Peace. Peace, Brother. Peace Be Unto You.
by Phyllis Barber
There’s been talk about peace from time immemorial, yet there are times in all centuries and definitely in today’s world when peace seems a foreign, alien concept. Try reading an account of turbulent history—beheadings, joustings, uprisings, duels, war upon war. Read the news of yet another murder or massacre in print or on-line. Watch television and stream the heat of another crime wave into the privacy of your living room. It seems as though mankind (and I choose that traditional noun with some thought) is wired to and fascinated with contention: borders, territory, possessions, rights, religious claims (when religions are supposed to mend humankind rather than tear it apart because one religion thinks differently than another about which god prevails).
Have you ever wondered why many people, even intelligent and religious ones who are supposed to have other solutions, think that the best way to solve a problem is to buy a gun or kill someone else who doesn’t agree with them or look like them or sing similar praises in similar language? It seems that, to many, there’s no solution without a Big Stick, without cannons, repeating rifles, or machine guns. These speak. Loudly. Assertively. Powerfully. Gentle, peaceful people don’t get the listening ear. Armies do. Armbands. Uniforms. Crisp pleats in one’s trousers. Is this penchant for war and supremacy part of our DNA, our skin and bones? Why is it such a prevalent solution? Is the world nothing more than a powder keg to be blown by the necessity of power over all and everything? Have we been hijacked by the fear that grabs us, shakes us by the lapels, and makes us want to act bigger than we really are? Use guns as an extension of our weakness? But those who think otherwise need to take their part—offer their opinions, their questions, and their propositions. Not sit idly by.
I admit that I don’t know answers—I only raise the questions that trouble me, but I’m thinking that the basic and most powerful peace is within one’s self, the place of stillness and calm where one is grateful for the good aspects of his or her life and free of demands on and expectations of self and others. This interior peace can be nurtured. When I’ve spent time on a high mountain trail and have felt the eternal peacefulness in those mountains that have endured so many harsh winters, been subjects to the refining bottom of massive glaciers, and have still provided home and protection to a myriad of animals, I’ve caught a glimpse of this inner peace that creates a desire for more. If people could sit or stand by the side of a still mountain lake and watch dragonflies dart forward, backward, and reverse course mid-air, maybe they could feel a new kind of stillness and harmony that doesn’t exist in most contemporary places. Maybe opposition and contention are part and parcel of the condition of being human, but when you’re in the mountains that have lasted for thousands of years while men and their wars come and go, you can feel a peace that calms and reassures. When you see that still lake slightly ruffled by a breeze and see a fish jump and leave a concentric ring that marks its hiding place, anxiety and fear leave your heart and mind. Your shoulders relax. You breathe deeply and have no desire to argue, to protest your rights, to claim your sovereignty over anyone or anything. It is all so much larger than your small self—this abundance in the everlasting mountains. When you linger in stillness and a deer leaps gracefully through the nearby trees, you feel the embrace of something large and profoundly peaceful. And that helps you understand the true essence of this thing called peace. Maybe you can pick up a smooth pebble and carry it back home to remind yourself.
About Writing for Peace Adviser, Phyllis Barber
I joined Writing for Peace because I always believed that harmony between people is possible (maybe because I was the middle child who was always trying to balance the family dynamics). If only we can listen to what other people are saying and learn to receive them, rather than rebuffing them straightaway for some ridiculous reasons such as difference in education, economic level, religious affiliation, gender, color, shape of the face or the torso or feet, etc. I have found when I can open my awareness to another person and literally open up to who and what they are all about, a significant change happens between us—a connection at the level of spirit, that mysterious essence so much larger and wiser than we are.
Phyllis Barber is the author of seven books (a novel about the building of the Hoover Dam, two books of short stories, two children’s books, and two memoirs, one of which, How I Got Cultured, won the Associated Writers and Writing Program Award for Creative Nonfiction in 1991). Her latest book, Gentle Fire: A Spiritual Odyssey is due out from Quest Books in May, 2014. It is a collection of essays based on her travels to a variety of spiritual practices, both traditional and non-traditional, in an attempt to find the Spirit that dwells in all people to one degree or another. Her desire is to help create harmony and understanding between people of seemingly opposing ideas and sensibilities. She has taught creative writing for the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program for 19 years, and is currently residing in Park City, Utah, where she writes, edits, and critiques manuscripts for other writers. Learn more about Phyllis Barber and her work here.
Lorraine Currelley Joins Advisory Panel
The African proverb “I See You” and the name Writing for Peace resonate with me. I’ve come to think of them as kindred spirits. Both embody the spirit of community and collaboration. An inter-generational worldwide community, working to create a world where peace is a reality. A community where each member sees each other through our connected humanity. In doing so, holding the key to connecting with all ecosystems.
Joining Writing for Peace is an opportunity to join with community to work for world peace via writing. Our words are powerful tools. Tools having an extraordinary ability to act as a catalyst for positive change. A catalyst to promote understanding and connection between people. An opportunity to learn from each other and experience shared humanity. An opportunity to exercise our creative energies, talents and gifts; to unite our world community. Our words nurture, heal and empower. There are no inferiors nor superiors, we all bring something to the table equally important.
Lorraine Currelley joins Writing for Peace as a poet, writer, educator, activist and Mental Health Counselor, as well as the founder of Poets Network & Exchange, a positive and supportive space for poets and writers of all levels, where she facilitates poetry and creative writing workshops and produces featured poetry readings, open mics and literary events. She holds a Masters in Mental Health Counseling and a Certificate in Thanatalogy (grief and bereavement.) When she’s not writing poetry and short stories, she writes for scientific and literary publications on social, mental health, and grief and bereavement issues.
Lorraine Currelley is the former first and only president of The Harlem Arts Fund, and the recipient of numerous community service awards for her work with the homeless and community efforts. She’s also the founder and editor of The Currelley Literary Journal, a blog where she writes articles, commentaries, reviews and interviews. LC Information and Resource Center, a resource and information blog which addresses domestic and sexual violence, providing information and links to resources nationwide. As a poet Lorraine Currelley is widely anthologized in literary publications. Learn more about Lorraine Currelley and her work here.
The Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest is officially open! Deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Our 2013 contest reached students in 21 countries, we hope to double the number of entries in 2014. (Meet our 2013 winners here!) Help us spread the word to schools across the globe. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how your school can receive free bookmarks for participating students. Check out our complete guidelines here.
DoveTales Call for Submissions
Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.
Purchase a copy of our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.
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