Seeking Peace — John Anstie

What is the magic answer to the thorny questions that it seems have resonated throughout human history?  What can individuals do to move us toward a genuinely lasting peace on this sacred Earth of ours; on this, the only place that we and foreseeable generations have to live? What can we do to make us honest and worthy of the quest?  It seems instead that we prefer the old formula that promises to advance us toward yet another round of talks; another ‘agreement’ that so often it turns out is not worth the paper on which it is written. Wherever we look in the world, this pattern repeats itself.  Yet, after another round of protests, of raising funds to help the beleaguered and vulnerable local population, we in the affluent West sit back in our comfy armchairs, consuming our unnecessary little pieces of luxury … and I am no exception to this! 

Once again, in the past month, the hornets’ nest has been well and truly stirred between Israel and Palestine; stirred by fear, anxiety and anger; by Lord knows who.  Which party, which troublemakers, which gang, which international sponsor, who has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo … of division, conflict and any hope there may be of unifying the nations?  As ever, the previously drawn, well established lines have been punctured and drawn into question.  There is now another, yet it is always felt, fragile truce.  The circumstances of this, as with all conflicts, is fraught with complexity, with entrenched views and attitudes, with ideological positions, with stubborn refusal to yield their politically, geographically and materially sensitive attitudes and policies. 

We have spent a year fighting a common enemy, which for a time brought us together in our common cause to survive. How astonishingly resilient and industrious are those ordinary people, the medical professions, scientists and all those involved in enabling that survival.  But as the black veil of this hidden, insidious enemy is lifted from our eyes, once again, sadly, we begin to see the all too familiar lines being drawn. The rifts between nations, territories, communities, even families, re-emerge. 

There is therefore a question that needs to be asked: where is that elusive quality of humanity, that emotion that makes us glow and renews and binds our spirits? Where is Joy? 

A unique relationship between two spiritual leaders from different religious spheres, those of Buddhism and Christianity, His Holiness the Dalia Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu can provide us with some answers.  That Joy is a by-product; a by-product of what, I hear you ask? It is not easy in a life driven by material rather than spiritual concerns, but a solution is possible simply because the human character is such that we are capable of achieving great things in times of great need and a will to make changes to our personal and thereby collective lives.  Practising the ‘Eight Pillars of Joy’ is the action we need that will give rise to this elusive by-product of Joy. 

In their book of long conversations on the subject of joy, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu developed some guiding principles, which they summarised rather happily as “The Eight Pillars of Joy” …

Perspective – there are many different angles

Humility – trying to be humble and modest

Humour – Laughter is much better

Acceptance – the only place where change can begin

Forgiveness – freeing ourselves from the burden of our past

Gratitude – appreciating what we have and life itself

Compassion – affirmation by meditation, prayer and fasting

Generosity – unconditional giving can be a source of ultimate Joy. 

Achieving this and feeling the resultant Joy in our hearts and minds, I cannot see any other result than one further by-product, which is Peace.

There is evidence in this issue of the BeZine, as you might expect, in Corina Ravenscraft’s poem, “Asking for a Friend”, which cleverly moves from the ‘I’ to the ‘We’, from the personal to the collective, and on to a compelling final question.  In the Joe Hesch poem, “Holding on to My Last Breath” he too hits home with the message that before we can wage peace collectively, we have to find it within ourselves. Then there is an essay on non violent communication, by Ester Karen Aida, which challenges us to address our seasoned prejudices by asking questions of each other and focussing in on our inherent truths. And there is so much more to bend your minds to thinking in completely different ways.

Wherever we are in our personal struggles … we need to take the first step and start today.

© 2021 John Anstie

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