“The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.” – Carlos Santana
Yesterday I spent one of the most peaceful days I’ve ever had at work. Or was it simply the most boring? We get these two concepts mixed up all the time, you know. Everyone professes to want peace on earth, but the way we live our lives sometimes tells a very different story. Perhaps we wouldn’t know quite what to do with peace if it was handed to us on a golden platter. I think we need to learn what it feels like to be a peaceful person first, and then we need to learn how to share this knowledge with the rest of the world.
We read newspapers and watch the news on tv to keep up to date and freaked out by all the horrific things that are happening in our world. We rant and we complain. We compete. We quarrel. We decide what is good and what is right and which way is the best and then we knock ourselves out trying to justify our decisions and convince everybody around us (in our nation, city, neighborhood, workplace, or in our own homes) that our path is the right and proper one to take.
We are suspicious and fearful of people who have ideas and habits and beliefs that are not the same as ours. We would like everyone in the world to want the same things that we want, to believe the same things that we believe, and to live their lives adhering to our standards. But they don’t, and they won’t. It’s very stressful for us to have to accept this. Yes, we all start out the same, as babes of the human race, but then each of us lives and learns and grows and changes. Many of us learn tolerance and acceptance and how to have an open, loving heart. Many of us don’t. But before you decide that blowing somebody up is a viable solution for getting your own way, try to imagine how boring this life would be if we didn’t have our many differences. There would be nothing to discover and nothing new under the sun.
Most of us think of wars are those nasty things being fought in some distant part of the world. If we could we’d just march on over there and whap those idiots upside the head and tell them to stop all this stupid fighting and for the love of God learn to get along. Well, maybe that’s what would happen if moms ruled the world. But fighting for peace is like screaming for silence. Or as George Carlin said, like screwing for virginity. It’s as futile as whapping somebody on the head to teach them that whapping somebody on the head is wrong. There is violence and anger and frustration and fear all around us, but until we realize it’s also deep inside each and every one of us, we will never know peace.
“Instead of hating the people you think are war-makers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.” Thomas Merton
Inner peace is where it all starts, and inner peace is often elusive. If there’s not enough conflict and chaos in our lives, we tend to rush around to drum up some more of it and then we whine about what a disorganized mess everything is in and that there’s never enough time to get everything done. If there’s not enough drama in our own lives, we watch some one else’s on tv. We demand it in movies. We create it in chance encounters by making snap judgements and assumptions.
We can also be pessimistic grumps from hell. (You say that this past year was the worst one of your life, and yet, here you are. Still alive. You have food to eat. You have a roof over your head. You have clothes to wear and you are not alone. Someone else might consider your situation paradise. So please shut up unless you can find it in your heart to tell us how blessed you are instead.)
And then, what if, suddenly, out of the blue, by some strange magical set of circumstances we find ourselves with that much-desired time on our hands? There is nothing to do, and nowhere to go and no pressing need to run off in six different directions at once. There is nothing to plan or organize or fix. What do we do with this beautiful gift of time? Instead of basking in this personal peace, we often let a restless panic take us over.
We become bored and we sigh and we fidget. It’s too quiet. We will go stir crazy with nothing to do. Geez, somebody start a war or something.
You know that song that says “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”? I truly believe that’s where peace starts. And these are the things I’m going to do to start the peace ball rolling. If there is peace in my heart and my mind and my soul, maybe peace will radiate in some small measure to the world around me.
1. Slow down. Time just speeds up when you try to race with it.
2. Don’t raise your voice or slam or throw things, rant, cry, pout, fret, or otherwise freak out. These are the actions performed in chaotic, dramatic gong shows, and your life is not one of those.
3. Be kind.
4. Do not let someone else’s bad mood or attitude dictate your own. Do not add fuel to the fire.
5. Learn to laugh at yourself and take life less seriously. No one gets out of it alive.
6. Learn how to bask in the sunshine of quiet moments.
7. Open your heart and embrace the differences and the diversities and the new experiences this world has to offer. Variety truly is the spice of life.
8. Let it go. Whatever it is. Find a way.
9. Stop doing the things that make you miserable. Stop listening to the people who bring you down.
10. Stop feeling responsible for the happiness of others. The only person whose happiness you can control is your own. If you are happy and at peace with the world, the world cannot help but become a better place simply because you are in it.
And as far as all the fighting goes, let’s just postpone wars indefinitely. If we’re very patient and wait long enough, the people who were going to fight in them will eventually die quietly in their sleep. Problem solved.