It doesn't come unless we welcome it
I used to see peace as something like the reflection of a perfect sky in a river and our struggles to clarify and attain it as the very motions that kept it continually fragmented. All we had to do was get out of its way and peace would recompose and assert itself.
Lately, I've been seeing it more as a deliberate human creation: something we must wisely imagine and put together piece by piece with delicacy and precision. So what are some of the pieces of peace?
PACT Anyone who lives in a war zone in imminent daily danger has no confusion about this. Peace is the cessation of hostilities. The dictionary agrees. The word "peace" derives from the Latin "pacem," which is related to our word "pact . " Peace is a binding mutual agreement to cease fire. It is "not-war."
But this is just where it starts. If it's not a just peace, it will have no chance. Surely, potable water, health care, education and freedom from persecution must follow.
EDUCATION Stop mystifying peace! Forget about the "peace that surpasseth all understanding." Let's have a peace we can wrap our minds around. This work has begun in our schools, with conflict resolution training and peace studies. Let's expand that further into the culture. Let's romanticize peace as much as we romanticize war. Let's have more space in our curricula for Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.
ACTION Just as we can actively choose one another and by our mating affect the path of evolution, so we can actively choose peace every day: non-violent child-rearing, peaceable business practices, sustainable agriculture. We can also vote for peace and spend for peace and speak out for peace. Select peace, or extinction will select us.
CONSCIOUSNESS Forgiveness is not a river I've been able to make flow very well. But when it has finally moved of its own natural volition, it has overswelled its banks and lifted me up. Sustainable peace on a grand scale will require much forgiveness - not just of wrongs, but also of debts. But if we forgive, we must forgive and remember; to forgive and forget is to invite a recurrence of disaster. Peace must be conscious, cooperative and canny. It needs the elephant's memory and the tiger's heart - but gentle human hands.
EMPATHY We may all be human, but typically we're not the kind of human we imply when we say "humane." In fact, most of us are more like the kind of human we mean when we make the excuse "I'm only human, you know." We might have good wishes, but we're apt to get nasty and selfish, prone to be prodded into genocides. We're haters - if not actively, then complicitly, by inertia. So the evolutionary work must continue. Therapy, meditation and prayer seem to help. Travel, too. We need to meet and greet on a world basis. We are lovable and movable. And each of us is a necessary part of the puzzle. Peace is made of many peaces. May yours be one of them.