“War is an old habit of thought, an old frame of mind, an old political technique that must now pass as human sacrifice and human slavery have passed.” — Herman Wouk
Is peace in the world possible? Emphatically, yes! The great irony, however, is that neither governments nor nations can make peace, although they spend much time talking about it and posturing about it. They can only limit violence within “acceptable” social standards, because peace is a state of consciousness—not of politics.
Peace already exists in the primordial germ of Nature. It underlies all manifestation. There is nothing we can do to create peace, but there is much we can do to avail ourselves of it.
Peace is an inner state that can only be reflected outwardly. Therefore, true peace in the world is the collective inner peace of individuals—not the so-called “political peace” of nations. Because peace is secreted within each of us, the degree to which each person responds to their own inner peace enhances the peacefulness of the world. Our common, global bond is that, regardless of creed, color, sex, religion, social status, or national heritage, we all face the same inner search for peace and the same inner obstacles to finding it and recognizing it when found.
“We actually live today in our dreams of yesterday; and living those dreams, we dream again,” said Charles Lindbergh, which is but saying that imagination is in many ways more important than knowledge when it comes to the innocence and intuition necessary in finding peace.
But without doing the inner work necessary to find our own peace, world peace is certainly not possible, because peace is based on our being defenseless, which demands great inner strength and courage. It is not danger that comes when defenses are laid down, but rather trust, safety, peace, joy, and a remembrance of God—however “God” is envisioned. Defenselessness takes enormous discipline, the discipline of individuals who are staunchly committed to finding and retaining inner peace, of which Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Desmond Tutu are prime examples. This said, for peace to be experienced in the world we must each learn that:
• The only true peace is within us as part of Nature’s endowment.
• Our task is to find peace, recognize it, honor it, and hold fast to it.
• Peace in the world is the outer manifestation of the inner peace of individuals and is possible only through the collective thoughts and actions of an ever-increasing number of such peaceful people because the infectious nature of peace—is peace.
• We must learn that a rational, non-threatening response to injustice is the courage of peace, whereas the traditional “knee-jerk” reaction of an eye for an eye is the irrational hallmark of fear, which causes us to become the very thing we profess to be against in the like measure of our protestations.
With respect to the last point, there is, however, something our government can do toward real peace, and that is to reinstate the legal right of “conscientious objection” to the killing of other human beings by allowing people to designate how—under what circumstances—they want their hard-earned tax dollars spent. I say, “reinstate” conscientious objection because it has been disallowed in the United States ever since military conscription became obsolete.
Just as I can, and I do, designate that my electricity to be drawn from wind power instead of hydropower, so I should be free to determine how I want my tax dollars spent, which does not mean that I pay fewer taxes, but rather that I have a voice in how they are used. After all, if the administration of my government disallows me the choice, as a life-long member of my country’s governing body, then I am being held hostage to war and violence by the very denial of that choice. What is the basic difference between a democracy and a dictatorship if it isn’t the honest freedom of choice?
Just think, if enough citizens exercised their conscientious objection to armed violence by choosing to have their tax dollars committed to peaceful pursuits, the financial fangs of war would be withdrawn. In essence, the populace could vote with their conscience and would have the material “voice” through which to be heard by a “deaf administration.”
But without an honest choice of how our tax dollars are spent, we live in a financial dictatorship, where the level of the administration’s consciousness draws perilously near the psychological basement of human depravity and immaturity when the majority of our collective taxes are used in preparation for war at the expense of virtually every decent human value our democracy supposedly stands for. “It is because we have at the present moment everybody claiming the right of conscience without going through any discipline whatsoever,” said Mahatma Gandhi, “that there is so much untruth being delivered to a bewildered world.” Sadly, Gandhi’s statement seems to fit well every administration of the United States in my life time. I say this because we, the American people, were, for the first time in our nation’s history, the unprovoked, unilateral aggressor in an unjust war engineered by the George W. Bush/Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney Administration. To me, it was unconscionable, especially under that deceitful circumstance, to continue plunging the populace of the United States into a mounting “war debt” that the children—once again without a choice—will ultimately have to spend many decades paying for in countless, unforeseen ways, such as the loss of international trust.
Thus, by the thoughts we each daily sow, which germinate into actions, we collectively reflect either the light of inclusive peace into the world or the darkness of fear, separateness, and violence. And the degree to which we individually find our inner peace is the collective degree to which peace in the world is possible.
Beyond our individual peace, as we grow toward self-realized wholeness, we must embrace one of the ultimate tests of human beings, that of justly sharing the labors and fruits of society because the things we do always become part of the things we are. To share the best society has to offer, we must offer the best we have to society by learning to work together as equals, as one another’s keepers and learning partners. The Dalai Lama put it a little differently: “A person who harms you should be seen not only as someone who needs your special care but also as someone who is your spiritual guide. You will find that your enemy is your supreme teacher.”
“. . .I think each of us is put here to dilute the misery in the world,” said Dr. Karl Menninger. “You may not be able to make a big contribution, but you can make a little one, and you’ve got to try.” Even if your contribution is a “little one,” in the long run, the smallest ingredient can be the most powerful, and the slightest act the most potent.
If you wonder about the impact of your service, remember that the saints of old did not set out to become saints; they simply set out to serve with love. Only through our own, little acts of joyful service can we achieve a collective vision for the future that is inclusive, responsible, and yet simultaneously allows and protects the sacred space of each individual.
As we build peace within our hearts, we build peace in the world. By building peace in our hearts—where the only true peace can reside—we create a healed society and a biophysically sustainable Earth. As peace grows, it becomes ever more a hologram of the true nature of the human family. But first we must find the courage to struggle within ourselves, because courage is the price of peace, which is only a choice, a choice based on love.
Peace in the world starts with each and every one of us. As I find my own inner peace, I manifest peaceful relations in the world outside of myself in like measure. After all, “the ancestor of every action is a thought,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson said. From our own inner peace, we therefore become emissaries of peace among the people with whom we daily interact, from a small group of family and friends, to casual acquaintances, to our various communities. As communities become more peaceful, cities and states become more peaceful. As cities and states become more peaceful, nations become more peaceful. As nations become more peaceful, the world becomes more peaceful. And it all begins with our own search for inner peace, one person at a time.
Thus can we each sow the seeds of kindness and peace in the world, one thought at a time, one decision at a time, one act at a time, one day at a time. The choice belongs to us in the present, whereas the consequences of our decisions we bequeath the children. It is wise, therefore, to be ever mindful that the kind of world our children inherit will depend on the thoughts we entertain and the actions we commit, both secretly and publicly, in the process of living our everyday lives. I say this because it takes the genius of our innocence to imagine a world in which peace can thrive—a world that we, ourselves, would like to inherit.
Text © by Chris Maser 2012. All rights reserved.