Shaping Peace TogetherPosted on: October 2, 2020, by : David
[Marking the International Day of Peace, 21st September 2020]
We live in an incredibly noisy world! From the noise of traffic on the highway to the piped music in our shopping centres; from the loud bass beat of car audio systems to the voices of children in the playground; from the noise of heavy machinery in industry to the visual ‘noise’ of endless advertising hoardings. Even in this period of pandemic-induced slow-down the noise continues: protests and political stoushes, sirens and helicopters! Happy noises and sad noises; good noises and bad noises.
And then there’s the ‘inner’ noise that chatters away in the background, those inner voices telling us what we ‘ought’ to do or be, what we did or said wrong, what others did or said wrong, what we think others think about us … … on and on goes the noise of those pesky inner voices.
Incidentally, so much of the noise that envelops us – from outside and inside – stems from seeing others as competitors, as people we have to ‘win over’ or ‘prove wrong’. Such simplistic dualism leads to louder and louder voices – on the outside as we try to drown out the noise from the other, and on the inside as we strive to convince ourselves of our adequacy for the battle, to stifle the niggling self-doubt or self-criticism that inevitably arises within us!
We are so conditioned to noise, perhaps addicted to it, that we sometimes find silence threatening. And yet the peace for which we yearn is surely to be found first in a quiet stillness at the centre of our being. Dreaming and longing for world peace is naïve if there is no peace at the centre of each individual soul.
It is no coincidence that many of the great peacemakers, in history and in modernity, have been people who have learnt to practice stillness, to welcome silence, to speak and act out of a deep, still centre rather than to re-act out of the shallow, superficial hubbub of surrounding noise. Think of people like Jesus, the Buddha, Muhammad who have founded spiritual movements; national leaders like Gandhi and the Dalai Lama; contemporary spiritual masters like Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Thich Nhat Hanh, Eckhart Tolle; writers and poets like Mary Oliver, Rumi, Madeleine L’Engle … … the list is endless! And none of these people has become known for their loud strident vices, their capacity to talk over or shout down those with opposing views! They have become known for their quiet stillness, their gentle voices, their deep spirituality. And out of that stillness they have been mediators – perhaps even radiators – of peace.
The lesson is simple. If we yearn for peace in our world, whether on a global scale or a local scale, then the place to start is within us. To create the shape of peace deep within our own still centre is to empower us to speak and act out of that place of stillness, to become purveyors of peace rather than reactors to the noise that assails us. Herein lies the pathway to peace for the world – not in mass programs or processes (worthwhile though they may be), but in cultivating those small, still places within each individual, the quiet centre of deep peace.
Perhaps this International Day of Peace is the perfect time for you to get started on Shaping Peace Together.