I am pleased to have a moment to get back to this blog and to respond to some questions. Most recently I was asked for some thoughts on what one can and may do to balance or shift some of the negative energy that surrounds us. The questioner’s own thinking was spurred by news reports about the plane that fell from the sky in Ukraine. And, of course, much has happened in the short time since then.
I cannot wrap my mind around the taking out of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 or the violence in Gaza or Afghanistan or the kidnapping of 300 girls in Nigeria or … No political perspective or dogma can begin to address the madness at the level of conscience that initiates, condones or justifies such actions.
There are the specific horrors, which we often tend to rate like sports events, horror by degree: these victims were younger, or these perpetrators were; these deaths more gruesome; these weapons bigger or more painfully rudimentary; the number of dead higher here; these reasons more or less relatable; this video closer up. We are so inured to it all that what gets our attention does so for just a short time before it is replaced by the next images.
And it is true that all of this is commonplace, and always has been. Knights and gladiators, warring tribes and feuding families, the Old Testament and all the holy books, slavery of every kind, every country, every religion, every moment in every historical landscape: assault on the human body, spirit, and mind by the human body, spirit and mind.
Even as philosophers dating back to Heraclitus argue that, “War is the father of all things,” and we, as witnesses, discuss the relativity of violence within various contexts, as well as the sociological and psychological precursors and consequences as far as we can surmise – at the same time, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, we and they, you and I are lost to the forces of blind destruction. The bullet, fist, missile, knife, bomb, poison gas, fire, hateful missive – whoosh! – released in an explosion or slow burn of energy. And in the wake of that energy people gather, protect, create, renew, respond. Rise up. Father of all things.
Of course, we seem not to have much evidence for, or experience of, another way. Violence on various levels pervades our lives. Peace, on the other hand, tends to be a strangely amorphous image that lives at the low ebb of abstraction. Placid? Passive? Soft? Diffuse? Sleepy? Mostly an image of what it is not, war/violence.
But what if peace were not identified solely by its other side? What if we thought of peace as not so much a place to rest from assault, whether global or personal, but as an ongoing engagement toward mutual respect, care, and reciprocity, a movement toward rather than away?
Many of us first understand “peace begins in the soul” as a movement of retreat, withdrawing from the vicissitudes of life into a separate place and with that withdrawing from others. But when I actually take action in peace – to fertilize the peaceful field, nurture it, sweeten it, extend it – the image is far more than what it is not. The image and process become energized and expressive. Rather than attempt to rise up against other, I feel myself rise up on behalf of peace. Not against, but in. I am with others. I try not to turn away from pain but feel it as an opportunity to plant a seed, add some water, sit beside, witness the light, engage life force. The plane is shot down. The children are taken. People are slaughtered. Body, spirit, and mind are massacred by words and weapons and mass hysteria. Still standing, I will plant a flower, touch your hand, care for my company, reach out as far as I am able, write, learn, engage, keep kindly turned toward life. I attend to the instinct to rail against and to fall into the same violence of opposition. I believe that each of our caring actions is a contribution to the peaceful field, an equally essential part of our geography that blossoms through our love.