Violin Against the Machine

by HeartStrings, Sabine Gonelli, 22/04/2016

These days I take my violin with me wherever I travel.

I play it for human- but mainly for non-human audiences. No other instrument sits as closely to the heart as the violin. This is why violin sound is one of my means to connect. Also, I use the violin to oppose all this destructive madness I encounter on my way.

Travelling is my lifeblood. I like myself best when I travel. All the important things of settled life dissolve, such as paying all those bills in time or remembering to feed my rubbish to the dust cart on the day of collection.
My life as a traveller requires a wholly different set of skills.
When I travel I am fully awake: receptive to everything that comes my way, eager to learn my next lesson, and downright vulnerable. This is who I really am. This is how I best appreciate another day on this marvellous planet.


It is not a secret that most people are genuinely friendly and helpful towards a stranger. But I made another exciting discovery when I visited countries where English is not widely spoken: I have come to understand that words are not as important as I used to think. There is another dimension. Something deep and genuine within my counterpart and me may naturally find each other. It can happen when we see each other on an equal footing, we are both curious enough and have the openness of mind to connect. When it happens it is as if we are suddenly seeing each other; as clear as crystal, right to the core. I can't make it happen. It strikes as a pleasant surprise.
This way I have become sincere friends with people where language is a problem and words do not always seamlessly flow. It doesn't really matter. Quite the contrary. Maybe words are all too often clouding who we truly are.


While I am on my way I see a lot of beauty and sometimes I gain humbling insights, but travelling isn't always easy and has its own challenges. Most days are bright and interesting but some can be exceptionally dark.

Of course, I encounter terrible and hurtful things during my travels, too.
The dogs on that motorbike in Vietnam come to mind. There, street dogs are caught, collected and kept until somebody comes to cram them into a tiny cage on the luggage rack. What struck me most was that these dogs made their way to the slaughterhouse in absolute silence. Our eyes met. They knew exactly what was going to happen and I will never forget them.

Countless times did my path take me through screaming landscape where my association was solely that of rape: Imagine a pile of massive tree trunks carelessly discarded by the side of the road. These trunks wait to be burnt. Only when their ashes are overgrown will they stop to remind us of the forest that was once there. The forest needed to make space for another ridiculous dairy pasture or oil palm plantation. I sit in a bus and drive past and my heart, gut and eyes hurt. Consumerism and greed have a truly ugly face. I know I am a part of the system but I don't want this to happen. I don't want this destruction.

For a very long time, I had no strategy how to deal with my eyewitness role. Then, one day, I couldn't help but internally start talking to these victims of mankind. I came to develop my open palm mantra of helplessness:


“I see you, I am sorry, I apologise.”

I don't know how this affects those I address. I know that it helps me. But it is not enough.

Once, a local woman saw me passing by with my open palms towards those caged wild birds next to the heavy traffic road. She looked at me bewildered. I don't know if she figured what I was doing and who I was addressing but she might have. It might have touched something in her or it might not have. It was not my intention but it made me ponder over the potency of symbolic acts in places of powerlessness. Actions speak louder than words.

Did I not experience deep connection beyond language with other human beings? Did I not feel culture-, age- and gender issues melt away? Have I not been surprised by the genuine curiosity and openness of the many animals I have played my violin for?

Next time I see a greed-bleak landscape I will stop and play my violin for as long as I can.
When I am confronted with an animal in a horrible condition, where I can't do anything about it and I don't stress that poor creature even more, I will stop and play my violin.


I will add the healing sound of my violin to
my mantra of helplessness.

I feel blessed that I finally found a way out of my paralysis. I am telling you this story because it might touch a string inside of you. If it does please don't ignore your calling.

I know that many of us suffer from the news and the injustice we witness there and in our daily lives. So often do we feel small and weak. Playing your violin will empower you again. Change has always begun small. The turnaround must start somewhere.

I want to encourage you to become part of this movement. Let's call it

 “Violin Against the Machine”

Can you imagine a world where violinists take their instruments to all those places that need healing urgently? Imagine this picture! It is powerful, isn't it?

Grab your violin and find your spot!

People will need time to understand what we do. We might feel like ridiculing ourselves. It doesn't matter. It is about healing the planet! It is very serious and it is a big task! I hope every violinist will join.

I look forward to meeting you online or somewhere on the way!

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