People Get Ready

What is Peace? What does it look like? What are its images? Have we ever known peace? What is the difference between one’s individual practice of peace and world peace?

Would anyone not want peace? Some say we’ll never have sustained peace, but who would reject making peace if understood personally as a practice, accessible and as common as is the practice of writing, or T’ai Chi? And what does the dove tell us? Wiki says:

“Doves mate for life, are incredibly loyal to each other and work together to build their nest and raise their young. Because they tend to nest in areas that humans can watch, people picked up quickly on the idea that doves were dedicated, honorable and peaceful. While hawks and other birds of prey would violently attack their neighbors, the dove was a bird of peace, eating seeds, easily trained to eat out of the hand or to become domesticated.

Beginning with the Egyptians, the dove was as symbol of quiet innocence. The Chinese felt the dove was a symbol of peace and long life. To early Greeks and Romans, doves represented love and devotion, and care for a family. The dove was the sacred animal of Aphrodite and Venus, the goddesses of love. The dove also symbolized the peaceful soul for many cultures.”

Peace Doves

Peace is an important idea, but judging by the lack of its sustained presence it remains one of humankind’s most challenging notions. Even defining peace is challenging…

Questions I ask:

Is peace the absence of something; the lack of war, hate, poverty?

Is peace an addition of something; love, cooperation, compassion, a willingness to resolve conflict through compromise?

Will a political solution bring us peace or is it cumulative through an individual’s practice spreading to others?

I make no claim to having answers – but it’s worth considering and sharing all the many ways we do experience peace, both personally, collectively, technologically and politically. Ideas do have a way of becoming viral and perhaps if we could share with each other our notion and practice of peace, describing the small ways in which each of us already does experience peace, we can deepen, encourage and multiply the practice of peace for ourselves and others.

Why wait for someone else to create peace when we can be creators ourselves? I know, crazy, isn’t it? As the saying goes, “nothing worth having ever comes easy.” As well, many of us already do practice creating peace for ourselves and others, and we aren’t always aware of the impact that sharing our experience can have.

Recently, watching a documentary, titled Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (2007), I was struck by the life of this man; one of music, authenticity, energy, controversy, along with contributions to the community that I was unaware of. I have always been a fan of his live performances with Arlo Guthrie, and am thankful to have seen them perform together a few times in 70’s, and the 80’s in small venues on Long Island where I lived at the time. Through interviews, the movie showed Pete’s efforts towards making a more peaceful world both in the way he lived his life and in local causes he embraced.

Admittedly, I struggle with the perception of him as political figure and specifically his support of communism. I don’t recall Pete and Arlo ever politicizing their performances though, but rather promoting through song and storytelling ideas of peace and freedom for all people and eliminating suffering caused by wars and poverty. I am aware that Pete was involved with the Communist party of the USA, but as the documentary and other sources show, later in life he denounced the violence and harm done by communist regimes that he may have seen as political solutions for humankind. And, even if Pete believed communism to be a solution to humanity’s problems, people’s beliefs do not represent the entirety of their life or nullify their good works (saying this as much to acknowledge the need to dispel this notion in myself as in others).

““I certainly should apologize for saying that Stalin was a hard driver rather than a very cruel leader,” he said. “I don’t speak out about a lot of things. I don’t talk about slavery. A lot of white people in America could apologize for stealing land from the Indians and enslaving Africans. Europe could apologize for worldwide conquest. Mongolia could apologize for Genghis Khan. But I think the thing to do is look ahead.” Pete Seeger in an interview with Ron Radosh. Read more here in the NY Times article.

Bear Mtn Bridge.jpgOne of Pete’s legacies was his initiation of a successful community based effort to clean up the Hudson river in NY by raising awareness of the issue and funding for a non-profit organization dedicated to cleaning up the river and advocating for corporate responsibility for damages done and better stewardship in the future.

There are many others, alive and dead, famous or not, that have dedicated their lives to working for peace. I applaud Pete for working at the local level to make a difference to the local and not so local community.

peace-art

As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what peace is and how you practice its presence in your life, in the local community; how is peace made manifest in your life? And is peace in the world composed of our individual practice of peace or is something else needed?

A petition for a Nobel Prize for Pete Seeger:

http://www.nobelprize4pete.org/

For more ideas on the etymology and usage of the word “peace” see here:

http://www.hejleh.com/edna_yaghi/peace1.html

Thank you to Curtis Mayfield:

“People get ready, there’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.”

29 thoughts on “People Get Ready

  1. I wanted to find time to come back to your article debra…. I’d like to say what a wonderful post… IAM busy preparing to introduce to several groups of spanish school children (good in english) a peace mural for my Project… Awakening to Love, Peace & Joy… Visualising what peace means to everyone and how to individually create a new harmonous world… living in cooperation with others…

    For me realising that IAM the world, gives me so much responsibility for all my words and actions… I consciously give attention to creating peace…. as this is what feels good… especially now that I know OTHERS no longer have any power over me, allowing my body, mind and spirit to live peacefully…

    Our circle of potential is also creating a mural of peace and when our project is complete… beginning of next year I will pass it around for others to maybe share locally in their home town… Take care, Barbara

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    • Hi Barbara,
      That is a wonderful project and I so love how you say:
      ” especially now that I know OTHERS no longer have any power over me, allowing my body, mind and spirit to live peacefully…”
      I believe that with practice, many of us can change our response to a sometimes hostile and frightened world. When I know peace I can remind myself not to abandon its place and importance in my life, especially when I am most likely to reject peace in my words and day to day responses to others.
      Thank you for sharing your work here!
      Debra

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  2. Pete Seeger was an imperfect man who believed in the power of the individual to be an instrument of change. And indeed, his music mobilized the consciences and compassion of millions — if only we had more such imperfect people today. Wonderful post !!!! 🙂

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  3. I know for me, the resource that I would have the most respect for is from someone who has experienced turmoil and strife and yet has learned to transform that experience into something real and tangible and practical. Thich Nhat Hanh comes to mind. I’m sure there must be others. A thought provoking post!

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  4. Another wonderful, thought provoking post Debra!
    I think “peace” is like “justice” or “love” or any of those constructs that words can only approximate. It is a form we hold in our minds that we understand as being so essential to our well being that it activates the neural pathways that compel us to share it with others. I consider peace to be more than just the absence of war, as turmoil within one’s own life can shatter any notions of peace. The abused child or the addict certainly cannot describe his existence as a peaceful one.
    I know this definition is not inviolable but peace to me is humility, compassion and a complete abandonment of any exercise of dominance over another.

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    • Thanks Henry. This is wonderful: “I know this definition is not inviolable but peace to me is humility, compassion and a complete abandonment of any exercise of dominance over another.” Love it!

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  5. Is peace the absence of something; the lack of war, hate, poverty?

    -Yes, none of these things exist with Peace on Earth.

    Is peace an addition of something; love, cooperation, compassion, a willingness to resolve conflict through compromise?

    -Peace isn’t necessarily an addition of something, although one could claim it as such. Peace comes from a personal recognition of being God – of being All in All.

    Will a political solution bring us peace or is it cumulative through an individual’s practice spreading to others?

    Only a theoretical solution – one that proves Unity and Immortality and Omnipotence to the reader of the solution – will bring personal peace. Politics, Science, and Religion will never reach the Promised Land, as the borders of their respectively lands are manifestly bordered, closed, and defensive.

    When I prove to Myself that I am Politics, Science, and Religion, I understand that I am fighting Myself, arguing with Myself, and fearful of Myself – then, and only then will I tear down the borders that I Myself built and I Myself am.

    When I prove to Myself that I am All people on this planet, then I will have World Peace.

    When I prove to Myself that I am old and young, gay and straight, black and white, Arab and Jew, then I will have World Peace.

    When I prove to Myself that I am all words, symbols, numbers, laws, values, ideas that exist now or have ever existed, the I will know who and what and where I am. Then I will have World Peace.

    When I prove to Myself that I am all planets, stars, galaxies, meteors, comets, moons, and space, then I will see who and what I am. Then I will have World Peace.

    …since I asked Myself.

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  6. I think peace, Debra, has much to do with a kind of inner and outer dance that takes place in life. Peaceful external factors no doubt influence and add their contribution to inner peace, while the growth of inner peace has its contribution to peace in the outer world. I have witnessed a tranquillity within which nothing seems to shake in just a few people and I’ve always stood in awe of it. It’s almost as if this peace or tranquillity borders on the absurd, but in discerning it carefully it’s no doubt real. The common thread in all these people was a long sustained period of the practice of meditation. I must confess that I’m no where near this, but I certainly feel far more at peace both inwardly with myself, and outwardly in my dealings with the outer world than I did, say, ten years ago.

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  7. Human nature is complicated, I think social media and technology have made people much more selfish – not exactly the right word, it’s hard to define – I think society spends so much time disconnected from the real world or living in a pretend media world – we’ve forgotten how to look outward. Peace is becoming less tangible than it was when Pete Seeger stirred our souls.It could be that the key to finding a peaceful balance is less worry over coming up with clever tweets. There isn’t anything today to match the power of Seeger – he made us feel alive, part of something important, he gave us focus. Sigh 🙂

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    • Yes, I think our mediated experience may bring some good along with some fallout. That’s another great topic for pondering.
      Pete was special and stayed the course throughout his long life.

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  8. I think achieving inner peace is extremely difficult and this is where we should start. I do not think it is something that comes naturally or easily. The amount of inner conflict we all have is unbelievable. There is war raging within our psyches, and what is happening in the world is just an exteriorization of that. Have you heard of Krishnamurti? I adore him. I need to reread this, hope you will enjoy it too:
    http://www.jkrishnamurti.org/krishnamurti-teachings/view-text.php?tid=1564&chid=1261

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    • Wonderful read Monika! I love Krishnamurti and am quite familiar with his writings.
      I agree with him and others like Erik (Anacephaleosis blog), who suggest that peace comes through breaking down the walls of separateness that come from our sense of ourselves, including the way we use language.
      Thanks for the link!

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  9. I think peace is the natural state of being. It is present in the stillness and flow of nature. I also think many people lose peace because they were not raised to value it and prioritize it as such.

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    • That is a very positive view Linda. I see much love and calmness in nature at times, and wish I could only see that, but the hardest thing for me to reconcile is the brute forces of nature that cause suffering, whether it is the difficult fact that life feeds on life or the horrors of devastating storms and fires. What to make of the suffering, I don’t know.
      I agree that people who have not been exposed to loving relationships, or any relationships that were lasting enough to create bonds of trust, need our utmost compassion and love in the hope that they may come to know the true joy of others’ love for them.

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      • per usual,
        your comment gives me much to consider Debra. I need to expand my definition of peace to include what is in service of the highest good with no negative or cruel intentions. I give much more credit to the natural world that excludes humans in this definition as I believe that most of humanity is too damaged to be able to behave without negative or cruel intentions.

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      • Yeah, humans seem to be, troubled, or without a sense of belonging? At least when an animal eats for food, it seems to act out of an instinct, or from that which can be no other way, so we wonder, what is our excuse?
        I often wonder how we can reconcile ourselves to the brutality of nature? What is our instinct?
        I do love to exchange these ideas with you Linda!
        Hugs

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      • Yes, you get my point that animals and the planet acts out of either instinct or natural laws. There are no emotional overtones, grudges, judgements, other ego based moves. I cannot answer how to reconclie the brutality such as Katrina, Sandy, tsunamis, etc but I think there is a rhythm if you will and peace resides in that rhythm. I really enjoy these exchanges too! While we may have differing viewpoints, it seems like we are talking ” the same language”.

        in light, Linda

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      • I cherish the difference, and am sometimes afraid that my words might discourage, rather then encourage an exchange.
        Perhaps in knowing and trusting that there is no beginning or ending to some essence of who we are, or a sharing in the source of who we are can bring peace of mind and acceptance of unavoidable suffering. These are things I hope to find peace about.
        Hugs!

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  10. Ken McLeod, a Buddhist teacher says this – I try to remember to practice this but only when I am feeling non-peace, which is when I know that I am not at ease. It helps to put me in a more peaceful frame of mind. ” Most situations come down to three choices: you can take action, you can let it go, or you can suffer.”

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