Sometimes, I ponder on a thing and I start to make some headway, at least in my own mind. Other times, though, I start to think on a thing, and what I realize first is how utterly clueless I am about the topic.
I have been thinking on peace, lately. I filled with awe at what a bewildering topic this is.
This act of writing is an attempt to bring some order to my chaotically arrayed thoughts on the topic. I could be wrong, in what I am writing here. God knows I have lots to learn. I hope you’ll drop a comment and throw some ideas around, and help me to make a little more sense about this stuff.
I think the place I want to begin is with a distinction between two different modes of peace. Those modes are Shalom, or Godly peace, and Chill, or human peace.
Before I go very far in defining those two, I am going to suggest another distinction. This is based on where peace lives. Call them internal peace and external peace.
I would like to suggest that man’s peace inevitably favors one habitat for peace or the other. Protestors spend a lot of time and energy working for an external peace. Mindfulness types seek after an internal peace.
Often times, there is not an explicit and obvious conflict that is going on at the surface level. Between the protestors and the mindfulness types. There are no rumbles between the occupy-ers and the meditate-ors. One of the reasons for this, maybe, is that there is a fine line between avoiding conflict and avoiding violence. I suspect we spend too much time and energy running away from all manner of conflict out of a fear that we engage in violence. I think we ought to follow the example of Ghandi, Jesus, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela (at least in the second half of his life.) and be willing to risk conflict.
I do think that for so may people, though, where you are going to focus your energy in working for peace is incredibly important. A person who fights for peace in the outside world would be tempted to act dismissive, I think, toward some one who is working only on the internal. Similarly, imagine a monk. Feel free to choose his religion. It seems that often, he might be dismissive toward somebody working at changing laws, fighting for human rights.
When I began writing this, the thing I was thinking about was that the difference between Shalom and Chill is that Shalom recognizes that peace is contagious. Internal peace will spread to the external. And external peace will spread to the internal. Because, ultimately the world above is the world below; the world within us is the world outside of us.
But as I began writing that paragraph above, the one that began “often times” I had this realization. I didn’t try to set this up. I didn’t, in fact, even see this coming. I found myself looking for examples of people who were unafraid of conflict though they resisted the urge to practice violence. As you read, I came up with Ghandi, Jesus, Dr. King, Nelson Mandela. The thing I am struck by, now, that I did not see coming is this: each of them had a profoundly spiritual bent to their practice of peace.
It seems to me then, that to practice Shalom is not only about a conviction that internal peace and external peace are opposite sides of the same coin. Maybe more importantly, to practice Shalom is to be willing to navigate the difficult path separating conflict from violence. It is to realize that peace with out conflict is impotence, and peace done with violence is self-defeating.
Lurking somewhere in the midst of all these thoughts is this picture I have in my heart about the Kingdom of Heaven. I think the Kingdom of Heaven bursts out in these places where we engage in conflict with out violence, somewhere between the boundary of the internal and external. I think I am going to be better able to articulate this if I spend some time with all these thoughts, chew them up, maybe even swallow them and regurgitate them back up. So, I, a cow chewing his (err, her) cud, am going to end here, and leave you with that image.