The theme of this issue is war and peace – two opposite positions that play into every human relationship.
I’ve never lived in a war zone, or experienced war. I know how lucky that is. So I’ll focus on what I do know – peace. I know peace takes work. It takes compromise, acceptance, self-sacrifice, and forgiveness.
I watch my two-and-a-half-year-old son push down his younger brother for no apparent reason. He does it because he can, and because he doesn’t know any better. My role as his mother is to keep reinforcing what it is to be civil; to teach my son that harming another person is not acceptable. I know the day will come when he’ll understand… but it may not be until his younger brother is big enough to push back.
Civilization: A word that holds so much meaning, but counts for so little without the foundations of civility that hold it up. Civility requires that every person place society above their own personal gain. It requires compromise with others, acceptance of the laws, unwritten and written, that allow the society to flourish; at times, it also requires forgiveness – the ability to rise above spite, jealousy, and fear. Civility is taught from parent to child, but I think it is also strengthened by time, knowledge, and understanding. I think too that civility can be weakened over time by pride, wealth, and self-righteousness. I sometimes think that this civilization may, like Rome, collapse from within, destroyed by its own wealth, greed, and lack of morality. War engulfed Rome, but I wonder if they brought it upon themselves.
And now, today, our peacekeepers fight in a foreign land, trying to bring order to tribal culture, hoping for peace. I read somewhere that peace comes from within. Is this true?
The wind blew all night and most of the day, shaking the boathouse relentlessly. It makes me feel restless. The dog barking on the next island at 4 a.m. didn’t help. Our neighbours have a black lab and they completely ignore the fact that everyone else on the lake has to listen to its endless barking whenever they let it out in the early hours of the morning.
This afternoon, the same dog swam over to our beach. Wet and aggressive, it bounded about causing my two boys to scream with fear. I looked for a stick to beat it away from them should it come too close. A large rock was our only defense, but the dog backed away from my anger. For a brief moment I was going to smash its head with that rock. A primal urge deep inside me to protect my boys almost cost that poor dog its life. The dog’s owners passed by in a rowboat a few hours later and waved. I waved back, trying to be civilized, all the while thinking “there goes a bunch of selfish people who don’t care about their neighbours. I must not yell, or get angry. I must be civilized, controlled, and refrain from saying anything rude. I must show them what civility is.” I controlled my desire to war, and peace (enforced by civility) ruled the day.
I’ve picked up a dozen books today, but can’t quite focus. The boats zooming past on the lake add to this anxiousness. I decide to look for a peaceful spot. The path up to the old cottage is quiet and the tall trees protect it from the wind. I sit down and listen. I can smell the sun heating up the pine needles on the forest floor. I can hear the wind whispering in the pines and finally a sense of peace settles over me.
Whoever said that peace comes from within obviously hadn’t lived through days of endless wind and tormenting noise. I think it more likely that peace, like everything else, comes from the fine balance of internal and external forces. No matter how at peace I am with my life, no matter how calm my soul, mother nature will always affect me – reminding me that I am vitally connected to her.