The Choice of Peace
This was written two years ago, in the midst of a difficult day at dialogue at the Seeds of Peace international camp in Maine. There was a bomb blast in Pakistan that day and yet another air strike on Gaza. The mood in the camp was sombre, and yet, a seed of hope rested quietly in the dark and whispered these words:
Often in the context of my peacebuilding work I am asked if I believe peace is really possible. Had one of those conversations recently again, and my conviction remains: peace is as much a reality now as war is.
Somehow we have bought into the notion that peace is the opposite of war and that for peace to be ‘established’ we need to end terrorism, wars, nuclear weapons, hunger, poverty…
If there were to be a polarity of peace, it is lack of power. Inner power. Not war. Those that have been unable to tap into their inner power, try to find it in weapons, in rape, in genocide, in creating inequity, in hoarding profits. They attempt to usurp the authority of a chair as their own.
Those that have found their power are busy with peace: they run schools and hospitals, produce food in their kitchens, take care of their children, create art and music. And yes, they live, have conflicts, resolve them — and sometimes not, fall in love, get divorced, mourn the dead, celebrate birthdays…
I am sometimes told I am not feminist enough, when I am not bothered about there not being many women in negotiation tables and boardrooms. The way I see it, that is not the problem. What we need is more men in the kitchens, more men choosing to nurture and educate than running after the power of a chair, more people exploring life through art and literature and music, more people caring about those refugee children and their future than about the imaginary borders we pretend to protect.
Peace is not about ending wars. It is about creating spaces of acceptance and acknowledgement of everything we are — including our smallness. Can you be ok if all I want is to be a tailor and not a CEO? Can you be ok if I spend most of my time cultivating my food to eat rather than make strategic decisions on how to beat a competitor? Can you be ok if I value joy over ambition?
And if you do, and I find my joy in tending to my sustenance, I may have the energy to think of devising space travel, curing challenging ailments and creating technology that dazzles the world. Because then, I don’t have to keep fighting your notion of what is right and successful and practical.
In our smallness, lies our universe. In that universe, is our unfathomable largeness.
Peace is not an event to be established. Peace is a choice, as is power. And when you find that power within, you find there is no need to exercise it over anyone else. You exercise it to experience yourself.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. And there are billions, busy living and working there…