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Attunement and atonement

You don't have to be a music critic to appreciate good music and singing; you know if the instruments and voices are in tune and have good tonal quality. If the instruments are inferior and the person singing is straining or tone deaf, then listening could be an unpleasant experience.

Christine and Raoul listening with attunement
Phantom of the Opera

Disharmony in relationships is just as unpleasant as disharmony in orchestral or vocal music. In an opera, sometimes the diva sings her aria and the tenor replies with his aria. And sometimes it can get quite emotional. But in the end it's expected that the two come together in harmony with a duet as Christine and Raoul do in The Phantom of the Opera, for example.

In work relationships, harmony is also important. When you collaborate, you orchestrate your efforts to achieve a common goal. So, you're like musicians in an orchestra and when everyone is in harmony, the process and results of collaboration are good. But if someone doesn't like playing second fiddle and tries to upstage first fiddle, there will be discord.

In order to be harmonious, a singer or musician has to have attunement with other singers and players and with the conductor. In relationships, you need to be sensitive and patient enough to listen to what the other person is saying. In the duet from Phantom of the Opera, Christine and Raoul listened with rapt attention to each other. Raoul was trying to convince Christine to forget her fears and trust him. She didn't immediately jump in with a counterargument. She waited for him to finish. Then she asked for his commitment. He listened attentively and committed. In listening, you have to have a good ear for tone of voice and a good eye for body language. That takes attunement using your full attention. Musicians have highly developed hearing and are all eyes on the conductor.

In your job, the conductor could be a coworker, your lead, a manager, or the director, depending on whether the project you're working on is like a duet, string quartet, a band, or a full orchestra. In every case, you get your cues and maintain harmony through your attunement.

When you consider mankind as a whole, God is the conductor. And when you listen with attunement during prayer, you can get in harmony with God's will. But sometimes you get out of harmony. When that happens, you need to atone. Atonement is an interesting word. You can think of it as "a tone" such as vibrating in unison with the pure tone of a tuning fork. Or you can think of it as "at one" as in being at one with God's purpose. Webster has the fourth definition of atonement as "the exemplifying of man's oneness with God." In both interpretations, you have the same sense of unison or union. What is the tuning fork that helps you be at one with a tone? It's your conscience.

Both attunement and atonement require the ability to listen.With attunement, you are sensitive and listen to others. It's an outer awareness. But with atonement or at-one-ment, you are sensitive and listen to the inner voice of your conscience. Sometimes the voices of your mind or emotions drown out the voice of your conscience, like they did with the Phantom of the Opera. The voices of anger and jealousy were screaming "Kill Raoul!" So what you need to do is quiet the mind and heart through meditation. Never make an important decision without first meditating. If someone says "I need a decision now," tell them "let me think about it first."

But sometimes you don't listen to your conscience or mistake another inner voice for it. When that happens, you usually make mistakes. That's when the common meaning of atonement comes into play, which is "reparation for an offense or injury." When you do that, you will still the voice of your conscience. If you don't, it will keep you awake at night like the warning tone of a device with a dying battery.


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