On the way to peace (I)

Defining PEACE, the fullness of all goodness, is not easy. We know what it is until we try to explain it or, in order to do so, we look it up in a dictionary, and then suddenly we realize how ignorant we are. But lacking peace is more painful than our ignorance. Will words help us to know it and to savour it, to receive it among ourselves or to walk towards it, here and now?

In the Spanish dictionary of the Royal Academy of the language these are some its entries: 1 situation in which there is no armed conflict in a country or between or among countries; 2 Harmonious relationship among people, free from confrontation or conflict. 3 Situation of a person who is not perturbed by any conflict or unrest[1].

Our ignorance and perplexity persist. Obviously, the first entry is insufficient and misleading: for peace to exist, absence of war is not enough, as “the tranquillity of order” –according to the definition of peace proposed by Saint Agustin just before the fall of the Roman Empire- is not enough: there is no peace without justice, order imposed by force notwithstanding. If the first entry falls short, the other two go overboard because “harmonious relationship free from conflict” or “personal situation unperturbed by any unrest” simply do not exist.

Will we have to emigrate to another planet seeking for peace? Humanity – or whatever it will turn out to be- will do it some day. Will humanity find peace? It is not clear whether in the infinite universe there may be a perfect planet “free from conflicts or confrontations” and that “will not be perturbed by any conflict or inner unrest”. And even it would exist, nobody will be able to arrive to that planet as long as we live. Will we have to wait for peace after we die? Saint Agustin taught that “only in heaven” after death and after the end of the world we will be able to enjoy “eternal” life, or rather, the fullness of life, happiness and beatitudes, the fullness of PEACE (the problem is that he assigned most of humanity to eternal hell…).

Be it as ti may, we long for peace now and here, and it does not have to be the perfect peace described by the dictionary. Let’s leave aside, then, all perfect planets, extant or not, as well as the “after life”. We live here, and we are disturbed by conflicts and inner unrest, and here and now we want that peace which we do not find anywhere.

It does not exist, but we long for it. If there were no water, if we were not water, we would not be thirsty. If there were no peace, if we were no peace, could we desire it? Maybe peace exists but we are not peace. Do we perhaps long for that which does not exist or that we are not? Maybe we exist in the peace and are not conscious of it. Or maybe we are peace, but do not know how to get to be that which we are.

What would we be, what would humanity be without the dream, or the stimulus, the utopia or the hope of peace? Hope does not mean to wait for something to occur. That would be, in the language of Ernest Bloch –critical marxist thinker- a sleeping hope. “Awoken” hope is critical with the violent conflict or established disorder of the present, and it is a stimulus for the future we have to create. To hope means to walk briskly and with deep breaths, to go in the direction of utopia, even if we will never reach it.

To become a walker for peace is the condition and the manner to construct, step by step, the possible and concrete peace, a partial and true peace. It is also the way to live in peace, not in the full peace which does not exist, but in a peace, real and sufficient, to continue walking.

And how, in our limited and uncertain condition, can we continue walking every day in spite of everything? I point out three fundamental aspects of the way to peace: look deep inside ourselves, get closer to the wounded bother and to the wounded sister, dive into Nature that surrounds us and that we are. These are not three different ways but three dimensions of the same and only way. Each one inolves the others: if one is missing, the others are missing, too.

(Freely adapted from the article in Basque published in HEMEN 68, October-December, 2020, pp. 7-8).

Aizarna, November 23rd, 2021

(Translated by Mertxe de Renobales Scheifler)

[1] The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following entries among others: 1. Freedom from civil unrest or disorder; public order and security. 2. Freedom from quarrels or dissension between individuals (or, esp. in early use, between an individual and God); a state of friendliness; amity, concord. 3. Freedom from anxiety, disturbance (emotional, mental, or spiritual), or inner conflict; calm, tranquillity.