“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
Martin Luther King
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we we belong to one another.”
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
In one of those synchronous moments in life, today’s theme is peace. We wrote a list of values to include in these advent posts in the middle of November, not knowing how poignant today’s value would be.
Then again, we could have chosen “peace” for any day and reported on the tragedy of killing in any part of the world on this day. War is rife. People are fighting constantly. Life for many in places like Syria and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo is utterly terrifying. Why?
Today we are still absorbing the horrendous news from Connecticut in the USA and of how a young man walked into his old school and committed an act of violence that one can hardly begin to contemplate, let alone describe. Having worked in schools for decades, the imagined scene is ever-more vivid. Every time these things happen, and sadly, they happen too, too frequently, one tends to transpose oneself into the situation, with the memory doing amazing tricks to the mind – imagining your own classroom and where you would find places to hide your children, who you have been entrusted to look after.
Yesterday we spoke about ‘repentance’ and how there would be no need for such an act if we considered the wellbeing and value of others before our own selfish needs. We need to think before we commit verbal or physical acts of violence. We know that, and if we do spurt out a revolting phrase or use our fists to attack in an impulsive or fearful moment, we have to act immediately to find peace; both the victim and the perpetrator. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, and what you say, and what you do are in perfect harmony”.
Change the word “happiness” to “peace” and the message is still loud and clear.
Today may not be the time to talk about recriminations and gun laws, but then again, perhaps today is precisely the right day to talk about it. We can help prevent these atrocities by looking at changes in the law. That is fact. The NRA will have their powerful lobby trying to press their argument in the name of freedom and rights, but where the hell were the rights of those innocent victims yesterday? Why did they have to die because a woman had the right to bear arms, or rather possess the arms that her son could borrow?
(“Bullets cannot be recalled. They cannot be uninvented. But the can be taken out of the gun.”
More than this though, we have to look at shared values at an early age, and do it consistently throughout a human being’s schooling, for that is what we do in schools. We look after, nurture and enable human beings. They’re not statistics, they’re not blank automatons to feed factual fodder to. They’re human beings.
Further than that, education doesn’t stop the day you walk out of the school gate. In all areas of life – work, faith groups, political meetings, down the pub, in family gatherings – we should consider how we can be considerate to one another, how we can live a contented and peaceful life without causing harm, angst and suffering to others.
There’s that phrase, “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”. It’s not just about money. If we all do a little thing to bring the value of peace into our own lives, then perhaps we could prevent the escalation of destructiveness into the world at large. Controlling and managing our own destructive emotions is hard, especially in the face of adversity, but if we can manage this on a small scale, and get used to the idea that this is the way to be, then collectively, we can work together to prevent war and violence.
(“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” John Lennon)
Honestly, today, we feel bereft and deadened. Our thoughts are with the community in Newtown and particularly our colleagues at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Peace be with you all, and let’s all make an effort today to bring peace into the lives of those who are dearest to us.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”
“The more you sweat in peacetime, the less you bleed in war.”
Gil Scott-Heron was a poet, musician and philosopher who wrote, amongst many other great works, a typically sardonic anti-weapons song with a simple, stark title – ‘Gun’.
Here’s a section of the lyrics:
Brother Man says he’s ‘fraid of gangsters
Messing with people just for fun
He don’t want to be next
He got a family to protect
So just last week he bought himself a gun.
Everybody got a pistol, everybody got a 45
And the philosophy seem to be
At least as near as I can see
When other folks give up theirs, I’ll give up mine.
This is a violent civilization
If civilization’s where I am
Every channel that I stop on
Got a different kind of cop on
Killing them by the million for Uncle Sam
Saturday night just ain’t that special
Yeah, I got the constitution on the run
‘Cause even though we’ve got the right
To defend our home, to defend our life
Got to understand to get it in hand about the guns
Saturday night just ain’t that special
Freedom to be afraid is all you want
Yes if you don’t want to be next
You’ve got a family to protect
9 out of 10, you’ve got a friend, you’ve got a gun.
Although he used wit and humour to express his thoughts on life, Gil was a serious artist who faced many demons throughout his life, and understood that life is complex, messy and full of contradictions. He loved irony. To this day we can hear people justify their possession of weapons with the line, “When other folks give up theirs, I’ll give up mine”.
Spotify carries the majority of Gil Scott-Heron’s musical output.