“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
What is peace? Whenever I have asked this question responses are usually along the lines of, ‘Well it’s about countries not being at war’. Peace is generally thought of as a state that exists outside of us and is expressed as a state of mutual harmony between people or groups – freedom from violence.
Where does peace come from? Over my lifetime I have often asked myself this question. As a small boy, I saw images on our TV of Russian tanks as they rolled into Hungary after the Hungarian Uprising in 1956. I remember lying in bed feeling anxious and worried that the tanks would come to Swindon where we lived. There have been many times when I have been aware of that small boy within me, feeling anxious, as peace has been broken. During my teenage years I was scared that an atom bomb was going to be dropped on us and in 1962, with many others were scared that the Cuban missile crisis was going to lead to war. I’m sure you can add to the list with your own experiences.
In 1986 I had an experience, which was life changing: I was taken to the memorial of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem, in Israel. Here I visited the memorial to the children who had been murdered by the Nazis. I recall the feeling of being in darkness with the dark being penetrated by candlelight as the names of children were being recited. The effect on me was profound. When I came out into the sunlight I was overwhelmed with the realisation that as a teacher I had to help children find their peace so that they can create a peaceful world.
What I realised on that day in Israel is that peace starts in our inner world of thoughts and feelings. That peace is an energy that creates our natural state of being but becomes disturbed when we think about and react to challenging external events – me watching the TV as a child. We then become peaceless, filled with stress and other emotions that disturb our inner stability. We find ourselves acting out this peacelessness to others, losing our temper, being unkind and less tolerant.
I think that when such peacelessness is felt and acted on by large groups of people, then society reflects this in a state called cultural entropy (collapsing of society), which can end in civil strive, violence and war. I am also curious about whether our internal peacelessness leads to the election of leaders who reflect our state of mind and act it out on our behalf? Why else do countries elect leaders who are egoists or narcissists?
The challenge, for each one of us, is to maintain our inner equilibrium, our inner peace so that in our relationships and actions we are peaceful. In my experience, starting the day with a quiet period of inner reflection helps me to nourish qualities such as peace.
I wish you a peaceful week…