In search of peace

by Henrylito D. Tacio

I have a peace to win.” This was the response of Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when asked by reporters what she thought of a new plan to reinvestigate the “Hello Garci” issue. “I embrace work and leave just to the titans of hate to have a monopoly on the politics of destruction,” she explained.

But the question is: Can peace really be won? “Peace is not the product of terror or fear,” Oscar Romero pointed out. “Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.”

Peace is rare. Someone once said that less than eight percent (8%) of the time since the beginning of recorded time has the world been entirely at peace. In a total of 3,530 years, 286 have been warless. Eight thousand treaties have been broken in this time. “Peace, peace; where there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

American president Ulysses S. Grant wrote in 1868: “Let us have peace.” In 1955, Seymour Miller and Jill Jackson urged: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Even before that, when Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, the angels chorused: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”

But until now, peace is elusive as ever. Nobel peace prize winner Mother Teresa commented: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Dwight David Eisenhower pointed out: “We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom.”

Someone once said that without war, there is no peace. John Andrew Holmes, in ‘Wisdom in Small Doses,’ penned: “Yes, we love peace, but we are not willing to take wounds for it, as we are for war.” Filipino national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, wrote in ‘Hymn to Labor,’ “For our country in war, for our country in peace, the Filipino will be ready, while he lives and when he dies.”

Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a coal-mouse asked a wild dove. “Nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.

In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the coal-mouse said. “I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow – not heavily, not in a raging blizzard – no, just like in a dream, without a wound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say – the branch broke off.” After saying those words, the coal-mouse flew away.

The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for awhile, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”

British singer John Lennon, when he was still alive, even thought of world peace. “Imagine there’s no heaven,” he sang. “It’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today. Imagine there are no countries. It isn’t hard to do: Nothing to kill or die for, no religion too. Imagine all the people living life in peace. Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people sharing all the world. 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 live as one.”

War, indeed, is not the answer. “I have seen war,” said American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.”

It is only when the war is over that peace can totally be felt. In ‘Hiawatha,’ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: “Buried was the bloody hatchet; buried was the dreadful war club; buried were all warlike weapons; and the war cry was forgotten. There was peace among the nations.”

Is peace impossible to attain? “If you want to make peace,” said Moshe Dayan, “you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” Martin Luther King, Jr. also said, “One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.”

The peace we are longing for will really happen. The Holy Bible states so: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spares into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).

Aside from Christianity, other religions have also been teaching about peace. “The aim of all should be to learn peace and live peacefully with all,” Buddhism reiterates. “Seek to live in harmony with all your neighbors and at peace with thy brethren,” Confucianism urges. Hinduism reminds, “If one would find happiness and security, one must seek for peace.” And Islam teaches, “God will guide men to peace.”

There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them. One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all.

But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest – in perfect peace.

Which picture do you think won the prize? The king chose the second picture. Do you know why? “Because,” the king explained, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”

But peace is more than that. As the Dalai Lama puts it, “Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighboring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.” — ##

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