What is 'Peace’?
Peace. Pax. Shalom. Salaam. Shanti. It’s a popular word in so many languages. And a popular concept too. But is it really as popular as we think it is? I remember reading once that there are about 100 given wars going on anywhere in the world on any given day. Apart, of course, from the obvious great wars of the last century. Cold wars. Hot wars. Proxy wars. Everyone says they want peace, yet wars persist. Why is this?
Why is peace difficult to obtain?
Because for reasons best known to certain countries and individuals, peace is not acceptable at any price. Yes, everyone wants peace. But they want it on their own terms. Our terms may not be acceptable to others. That is the crux of the problem. Are our terms acceptable to others? If not, why? And are others’ terms acceptable to us? Maybe not. How do we get everyone on the same page, wanting the same things? It’s not at all easy. Ask any negotiator.
Striking a balance
As societies grow, change and evolve, conflict emerges from time to time. Old orders change and new awareness grows. Sometime there’s a lot of tough resistance to change. Older generations often despise innovation. The world as they know it turns upside down and in order to keep the world familiar, with an order they can appreciate, they fight innovation every inch of the way. Yet it is conflict that is the lifeblood of progress. Remember the story of the Luddites? The people who resisted progress but ultimately couldn’t stop the industrial revolution! And they made life a lot harder for themselves as well as everyone else.
Apart from the actual absence of war, peace is an internal matter also. Inner peace is a very desirable state. What brings about our inner peace? In no particular order, some factors could be:
- Knowing that we and our loved ones are safe and secure.
- Knowing that we have a higher power who has our best interests at heart and takes care of us.
- Feeling secure about our future.
- Having a rich inner life with regular meditation and surrender to our Higher Power.
- Knowing that we have made correct decisions and have done the right thing. Wrong decisions will rob us of our sleep and peace.
There are many religious viewpoints. There's the Christian 'peace and goodwill to all men’ (must have meant all humanity, can you imagine a world without women?). There's the Islamic ethic of the peace which comes from submission to the Almighty. There's the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain search for inner peace.
Helen Keller's peace quote
I remember reading a quote from Helen Keller, a physically challenged woman who overcame her speaking and hearing disabilities to become one of the most profound thinkers of her generation. She said that she didn't want the ‘peace that passeth understanding’. She wanted the ‘understanding which bringeth peace’. It all sounds wonderfully wise, and indeed it is. But Helen Keller got her 'peaces’ confused, I think. She was referring to the quote from St Paul in Philippians 4:7. St Paul, or Saul of Tarsus as he was known in his time, was an amazing man, on fire for Jesus and the kingdom of Heaven. He was originally an orthodox Jew who persecuted Christians. However he encountered the Risen Jesus and was forever changed. His 'peace that passeth understanding’ refers to a supernatural, inner peace which can keep one sane even in situations of war and conflict. The peace to which Helen Keller was referring was understanding between nations and the absence of international conflict. We have to understand that there are different kinds of peace. Internal and external and even super-external. They are all dimensions of each other but they are not each other. Not exactly.
Symbol of peace
The current international symbol of peace is the dove. It's also the symbol of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Christian understanding of Who and What is God. Once, when I worked in the Embassy of India in Dublin, I got a call from a psychiatrist. He had seen a Government of India Tourist Office poster of a statue of Lord Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist faith. The poster was so peaceful and serene to look at that, that this psychiatrist wanted a copy to put up in his waiting room so that patients waiting to come in and see him could become calm and peaceful during the wait.
What a peaceful idea…….
Whoever you are and whatever you believe in, I wish you peace. Inner peace, outer peace and absolutely every other kind.
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