Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Perpetuating Peace in a Time of War

I hope you're all enjoying our new and improved Co-op!! Happy New Year, and welcome! I'm excited to be a part of this wonderful group as we enter upon a new era - one of change, of progress toward simplicity and sustainability.

At 1GG I write a fair amount of "How To" posts, and I enjoy writing them. But I think here at the Co-op I'd like to focus more on the emotional intricacies and the societal pressures surrounding sustainability. There's a great deal to this notion of living sustainably:  How do we successfully and happily navigate through a ideological system that we seem so often to be fighting against? How can we bring other community members along in our journey? When times are tough, how can we maintain our focus on planetary and personal wellness while still surviving (and thriving) economically? There are so many such questions we ask ourselves every day, and I'll be exploring them with you over the coming months!

The Sustainability of Peace

I'm not sure if I feel it more than most people, or if I just choose to expose myself to it more, but my heart has been heavy with images of war over the last few weeks. War in the Palestinian territories, war in many parts of Africa, war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I feel helpless and hopeless as I see children and innocent people whose lives and beings are destroyed over struggles of power and greed and historical mistakes. Part of my hope for humanity dies with each person whose life ends needlessly.

But it's not enough to feel sorrow, pain, empathy, is it? Can't we do more? Some of us call our representatives, become a part of civil protests, and take other political actions. I have done these things. But I think there is more to it. There is a root cause. We are not at peace in our hearts, in our homes, in our beings. Power and greed take over our lifestyles, rather than loving what we have and working together to nurture happiness and sustainability.

So let's change this culture that creates war. We can make a difference, you and I! 

We can perpetuate peace in our everyday lives. We can treat anger with kindness. We can sidestep a fight by focussing on individual needs and working together to find solutions. Maybe sometimes, we must reframe the discussion entirely. 

When we see a stranger needing help, let's help them. When we encounter a person having a bad day, let's try to make their day a little brighter. When we have the instinct to yell or get nasty during a frustrating encounter, let's stop ourselves for a moment and then work toward a solution – or even just let it go if it's not important.

Let's make others feel needed, heard, and understood. Let's fight misunderstandings with good conversations. Let's put our money into local companies that do good things for others, that perpetuate kindness and peace. Let's bridge understanding between neighbors by making our communities stronger and healthier. And let's do whatever we can to stop anger from perpetuating itself – when we see it on the streets, when we see it inside ourselves.

Because if we begin to change our immediate worlds around us, if we begin to spread peace and understanding within our friendships and families, the peace will grow beyond us. It will perpetuate beyond our friends and family, beyond their friends and family, and beyond theirs.

We're spending trillions of dollars on wars. Dollars that could be spent on our retirements, on finding alternative energy, on feeding and clothing people in need. War is not sustainable. So let's together – you and I – do something to change this culture of war. Let's perpetuate peace.

What are some of the ways that we can perpetuate peace in our society? Please add your ideas below, in the comments!


Note:  The above photo "Peace|Paix Cranes 1" was originally uploaded by westerntragedy on Flickr.  The story behind the cranes is a beautiful one.  Sadako Sasaki was a 10-year-old Japanese girl who was a victim of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.  When she was in the hospital dying from leukemia, a friend came to visit and folded a crane for her.  The friend then told her about an old Japanese saying that one who folds 1,000 cranes is granted a wish.  Until the time that she died, Sadako went about folding cranes from any kind of paper she could find in the hospital.  When she died, she had 644 cranes.  Her friends completed the remaining cranes and buried them with her.

Sadako wrote this haiku in the hospital:

"I shall write peace upon your wings, your heart and you shall fly around the world so that children will no longer have to die this way."

Inspired by this story, during the Cold War my family and friends made thousands of peace cranes and took them to the former Soviet Union as a sign of peace.  Now, symbolically, we must all fold our cranes of peace and set them free into the world.


Maureen said...

Very Powerful post....thanks. I always find it interesting that people scream for peace for our nation but can't get along with their own families. We cannot foster peace if we don't embrace it in our everyday lives.

Steve said...

The first time I heard the Crane story was when our oldest son was in a collision with a car while riding his bike. A good family of friends was hosting a Japanese student for the year. The student was in one of my classes. When she heard of the collision, she began folding cranes and gave them to us in the hospital. Our son recovered. Cranes? You make the choice.

To me I learned another lesson. We do WHAT we can, WHEN we can. It may be protesting; it may be folding paper into cranes; it may be growing vegetables. We DO. That will make the difference.

Steve in Central California

white_lilly said...

Beautiful Post
We can't change others but we can change ourselves...
By changing ourselves we can change others.

Kate said...

I just absolutely love this story. I have been to the promonade of peace in Horshimo in Japan and have taken a photo of the statue it is a very peaceful place but erie at the same time. When I saw what had happened where they dropped the bomb it brought a tear to my eyes. My father spent a year in Japan after the war to help out the Japanese he never talked about it.

Joyce said...

This remind me of the prayer of St. Francis; "where there is hatred, let me sow love.." etc. It's in the time honored tradition of acting in the opposite spirit. It works because the only behavior you can really change is your own. If we focus on that, it would make a big difference.

Rosengeranium said...

There's so much that can be said about war and peace. I've spent a year studying the roles of religion in conflicts and barely scratched the surface of the subject. Calming our own soul is a good starting point and an important one. Then we need to go on looking of the collective side, since every individual is a mirror of her/his group.

But that's abstract babble :). I've toyed with the idea of 'Seeds for Peace' - seed and know how exchange between gardeners and growers around the world. Many conflicts are worsened (and among them many starts with) lack of food. If this humble idea can make a some more carrots, spuds and beens, then some conflicts may be avoided.

spelled with a K said...

coming from a moderately military family, there is a great cultural divide to be crossed. Whether conservative or liberal, the overwhelming majority of people currently serving and many who have already served "believe in the necessity of such things."

Perception is everything, until we can change the notion of a peace worker from a spitting hippie who would hide behind a soldier if the tanks ever rolled down main street to the idea the young man who faced down a column of tanks in tianammen, we will never gain traction.

wanting peace is a start but what are we willing to give for it?

Amber said...

I have a little mantra that I say to myself, most frequently when I'm doing yoga. It goes like this, "Love and compassion, awareness and action."

In yoga we learn that the practice towards enlightenment is meaningless without simultaneously fostering love and raising compassion. And so I remind myself that my actions, towards sustainability or otherwise, are meaningless unless they also come from a place of love and compassion, for myself and others.

The second part of my mantra reminds me that awareness and knowledge leads me to action and that action without awareness is misguided and can even be damaging.

It is also a little prayer to inspire myself and keep me engaged and to hope and pray that others too may raise their own awareness which will lead them to compassionate, loving action.

Thanks for the lovely post.

Joy said...

If we just lived my Matthew 18 our world would be so much closer to how God desires.

I'm Quaker and historically we are peacemakers. The Underground railroad, for example, was done by Quakers.

Today, though, it is just hard to people who will stand up and say PEACE!

One way I make a statement to my community is by my yard sign from www.fcnl.org "War in not the Answer." I also am starting a "Stand for Peace" hour in our high traffic area with those of standing with Peace sayings.

Teaching our kids by example that we are kind goes a long way.

Thanks for your post!

Melinda said...

Thank you all for your very thoughtful comments. I really enjoy reading them!!

Maureen & white_lily, exactly!

Steve, what a beautiful story - thank you for sharing it.

Kate, I'm sure it was devastatingly sad for your father. Wow, what a time in our history.

Joyce, a wonderful quote!

Rosengeranium, I would love to know more about what we do to change the collective side! And yes, I agree - not only does sowing seed grow much needed food, but it also reminds us of the cycles of life and teaches us how to nurture.

Kory, "wanting peace is a start but what are we willing to give for it?" There are so many reasons that wars begin. We can redistribute wealth, and that will help. But we can't do that without changing our worldviews. There are many possible solutions that each end up at a dead end, where we must change our worldviews. We must tackle the part of our culture that believes war is a good answer to violence, greed, power, etc. And above all, we must promote compassion and understanding.

So I guess my answer is that we have to each give up some of our time, our pride, our net worth, our anger, and our desires for more and more at a lower and lower price.

Amber, "Love and compassion, awareness and action." Perfect. I've never so succinctly put into words what I've strived to do all my life. But this is it!

Joy"Teaching our kids by example that we are kind goes a long way. " Indeed. Thank you for your comment!

Stephanie said...

There is always a homeless person on the trains trying to sell newspapers. I keep feeling really bad about it. Today I'm going to buy one. Thanks for this post. I have to do something at least, even if I'm not made of money either -- but I do have enough.