Peace, I find, is one of the most difficult virtues to understand and recognize in yourself and others. Maybe because we all want peace or need it. Maybe because peace is so seemingly untrustworthy –fleeting. Maybe because life is hard and a realistic, pragmatic person doesn’t depend too much on something as ethereal as peace. You can’t prepare yourself or brace yourself for the hard things if you rely on peace. Or can you?
In my opinion, all these doubts spring from the same place. What exactly is peace? And does being a person of peace make me vulnerable, weak, foolish, or naïve?
Yes, that is what really bothers us, I think. The desire, no not desire, the need to be able to protect ourselves for what is to come. No one wants to be taken advantage of. But then peace would be dependent on circumstances, events or the kinds of people that surround us at any given moment. And if this were true, that peace was dependent on anything from without, then Peace would not be a virtue something that lives and breathes and gives life from within.
Maybe that’s why we don’t trust peace. We believe that we have to construct it. We do everything in our power to control our circumstances; we educate ourselves, inoculate ourselves, isolate ourselves, and we enrich ourselves. None of which is bad – all of these things are good, but we can rely on none of them 100% of the time for peace. And people, well, people are people. What exactly do you need from people in order to have peace? As soon as you answer that – someone is going to bump into you and do the opposite. And this we all know because humans hurting other humans is something we have all experienced.
Maybe this is why peace must be a virtue. Something that comes from within and is simply not able to be constructed from without.
But here, I think, is the dangerous swampland where people usually stop and get disgusted. Peace means pretending –pretending circumstances are good when they are not. I’m sorry, but cancer is cancer, injustice is cruelty, and suffering sucks. Or peace means pretending that people really don’t “mean” what they say and do. Well, I don’t want to be the one who bursts your bubble, but people do “mean” what they say and do. Or peace means orchestrating every detail of your life –choosing (to perfection) the “right” people, the “right” places and the “right” kinds of circumstances. My head hurts just from having to write all this down. Do you really want to live your life trapped in that kind of illusion? The illusion that says you are powerful enough to orchestrate everything and avoid all pain.
Ahh, here is the real issue. Fear of pain. We think peace and pain are at war, so avoiding pain brings peace. Avoidance = peace. So peace leaves us wary and those who claim peace makes us even warier because we are given the impression that peace is denial, pretense or a massive game of charades with our lives.
But that would make peace a wall. A wall you can use with any aspect of your life you don’t like, any person who hurts you or any place or “state” that frightens or upsets you. And shutting down life with a wall, well, shuts down LIFE. And if peace is a virtue it is something that ignites life and sustains life.
Peace is not a wall. Peace is not denial or pretense or a game of charades.
Peace is actually the welcome mat for pain. Peace says yes to life; the life within you, the life within others, and the life around you. And life is saturated in the intermingling of pain and pleasure. You cannot say yes to life without inviting in pain as well. A person of peace welcomes both the hard and the easy, the good and the bad, the difficult and the joyful with the same sober calm or winsome wisdom.
No, this does not mean I don’t laugh or cry. It actually means I laugh and cry more. I scream, I wrestle, I doubt, I hurt, but above all, I engage. I want to live my life. I want to chase life down, investigate, create, imagine, share, and commune with others who are in this same chase. Pain does not scare me. Pain ignites something in me that pushes me to engage and sustains me while I am engaging.
Peace is the courage to engage and maybe this makes peace is a pair of shoes.
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