Peace Day

In 1981 the United Nations declared by unanimous resolution that September 21 be recognized as The International Day of Peace. This is a “globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.” (see: internationaldayofpeace.org).

Why is “building a Culture of Peace” so hard for us?

Every reasonably intelligent person will say that they want peace and yet a Culture of Peace eludes us. At this point many a reasonably intelligent person will also reflexively qualify their desire for Peace with some form of the following: “…but we can’t have Peace as long as they…”. So the work to establish a Culture of Peace stalls.

“Who do you think you are?” is usually expressed as the indignant rejection of an insult but if we consider it as a serious question for ourselves to answer, it may shed some light on why it’s so difficult for us to establish that Culture of Peace.

Maybe we think we are inherently a violent and warlike species. Maybe we think it’s “in our genes” and that “we can’t help it.” Maybe we believe that, despite our best efforts, we are killers from a long line of killers.

That is the Old Story.

This is the story of us, locked into a world of toxic competition in which some must “lose” in life in order for others to “win.” It’s the concept that supports capitalism as we know it and keeps us in seemingly endless wars.

But is this who we really are?

There is a New Story (see: mettacenter.org) of humanity that is emerging. This story paints a very different picture of who we are. It shows us that, at our core, we are actually good rather than evil. We are inclined to cooperate and help each other succeed in life. We see this truth emerge again and again when some sort of disaster strikes (remember how people treated each other right after 9/11?) and our differences are quickly put aside. For however brief a time, we see each other clearly. We see each other as fellow human beings instead of as members of some artificial category.

Creating a Culture of Peace becomes not only possible but natural when we start to remember who we really are and start letting go of the false narratives that hold us prisoner.

As a means to reaching this end there is the concept of the two hands of Real Peace. One hand is closed and says “I oppose your injustice and destructiveness” while the other hand is open and says: “I’m open to you as a person.” This is a realistic practice. We can affirm the humanity of every person without exception while standing firmly against all systems that oppress any person anywhere.

This Real Peace rests on the foundation of our relationships with each other. These relationships form the bonds of our inter-connected nature. That is where our real security begins and how it thrives. It is not our neighbor’s fear of us that makes us feel safe. We feel safe with each other because, in some way, we see each our neighbor as family. Security is the result of knowing that what happens to any family member happens to all family members. We have defined “family” in an exceedingly narrow way for far too long. That needs to change and change fast.

Building a Culture of Peace does not mean that we will live in a conflict-free world. There will be conflict well into the future as long as human beings are involved with each other. What it does mean is that we solve our problems without resorting to violence. It means we recognize that the problem is the problem and not that people are the problem. It means that we give up the illogical belief that hurting others, or ourselves, is a viable way to resolve conflicts.

Building a Culture of Peace is both realistic and natural for the human family when we understand who we are in relationship to each other. We hold ourselves back from this realization by continuing to cling to our artificial categories of identification. We imagine that we are members of a particular nation, religion, political party, profession or class. No such category gets close to the depth of who we really are as beings. That would be like going for your regular medical check-up and having your doctor assess your health by examining the clothes you’re wearing. It doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.

If we want to establish a Culture of Peace in human society we will need to establish that culture within ourselves as part of the process. We need to heal the injuries sustained by our fragile humanness by claiming the truth of our own sacredness. Not only our own but the sacredness of everyone else as well. There is no one who isn’t. This sacredness is by no means limited to human beings. It encompasses all of creation.

We get to the heart of the matter when we recognize the sacredness of All. There we will find the Culture of Peace.

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