What is Peace?
Such a multi-faceted word.
Like ‘love’, peace does not have a simple definition.
According to the dictionary, peace is:
- a state of tranquility or quiet: as
- freedom from civil disturbance
- a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom (“a breach of the peace”)
- freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
- harmony in personal relations
- a state or period of mutual concord between governments
- a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity
- used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell
A couple years have passed since the last time I wrote, and I find myself at the Summer Solstice, once again contemplating the word ‘peace’; reflecting on its meaning in my life, the lives of those I love, as well as the lives of those I do not know.
It seems that wherever I look lately there is anything but peace.
Violence is breaking out around the world. Locally, whether it’s harassment at political rallies, school shootings, police brutality, domestic violence and rape, or the most recent act of terror that occurred at Pulse Night Club…. It seems as if humanity has become restless, fearful, and angry- and has gradually shifted away from peace, hope, and love.
Personally, I have become increasingly dispirited, along with much of those in my generation. I thought for quite sometime that this feeling of discontentment was unique- that there was something truly wrong with me. However, having read several articles and informally surveying many of my peers- it seems our generation has become increasingly apathetic, the more we realize our voices don’t really matter, and our ability to positively impact society is a lot slimmer than what we were raised to believe.
Although I am somewhat relieved to know it’s not just me, it’s also extremely disheartening to realize that this is the reality, and I am but one of many floating among this despondent sea of people.
Aside from my peers, I see it with my friends, family, and colleagues as well. These well-meaning older individuals spend much of their free time and energy either disgruntled about the state of the world or distracting themselves from it with a never ending parade of bread and circus.
I’m also sad to say that I have even seen this shift take place among our children. While there have always been bullies at school, as a teacher, I have found that, as a whole, the children seem to have lost their sense of wonder, imagination, and genuine interest in being kind or helping others. These quintessential traits of childhood have, instead, been replaced with a disinterested pragmatic view of themselves and the world around them, as well as an apathetic and often mean-spirited view of their peers and community.
It makes me wonder sometimes, if the disillusionment we allowed to trickle down to them can be reversed. If the children can change… if we can change.
While I sometimes worry we are doomed as a species, this recent tragedy actually brings me a bit of hope.
It is both interesting and sad how tragedies can wake people up to their humanity within and, even if it’s only brief, connect them with the rest of humanity.
Similar to 9/11, this recent tragedy has been a call to arms… or rather a call to join arms, hand-in-hand, to honor and remember the victims, as well as stand in peaceful solidarity with our fellow humans. I’m hoping, however, that with last week’s tragedy, there will be more than just a brief semblance of peace, with vigils and prayers in town squares and social media. I’m hoping that the magic of Summer Solstice will rub off on us as a society and help us start shifting towards a new beginning- to make a conscious decision to move forward in a deliberately peaceful and hopeful direction.
With this Summer Solstice, I have decided to be more peacefully hopeful as I move forward in life. While it does not come naturally to me, I hope that, with time, it will be second nature. I will model peacefulness and my hopes for an increasingly peaceful future, and hope that this will inspire others, young and old, just like you, to do the same.
“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.” -Dalai Lama