HARP The Movement

We have begun this year—in Chinese culture The Year of the Rabbit, symbolic of longevity, peace and prosperity—by naming HARP a movement. Because HARP The People’s Press is far more than an multi-media publishing press dedicated to the healing arts and health equity. HARP is a social enterprise, reaching out to every one of us, regardless of age or race, class or colour. It’s so good to remind ourselves at this turn of the seasons what those initials—HARP—stand for: H-ealing A-rts R-econciling P-eople.

Yesterday, January 25th, we spent three hours with Neil Stephen, CEO of the Nova Scotia-based This is Marketing (www.thismarketing.ca). We started out taking him on a tour, in glorious winter sunshine, of our two acres of trees new and old, our rich sanctuary for every local pollinator, our home to Helio, our 24-panel solar tracker, and 18-paneled Na’ku’set—The Sun in Mikmaq. (Na’ku’set is also known as Nishkam, or Grandfather, in Mikmac myth). Then we were into a full two hours of searching dialogue with Neil, as we dug deep for the words to fit our vision: how to lean into our personal values and—to borrow from This is Marketing’s website—to make a splash that will be seen and felt around the world.

We’re naming HARP a healing movement because art, in its myriad expressions of our creative intelligence, is a healing force as ancient as humanity itself. There has never been a human culture that did not make art; art is what every people, culture, language has in common. It’s an ancient commitment to creative expression to espouse peace, social justice, universal health, love. Every child makes art until—all too early, all too early—that child swallows the message from her elders and peers that it will not get her ahead. In our earliest adolescence we shift our ways of being and thinking from our hearts to our heads. So the movement our HARP journey is leading us on is a turning back from this modern headiness to the ancient heart of art that can save our world.

We are both educators—the Latin word doctor means teacher—one of us a PhD and the other an MD. We know that the best way to learn is to teach. And we think of children as our very best teachers, because the younger you are the more intact your intelligence. And the best place to learn from children is outside the formal classroom setting. In nature settings, in places of play, in places of peace and quiet. In places where we can listen to each other with full attention and love, watched over and guided by Mother Earth. We also like to say that we don’t know exactly where we’re going but we’re not lost. So how ideal to have a child lead us through this wonderful wilderness!

Joseph Campbell said: If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path. When children draw, write, dance, sing, play—blessedly and blissfully—they don’t plan ahead, don’t contemplate where they’re headed. And in our so imperfect world it’s lovely to remind ourselves of those ancient words, the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat…and a little child shall lead them.

We are waiting eagerly for Neil Stephen’s marketing plan for HARP. What do we want to do in this last decade or two, or three or four, of our lives? (Dorothy’s 75 and I’m 80). And why? Can Neil hone it down for us to something less far-reaching—absurdly so, some would say—than world-wide healing and health equity through art? My response at the moment is: Why reduce our reach? As we seek to leave lighter and lighter traces on Nova Scotia’s snow, why not reach for the stars? Yesterday we eased up on that footprint a little more by buying an electric car—a Mini Cooper, currently being put together for us in Cowley, Oxfordshire, where my very first car (a primrose yellow Mini, license plate HRY 412, total cost £540) was built sixty years ago in 1963.

It’s been thirty-two years since I first invited a few intrepid artists into Shands Hospital, the huge hospital complex at University of Florida where I worked, bid them offer their loving and artful attention to our patients as they danced and sang and painted and performed with them. Has the world sat up and responded to this new-but-ancient call by these artists? Has every place of healing embraced the infinite power of creative expression to heal us as individuals and as communities?

Oh no! This movement still goes largely ignored, even suppressed, by physicians, politicians, corporate magnates. It’s still in its infancy by the world’s measure. But what’s the hurry? It’s for sure catching afire in many places of healing. And the nineteenth-century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer taught us that all truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

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