(“Do You Think it’s Possible to Create Peace on Earth by 2030?” I was asked this question this week by Jon Ramer, the founder of the Compassion Games. In response, I wrote this short essay.)
I’d like to respectfully suggest that there may be a clearer way to get to the point of this question, a way that acknowledges that to the rabbit who is hunted by the hawk there will never be peace on Earth. A way that understands that if we truly are interested in peace, we need to recognize that as humans we are connected to the rabbit AND to the hawk, AND to the fact that the hawk hunting the rabbit is part of a natural cycle of balance. In other words, I don’t think peace on Earth will be defined as the lamb laying down with the lion.
As written, I think the question also presupposes that world peace is an end result rather than the unfolding of a process. As as end, I think we are tempted to treat world peace as the solving of a problem, the lack of world peace. I think any time we reduce complex issues to that of problems needing to be solved, we are bound to think in absolute solutions: i.e. – THIS is how we achieve peace on Earth. I think this is how fundamentalism and dictators gain power. Ironically, this approach is the opposite of peace on Earth although it could lead to no more war. For instance, had Hitler’s “Final Solution” prevailed, one might have argued that peace on Earth had been achieved when in actuality all that would have happened was a global dictatorship.
So I think a clearer approach is to consider peace on Earth as a process to experience. In this way, the question you are asking may be more along the lines of, “Do I think the Earth will be a more peaceful place in 2030 than it is in 2018?” To that question, I can easily answer yes, provided I dedicate myself to being more peaceful in my interactions – with others and with myself – over the next 12 years. I understand that may appear to make your question too simple, that what you are really wanting is something more global than individualistic. But I am of the mind that every time I choose a peaceful response over a violent one, even in my self-talk, I am acting globally by setting off a chain of peace that impacts everything. So in me being more peaceful, I will help create a reality that makes it easier for others to be more peaceful. Others do that for me and for others, too, outside of anyone’s conscious awareness. As such, it becomes a conspiracy, a word that really means breathing together, of peace. And even if all I take is one conscious breath of and for peace, even if that’s all you do, that’s fine, but we can do even more than that if we so choose. Just take the first step, take the first breath. Then take the second.
For instance, you asking me the question contributes to the Earth being a more peaceful place. You’re thinking about peace and I’m thinking about peace, more than either of us would be if you hadn’t asked the question. Having peace elevated in my mind, I’ll be more likely to let the driver on the crowded highway merge during rush hour. She’ll be touched by the gesture and be more peaceful with her child once she gets home. The child, touched by his mother’s peacefulness, will be more peaceful with the dog. Indeed, it’s the Butterfly Effect.
So as I see it, part of my role, today, tomorrow, in the next 12 years (and beyond), is to not only cultivate and practice peace, it’s to promote peace. And my way of promoting peace, what I try to do through Kind Living, is to help people recognize and celebrate what I call ordinary kindness. These are the kinds (pun intended) of things that people do all the time every day – hold open the elevator door, greet the grocery store clerk, smile at the bus driver, etc. What is needed is to elevate our individual and collective awareness of these acts. This is hard these days, what with so much division and partisanship. We are being tempted to choose sides all the times, which is an anti-peace movement. At the most simple level, your job, my job, as promoters of peace is to look around and notice these ordinary things, contribute more, tell someone else about them. The more awareness we bring to these ordinary acts of kindness, the more of them happen. The more that happen, the more that happen, you know?
Remember that great children’s song by Malvina Reynolds called “Magic Penny?” with the chorus, “Love is something if you give it away you end up having more”? Practiced first individually, then within communities, then municipalities, then within countries, then globally, that’s peace on Earth.