Every year before writing the current Christmas message, I return to the posts of Christmas past and read them in order. Despite the occasional wince from bad writing, I gain perspective on what I have said, what I want to say, and how it all fits together.
It is a life lesson exercise each year to see my own personal journey. When I reread each, I remember the ‘me’ that wrote it. This year I read with greater feeling than previous years. It was poignant reading of my love and joy and my fear and pain of the last eight years. The realities since changed and the ones that are recurring themes frozen for me to review. The process places me in a mental state to write from a place of hope and not of fear. It strips away the masks of performance I often wear as I exist and allows the heart to inform thought.
This year I became more and more aware of the true theme and core value of everything that I have written. I have come to understand what the highest value we can possibly strive for in life is Peace. I have discovered that it is through peace that we achieve everything in life. A peaceful heart allows everything else to happen both personally and globally. Everything on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs requires the soil of peace to grow. Violence uproots all. I search for peace.
Two thousand years ago the myth of an angel proclaimed, “Peace on earth, and goodwill towards all.” We westerners measure all true success by that benchmark. Sadly, we fall short of that benchmark in so many ways. This is not the view of the cynic or pessimist for the world today screams out for a peace that is smothered in the din of violence.
Violence is anything that destroys global or personal peace. Further tears for the fact that there is so much truly beautiful good news in the world swallowed up in the media roar of violence both global and personal.
These two forces are constantly at work in the world. These two forces are at work in my heart. When we understand what causes violence and peace both globally and personally, we can meet the benchmark. I ask myself, “What would a global peace look like?” “What would a personal peace look like?”
What would a Global Peace on Earth look like? Peace is not a goal but an effect of action. Peace is the result of economic security. Peace is the result of social security. Peace is the result of human security. Any type of violence in economic, social, and human security causes a disruption in peace.
This year I have wondered, “What is my responsibility to global peace?” We westerners believe the way in which our social/political culture evolved is the best model of social evolution. To prove this point think of a system of social/political thought other than your own and ask yourself if you want to have that as your system of thought? Most westerners I know would say they are quite happy to keep Western thought and work out the bugs in the system. The Western system is in constant need of a Service Pack and we accept that and continue to work within the framework.
Despite the imperfections in the matrix, we stick with this one and keep tweaking it. Our systems evolve. Ideologies shift. The major event for all western systems of thought is revolution and often-violent revolution. It seems we forget that the price of our peace was violence. Nevertheless, what part must we play in the violence of peace for others?
I am not sure if Canada sending military to Afghanistan was the right thing to do but it leads me to this thought. Here we westerners sit, the Ivory Tower lot, in our swivel chairs reading this message using a technology we take for granted when 70% of the world has not heard a dial tone let alone have adequate economic, social, and human security.
If our democracy and ideology is to survive, must it be defended? What exactly does defending it mean? Anything from intercultural exchanges to looking down the barrel of missile launchers appears to be the vehicles of peaceful global democracy. This is not a manifesto to pick up arms but an acknowledgement of a real force in the world today.
I finally figured out why I hated the sentence, “We live in a post 9/11 world.” It was too global. Other than Western countries and maybe more important the North American Western countries the rest of the world was already existing in that world. Many holders of Western ideology have been lulled into a false sense of peace the further removed they are from their democratic revolution.
September 9/11 was the return of Western ideals to the global ideological theatre of war. In addition, because of the invasion of media the war is writ large for all to participate. Some participate from the barrel of a missile launcher while others participate from the lap of luxury provide by the spoils of violent democratic revolution.
For peace to exist in our world the systems of thought are going to have to coexist. Can secular and religious societies coexist? Can western socialist/capitalist democracies coexist with communist societies? Can Shari and Islamic law coexist with Jewish law or Western democracy? We westerners do believe that peace is fundamental to democracy. We believe that democracy is fundamental to peace.
Western ideology has tried to create a system of rules of fair play and civility to illustrate itself. However, Western ideology must accept the reality that other systems of thought have a different system of fair play and civility. Then we must ask some hard questions. When peace is not present must Western ideology do whatever is necessary to return to the state of peace? When the rules of fair play are broken, must those following them decide which rules they are also willing to break for the ideology to survive?
Maybe it is because war has changed that we do not see the lines of thought. From history, it was easy to see the global battles of ideology play out. We lined up our plastic soldiers and had at it. However, as war has changed we have had to create another vocabulary to look after such messiness as “collateral damage”.
The two questions we countries of economic, social, and human security have to ask ourselves are:
“What is our responsibility in creating a global peace?”
“Is a fundamental part of Western democracy the obligation to participate in a global revolution of ideologies where there will be instances when breaking the letter of ideological law is needed in order to maintain the spirit of ideological law?”
This is a nice peace of theory but it becomes messy in the face of what one ideology calls violent human rights abuses by another ideology. Maybe first, we have to agree on what we want a global peace to look like. However, trying to guarantee the economic, social, and human security of all is the best place to start.
What would a personal peace look like? I would have to say the perfect model for a personal peace in my life right now is the one I share with my sister. The violence of our personal illnesses has forged a strong peace between us. I do not think I have ever said it like that before. My sister is the only person in my life with whom I have absolute peace. We know the violence intimately but we created a space where we have peace. This peace allows us to survive the violence.
Our relationship is the only one that truly reaches my personal peace benchmark. She is the only person I could ask for anything and never feel an expectation. She is the one I feel comfortable saying anything to without fear of an expectation or a balance sheet. This is quite remarkable when seen in the light of previous posts. There is always a checks and balance sheet running to a greater or lesser degree in all of my other relationships. We use our peace together to find individual peace that we can spread to other areas of our lives.
This year I achieved a bit more peace with Bipolar though I know I am nowhere near the peace I desire. In February of 2006, I went on a two-week silent retreat to regain some sanity . On this retreat, I gained an insight into managing the illness that I continue to strive to accomplish. I learned that I have to manage Bipolar lovingly to have any sense of peace. Trying to fight it causes violence.
I also have had to accept that the illness has great violence associated with it. It robs me of peace and time. It robs me of intimacy with people I love. This year I have learned to ride the waves of depression and do what I must to survive. Then as global peacemaker Mattie Stepanick once said, I “Remember to play after every storm.” This becomes a greater challenge for me now as I have also developed symptoms of migraines this past year.
Another great source of peace for me is seeing my sister arrive. She said to me yesterday that this was the first time in her life that she did not feel like the poor foster kid. To be a part of that is a great honour and joy. There will be days when we both shall think that our peace is fleeting but our peace now has a depth that does not shake.
This year she became my big sister, the company is great. As we create a stronger economic, social, and human security with each other, we achieve a greater personal peace. We are now ready to collaborate and join forces to create something greater than each of us. Who knows we just might create global peace as we strengthen our personal peace.
The mystics were right; the individual heart living in peace creates a harmony of peace throughout the world. My responsibility is to nurture peace in my personal life and to nurture peace in our world. When we believe that peace is the greatest fundamental underscoring all life, and accept our responsibility to create this peace, will we learn to stop the violence we perpetuate against peace. Then the angel will not have spoken a myth those two thousand years ago but provided a path towards, “Peace on earth, and goodwill towards all.” Come along!
Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.
(December 24, 2006)
Posts of Christmas Past