Instruments of Peace

I don’t watch the news or read the newspaper. Not everyday at least. Not even with any sort of regularity. Still I know people died today. People die everyday. Not in their beds at the ripe age of 97. They die of violence.

Everyday people die of violence. Somewhere. Out there. Beyond my window. My little world has never been closely attacked. I have not experienced violent death or injury. I cannot begin to know what it would feel like to be invaded in such a way. Yet, I can imagine. Because I am not just my little world. I am one part of the millions and billions and each tragedy is my tragedy.

It is hard to talk about tragedies without sounding flippant, cliche or overly sentimental. These are real lives that were lost and real people who are left behind in the wake. Nothing I or anyone else can say will change this. There are no memes or inspirational quotes to take away the pain that will be felt. There is no comfort in violence. That is its nature. The comfort comes later. Or never at all.

I believe it is important to acknowledge the deaths in Boston. These are “our” people. Americans. Each time we are hit with a large-scale tragedy in the United States, I am reminded that these things, guns and bombs and death, are “normal” occurrences for some people. And there is little I can do about that.

Today in Baghdad, 200 were wounded and 50 killed. In Somalia, 20 are dead. In Syria, 12 died. Too many people to count died due to gun violence alone here in America over the weekend. Each one of these numbers represents a living human being, someone’s someone. These do not discount the pain of the victims in Boston, they add to it. This is just those ripped from the NYT headlines and they can leave you feeling empty and helpless, knowing the extent of senseless acts of violence across the globe.

All we can really do is be a weapon of peace. It is unrealistic to demand the whole world cease to be violent. We cannot stop the whole world, be we can demand of ourselves that we not add to the violence. As yogis, we are asked to practice ahimsa, the Yoga Sutra of “non-violence”. This encompasses all violence towards others and oneself in thoughts, word and deed. You don’t have to punch someone in the face to be violent towards them. It is not an easy practice, even in times of our lives where we are not angry or upset. It is that much harder when we have real anger and real reasons for revenge.

It is easier to hate someone for their differences than learn to love them for what is the same. To do that we must see our brothers as ourselves, and that as I wrote earlier is “The Greatest Challenge.” If we are going to make any impact in this world, it will be because we were able to be an instrument of peace and through our actions, teach others to be the same.

It is true that everyday there is violence, but it is equally true that everyday there are people who work for peace. These people give me hope. These people make a difference in the lives they save. They may not win the war yet but they keep going to battle.

My sister is a peacemaker. She is a social worker fighting each day for children in rough home situations. I can not understand what she goes through everyday, but I am grateful that she keeps getting up in the morning and going to work. She gives me hope that the decent will always outweigh the terror, good does defeat evil. Every person knows someone in their life that restores their hope. Who is yours?

My heart goes out to all those reeling from the loss of a loved one. I send prayers to all those overwhelmed by tragedy. I am grateful for all those who each day work towards building a more peaceful world, no matter how discouraging it might seem. Om Shanthi.

…Here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

-Patton Oswalt

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6 thoughts on “Instruments of Peace

  1. I love this, so much that I was thinking/feeling but couldn’t but into words! Can I reblog it so my teeny group of followers can possibly read it too?

  2. Reblogged this on Goodbye Ordinary and commented:
    This post is pretty much everything I have been thinking/feeling about all of the recent tradgedies… but haven’t had the words to say. ❤ Such a great blog to follow!

  3. maria

    Thanks for sharing your heartfelt thoughts Jen…Well said. I taught a heart opener class today (a lot of backbends) and although they were feeling vulnerable due to the tragedies in Boston, I am happy I did it. As the above quote states “the most valuable possession you can own is an open heart”. We must keep our hearts open, even when faced with evil.

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