Being peace

The Pentagon, as seen from Arlington National Cemetery, April 2012

The Pentagon, as seen from Arlington National Cemetery, April 2012

“It is not by going out for a demonstration against nuclear missiles that we can bring about peace. It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace.” Thich Nhat Hanh

The tragedy is that the world is a very broken place, and probably always will be so.  The beauty is that we can make it better.

If we allow ourselves to be distracted by cataclysmic events over which we have no control, we tend to let ourselves off the hook in terms of personal behavior.  How righteous we feel as we rail against evil, while ignoring those who need us, who are nearby and would benefit from such small efforts.

Today, let’s all focus on making the world better, right where we are.  Smile at people.  Let cars merge in front of you in traffic.  Give a cashier a sincere greeting and say “thank you.”  Visit an elderly person who is unable to leave home and feels forgotten.  Send a handwritten note to a relative who lives far away, to whom you haven’t written in years.  Pretend, just for today, that it might be the last day you spend with your family or friends; how would you treat them?

If such deeds seem too small, tell yourself you will start there and move forward into greater efforts.  You will be energized by the joy of showing compassion, mercy and friendship in small ways, thus being readied for larger things.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the magnitude of evil and suffering.  Become part of the even greater magnitude of all that is good, right and holy.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

10 Comments

  1. Good morning, Julia! I like your idea to start small and let that joy energize us.

    • Thank you Susan. I sometimes struggle with doing this, but if I shut out most of the media noise from all directions, it gets easier and I’m amazed and grateful for the degree of freedom humans have to make the best of things by improving their immediate mental and physical surroundings.

  2. Chris

    Hi Julia,
    I like this idea. I believe most decent people would. The devil is in the detail, as is said. Why it’s so hard to actually practice the little things you mentioned is a good question. Life itself can be tumultuous, fast paced, and certainly unpredictable. Getting caught up in the ”moment’ of everyday happenings is where we lose control. That’s why we all need our personal time to…… (fill in the blank)… unwind, relax, meditate, reflect, (and have tea in your case 😊), and to pray!
    The quote is perfect. “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”
    Hope you and Matt are doing well.

    • Chris, one of my favorite quotes from an author I really like (P.J. O’Rourke) says something to the effect of “everybody wants to save the world, nobody wants to help mom with the dishes.” On a more personal note, I’ve noted for a long time how many people profess compassion for various groups (in our case, people with disabilities) while keeping them neatly and stubbornly at a “safe” distance. All these struggles have to do with the many weaknesses that are embedded in human nature. Whether one sees it as original sin or evolutionary hard-wiring to enable survival, the truth is the same: even the best people are far from perfect. During these turbulent times I’ve been thinking a great deal about the beautiful prayer of St. Francis, and the hymn that was inspired by it. Thanks for being here and sharing with us!

  3. Mary Ellen Davis

    Julia, this is an amazing statement for today! Yet it is troublesome how many of your suggested actions must be modified in light of COVID-19. We now smile with our eyes; our mouths behind masks and plexiglass in the grocery store. I take my temperature before visiting an elderly friend. I keep hand sanitizer in my car and purse. I sanitize my hands before sending a handwritten note and tape the envelope shut! At least letting someone merge in front in traffic is still pretty much the same, now that traffic is back on the road in Alabama. These things we once took for granted now require special attention and in some cases have been removed from us! I still follow you every day, since 2012 and share your blog with friends and family. Thank you so much!

    • Mary Ellen, I am so happy and grateful that you have been such a steadfast follower, and I consider your sharing the blog to be quite a compliment. Thank you! Yes, COVID has changed things in so many ways. I think these changes can work for good or ill, depending on each person and how they handle it. For those who are willing to invest the extra effort required to interact with each other as one human being to another, I think we’ll get better at it. But those who have been slowly gravitating toward a preference for interacting with robots– or with robotic intermediaries such as social media– will, barring a sincere effort to the contrary, be sucked into the vortex of machine-based (or regime-based) control over everyday life, to which those who prefer the path least resistance are particularly vulnerable. One reason I’m deliberately curtailing my time online (including not currently posting new blog content, which takes about ten times the hours that re-posting takes) is that I am determined not to lose human connection. Living alone as I do, that would be dangerously easy, almost inevitable. And COVID has made my resolve to interact with people in real time all the more difficult. But I will go down with that particular ship if I must. When it comes to giving up on face to face interaction, “I have not yet begun to fight.” 🙂

  4. Elena

    Thank you Julia, your post is for me a very timely reminder of the importance of little things we can do to make a difference. What a happy chance that you published it again just went I needed it most!
    Have a great day

    • Elena, I’m so happy you found it helpful! I have frequently had times when people have sent me a note or gift that seemed custom-designed for what I was experiencing. Coincidence or divine providence? I like to think it’s the latter. Thank you so much for being here, and for letting me know you enjoyed the post. It means more than you know, and encourages me to keep going, which may encourage others in the future. Ripple effects! 😀

      • Elena

        I, too, think that reading a post when one needs it most is divine providence. 🙂

        • 🙂 🙂 🙂

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