Without the challenges we face in life, we wouldn’t be the people we are today.
We all have the privilege of learning and growing from our imperfect life paths.
Today is the Summer Solstice. As the longest day of the year, it is traditionally a celebration of life, light, and the beginning and completion of the cycles of life. Throughout history, people have held rituals and ceremonies to celebrate and honor the Solstice, the Sun’s life-giving force, and our connection to all living things on Earth.
In accordance with the spirit of the Solstice, I have spent much time today and leading up to it, reflecting on my life path thus far- as well as considering the direction I wish for my path to take in the future.
One of the themes I keep coming back to during this reflection is regret and growth in our imperfect human lives. I have always regretted the many reprehensible actions and misbehaviors of my past- yet I am now finally ready to forgive myself, honor my life path thus far, and move forward.
The Dalai Lama said, “When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.”
If you know me at all, you know peace and love is my jam. But, if you’ve met me, you probably also know that I often do not err on the side of ‘behaving peaceful and loving’. Among other things, I have been called ‘spirited’, ‘high strung’, and ‘bitchy’.
This used to bother me quite a bit. Were my worked up thoughts, feelings, and tendencies my true nature, and could I ever be a peaceful and loving individual?
Several years ago, I began a soulful endeavor to find peace and love within myself, with those close to me, and with humanity.
During my journey, I have been blessed with the fellowship of like-minded people, also looking to spread peace, love, and perhaps happiness towards others.
However, throughout the years, I have found my journey has taken me on new paths.
Although I try to approach all aspects of my life with peace and love, I no longer believe it is enough to send out peaceful and loving vibes, while simply sitting calmly, allowing for life to just happen.
Let me elaborate on this.
I had a paradigm shift a few weeks after our latest presidential election- upon approaching my 31st birthday.
After a year of deciding many times a day whether to take part in or avoid increasingly heated conversations- I decided I had to make a decision and stick to it. I had to decide exactly how I felt, assess why I felt that way, and decide how I was going to act and react.
It was at this point I concluded that I must stick to my values and principles- at all costs; and just because I happen to be passionate or ‘easily riled up’ about something I value, I am no less peaceful or loving. Likewise, I must keep reminding myself that those who are more calm and serene are not necessarily more peaceful and loving individuals.
It has been exceedingly frustrating, because, although all these characteristics are mutually exclusive, they are often seen as interchangeable.
Now, like all humans, I am nowhere near perfect, but I can still make an effort to be a better human being and live with the best intention.
I think that should be the key here- intention.
I think that most of us can agree that it is not peaceful nor loving to kick puppies, beat up old ladies, or set houses on fire. The intent there is clearly one of malice. I think we could also agree that if you were to come across someone behaving in this manner, you would probably be very vocal and action-oriented about stopping it. The intent there is clearly one to not just promote peace, but to stop actions of hate. It’s not a calm reaction, it’s visceral, and that’s okay.
There are some actions, however, that many overlook, because the intention does not seem malicious… or, even worse, the intent of the action is clearly malicious and harms others, but people do not want to speak or act out against it, for fear of appearing too impolite, high strung, or bitchy about it.
Many times we overlook malice because these actions are done by sweet, calm, kind people. People who go to church, love their families, and are good to their friends. But making decisions that knowingly fuck over others, this is never okay.
So how should we approach these actions?
Speak and act with the intent of love.
Seeing someone choose to act in hate, especially due to ignorance, is worthy of a meaningful dialogue. Dialogue is how many learn to empathize and see others as humans worthy of love. But, remember that sometimes the dialogue simply cannot be calm. Sometimes it’s not polite. Sometimes you have to be firm and you cannot stand idly by, for fear of how others will perceive you.
All religious texts are full of this dialogue, to help inspire us to become better people.
But even Jesus, one of the most understanding and compassionate characters in religious texts, lost his cool on occasion when he needed to be more passionate to prove a point. Whether it was with the assholes at the temple or his own followers, his passion showed us two things. One: that sometimes it requires being loud, angry, and passionate to get the the point across. Two: having the intention of hate, and being an asshole to others just ain’t cool, and should not be tolerated.
Whether it is the Bible, Quran, Talmud, or Torah- no matter the religion- the most important teaching, the common thread, is love. Not necessarily being calm, or polite- but showing love and peace, and not allowing hate.
No matter your age, religion, nationality… whatever background… it doesn’t matter, this message applies to all of you.
If you focus on anything else, you’re missing the point.
Although I hope we all grow more kind and patient, and continue to strive for conversation and dialogue, let’s be sure to get one thing straight: being peaceful and loving means you don’t allow others to totally shit all over everything just because they’re polite about it. We must stop confusing passion with hate, and calmness with peace.
“The time is always right, to do what’s right.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We must choose to act and speak out of love, not hate or fear.
Humans have such an amazing capacity for love and growth. Consider it and help make the world a better place.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”-Mother Teresa
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