A few months ago, as I tried to pay attention to the meditation--in a calm and mindful sort of way--I heard: "Peace in the world begins with peace in my heart." I hadn't really thought of it that way, but of course it does. If I am peaceful in my heart this morning, I will act with peace and grace, and everyone I encounter will (maybe) pick up my peaceful vibe and, in turn, spread even more peace. A Kumbaya moment for sure. And it sounds fairly simple: Peace begets peace begets peace... But, let's wait just a minute. What is peace? It sounds like a silly question, but really--is my peace your peace? Or, conversely, is your peace my peace?
In my mind, Peace is the absence of war. The absence of fighting. I remember my mother had a pat answer whenever I asked what she might want for her birthday or for Christmas. "Peace and Quiet wrapped up in a big red ribbon," she would answer. She did not laugh, or even smile when she said that. I may have been a bit challenging for her.
But, now, as I begin to poke around the internet, I also begin to realize that Peace (wrapped in ribbons or not) might be a bit more complicated than I thought. For example, a young student from St. Mark's Senior Secondary School in New Delhi, India, wrote an essay explaining that Peace was NOT the absence of aggression, violence or hostility, as I obviously had thought. Rather, Peace flowed from the presence of justice. Hmm...the presence of justice. A lofty thought and a positive definition which made me sit up a little straighter and realize that Peace has two faces: Positive Peace and Negative Peace. I had defined an example of Negative Peace while the young man had described Positive Peace. I'm going to suggest that both fulfill our desire for peace, but both are not created equal.
A definition of Positive Peace reads like this: "Attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies." Whoa! Now that would require work and planning and preparation and will and openness of heart and mind. Not to mention a great deal of courage and love. A second definition builds on our first: "Absence of war accompanied by particular requirements for the mutual settlement of relations (such as) justice, mutual respect, respect for law and good will." But, what a wonderful world Positive Peace could bring to us all. It might sound just a bit like heaven...and, perhaps, prove to be nearly as lasting.
Negative Peace is defined exactly as we've already realized: "The absence of violence or an absence of fear." Both of which are good things, but not necessarily lasting things. The "absence of..." phrase makes me feel as if I'm teetering on the brink...one wrong step, one misspoken phrase, one tweet too many and we plunge over the edge. Peace, as we know it, could disappear instantly, and what takes its place is none too attractive. And, to be honest, keeps me awake at night.
So? Where do we go from here? I think I'm deciding to live with and be grateful for any Negative Peace we can generate; but, in addition, to hold tight to, and never give up on the concept and the creation and the growth of Positive Peace. To reach for harmony, acceptance, compassion and tolerance. To celebrate and learn from our differences. To nurture our relationships and friendships. To accept what is, but to never stop working toward making what is, better.
Let me quote Abraham Lincoln here...a sentence or two from his First Inaugural Address: "We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection...The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the Better Angels of our Nature."
Blessings on you all...