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.