusinmusic.co.za/ 

Mensch is a social Justice NGO, committed to capacitating and supporting our Jewish Community’s response towards Social Justice in South Africa.

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• Published in the August 2022 Digital Edition – Click here to read it.

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