The Beauty of Dissonance

Here at Sinsinawa, we have been in community meetings for the better part of a week. As is true with any group, while we may agree on many things, there are always points of dissonance. I think that on the whole, we often view dissonance as a negative thing and tend to avoid it, minimize it, or make it into a source of division (just think of our current political climate!). However, a recent conversation with sisters gave me an image that helps me understand dissonance in a whole new way.

Some of the most beautiful pieces of music are those with chords that include a note of dissonance. While they’re more difficult to compose and perform, songs with tight chord clusters are so much more interesting than standard major chords. (Listen to one of my all-time favorite examples of this here.)

Can’t the same be true in our interactions with one another? Sure, there are times when dissonance is just plain ugly and painful, especially when our root values seem to collide. But sometimes, it’s the one differing voice that we need the most, just like the note of dissonance that can give a chord its haunting beauty. 

We deprive ourselves of a certain richness if we don’t create an environment in which “dissonant” voices are not only heard, but are an integral part of our unified “chord.” It is difficult, but I believe it is possible.

Are you being called to use your voice to add a note of dissonant beauty?

Christin Tomy OP
Sinsinawa, WI


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