Thanks to Tess at Anchors and Masts, I saw the video below and learned about the work of Peace Direct and that today, September 21, is the United Nations International Day of Peace.
At one point in the short film, as Gill is putting on her artificial legs, the text reads, “Gill believes in the power of the individual and that everyone can make a difference.” What struck me as I worked on this post is the strength to be peace builders comes not from individuals, but individuals committed to community. I’ll demonstrate what I mean.
As I said, Tess led me to Peace Direct and to the UN Peace Day site. In a parallel journey, Randy’s post on scorn led me to Bill and Grant’s words on the same subject, all of them speaking in their way to what it means to learn to wage peace. Bill defines scorn as the feeling or belief that someone or something is worthless or despicable; the verb, is to feel or express contempt or derision for someone or something.
It is all too easy for me to take a position of scorn relative to someone else. If I think he is dumb, I express scorn. If I think he is obtuse, I express scorn. If he doesn’t agree with me, I express scorn. If he doesn’t drive like I want him to, I express scorn. If he makes my job more difficult, I express scorn. If I don’t like the way he looks, I express scorn.
Scorn makes me ugly.
Me, too. As long as I was dealing with definitions, I looked up peace and was struck by one word in two of the definitions:
- the normal, nonwarring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world;
- the normal freedom from civil commotion and violence of a community.
Peace as normal. What a concept.
Again, still dealing with words and borrowing ideas from those around me, I remembered my friend Don pointing out in a Bible study that our words listen and obey come from the same root.
c.1290, from O.Fr. obeir, from L. oboedire “obey, pay attention to, give ear,” lit. “listen to,” from ob “to” + audire “listen, hear” (see audience). Same sense development is in cognate O.E. hiersumnian.
I’ve also been reading the blog of a former student who is enrolled in the University for Peace in Costa Rica.
I had just sat down to write this morning with peace swirling all around me when the wheels fell off. We got word that our realtor had scheduled two home invasions (as I like to call them), one today and one tomorrow. She also suggested we rearrange the furniture in the large room that is both our living and dining area because the way we have chosen to live is “too unconventional” for most folks who are looking to buy a house.
I knew nothing of these people who are looking for a new home, but I felt scorn nonetheless. I felt better than them. We walked into this house seven years ago and it was a mess. The colors were atrocious, the house was a mess, and there were holes in the kitchen floor dug by the two large dogs who lived here along with the woman who owned it. To even think about buying it required at least enough imagination to see beyond her living in the space. And now our house won’t sell because the dullards who are looking can’t get past the dining table and the couch being placed in a less than conventional manner?
Screw peace. I wanted to open a can of whupass on somebody. It was time to beat some imagination into these idiots. (Now I understand why realtors don’t want you to be home when people come by.) When we got through moving the furniture, I came back to the computer to find all the peace links I had already saved in preparation for writing. I read what Randy and Bill and Grant and Jane and Tess had to say. I watched Gill climb up on the block seat and attach her artificial legs. I looked into what is now the living room to see Lola climb up in her usual perch on top of the couch cushions, nonplussed that she had been moved. And I felt silly, small, and sinful.
My anger is about being displaced. I don’t get to live in my home anymore; I live in a house that’s for sale. I don’t get to feel settled anymore because we are moving. The apparent lack of imagination that exists in the minds of today’s homebuyer is not the source of my rage, just an easy target. If I’m going to be a peacemaker, then easy targets can’t be a part of the equation. It can’t be about targets at all. Somehow, it’s about moving beyond the scorn and the rage and all the types of violence that pervade my life and listening to the solidarity of our humanity. Rather than seeing them as idiots, I’m called to listen and learn to see those folks who will walk our floors this afternoon as people traveling the same road we walked seven years ago and will walk again across floors in Durham in the weeks ahead. I’m called to listen to a larger world where my sense of displacement pales by comparison with those in Sudan and Iraq and Gaza and Indonesia and Burma and New Orleans who have been cut off from home and history by violence I know nothing of on a personal level. If I listen well, my rage can become resonance, which is something peace can be built upon. Bill quotes Paul from Philippians 4:8:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
In the Peace Direct video, the text says, “For us, peace is about strength, courage, determination, and action.” We are all crippled by the violence done by and to us. Everyday, it seems, feels like International Violence Day. We were not created to destroy one another, but to listen and to love, which both matter most in the most basic of relationships.
I heard the call to peace today while reading blogs and moving furniture. I’m praying for the courage to listen and obey.
Milton, thanks for passing on the Peace Direct video, I think their work is very important.
I think you’re right on the money about the link between the individual and community. It’s an everlasting circle, the individual can’t find full expression without connection to community and vice versa.
Your dictionary definitions of peace raised one of my deepest fears: that peace is not actually normal, that perhaps violence is the natural state of humanity. I pray it isn’t so.