“…you do what you do out of your private passion for the thing itself.” “What if people said it could not be done? So much the better.”
My private passion is the belief that living in a peaceful world is possible. Annie Dillard’s spirit inspires me.
There are those that will argue that man is inherently aggressive, animalistic and violent. Therefore, to hope for peace is an exercise in futility. Their arguments are strong and persuasive. One look around to see what’s going on in the world invites us to succumb to the negativism. We are defeated before we begin. Where would India be if Ghandi had given in so easily?
Human beings are born free from hatred, anger and violence. They express their needs and accept care without prejudice. In the natural world, there is balance. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction: yin and yang. If you believe that reclaiming the peace that humans are born with is impossible, then the reverse of this is that it IS possible. In the words of Naomi Drew, in Learning the Skills of Peacemaking, “Giving into hopelessness renders us powerless.”
A vision must endure to make its mark on this earth, and, secure for our children a peaceful society. However, people have their own ideas, fears, and issues. They will discourage, put down, minimize, mock, this vision, while defending their views or the status quo. Peace is perceived as weak. The war machine is perceived as the necessary strength. In backyard terms, the child who walks away from a fight is perceived as a coward, while, the winner of a fight is heralded as a hero.
People will take a stand for the use of guns, for the harmlessness of playing cowboys and Indians, for the necessity of capital punishment, and war machines. They make excuses for boy’s fist fights on the playground. We all know, boys will be boys! For peace, people shrug, conditioned to believe that to take a stand for such a cause is hopeless.
“And in fact, it was always clear to Amy and me, and to Molly when she grew old enough to listen, that if our classmates came to cruelty, just as much as if the neighborhood or the nation came to madness, we were expected to take, and would be each separately capable of taking, a stand.”
I struggle with my conviction. Will I have the strength, or the confidence, to speak out for peace against the general sentiment of our society. Whether it be on a global scale, in the community, or in my backyard, will I be capable of taking a stand?
Will the burning desire to make this vision a reality, remain fueled through the course of time? The undertaking can be paralleled to that of one who tills infertile soil. For a farmer to take land, worn, stripped of its topsoil, eroded, and neglected, and create from that land a bountiful garden, a floral haven, it requires years of planting, nurturing and tending seedlings. Drought, locusts and floods, can make the work seem futile, fruitless and never ending. To take a society worn, stripped of its families and values, eroded by the influence of a media filled with violence, neglected by an economy too weak to feed hungry young minds, to nurture their character and uncover the barriers to peace, is a monumental task. Moral depravity, warring tribes, and the morbid delight people take in the gore flooding our media desensitizes our young. It makes the labor seem futile, fruitless and never-ending.
It is possible to eliminate war and destruction, if we start with our youth, educating them to understand the conditioning that teaches them to hate those different from themselves. If we teach our children to understand the barriers to peace and the skills to resolve conflict, we have invested in our future. We’ve invested in a peaceful world. We need to start somewhere. We can begin in our homes and our schools. Plant the seed, nurture it and watch it grow.
“You hacked away at the landscape and made something, or you did not do anything, and just died.”
For more information about conflict education and caring communities, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Free The Children, Conflict Education for Strong and Peaceful Minds. Available in both print and electronic versions!