Today, there's a March for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence in my
hometown, a city that has seen far too much violence and bloodshed in
recent years. I'm moved by the action of people from all around the
community coming together to stand for change, and as I get ready to go
and join them, I find myself asking:
What is a culture of peace and non-violence?
The answer occurring to me at the moment: It's a culture based on the truth of We Are One.
little phrase is thrown around quite a bit in religious ceremonies,
spiritual circles, and new age discussions, but as I see it, there is
far more power in these three words than is often recognized and put
into practice. When people act from We Are One, there is a completely
different response to a tragic event in the community. Instead of
blaming those most directly responsible, there is a collective
responsibility that swoops in to help, to restore, and to reestablish
balance. There is engagement, instead of anger and disengagement.
Instead of "us versus them" patterns, there is an opening question of
how will WE heal?
We Are One means that we don't get to
separate out the bad guys and the good guys. We don't get to make the
depleted ozone layer the fault of big business, the gun violence the
fault of drug dealers, or violence against women the fault of chauvinist
men. Of course there is responsibility by specific parties, but the
narrow focus born of our finger pointing misses the big picture.
that finger pointing habit is a really hard one to break. In the
moment, it can feel so much easier to find some bad people to blame for
something that upsets us. We can buy into the fantasy that if we just
get rid of them or make them stop, then the problem will go away. But
after so many turns of this cycle, we need to ask if this is really
true. Do the problems go away for all the fighting we do?
my observation, the answer to this one is no. The problems seem to
just get bigger; they may shift in form and location, but they remain.
Just like how viruses get immune to antibiotics, the patterns of
violence get immune to the barriers and weapons we use to defeat them.
The entire idea of fighting against violence causes us to feed our own
energy into the problems we seek to change.
"There is no way to peace. Peace is the way."
truly transform our violent culture, a culture of peace needs to grow
from the seed of peaceful intention. I actually love the phrase "a
culture of peace." When we shift from a focus on this intangible
concept of peace to a focus on shifting the culture, the norms, and the
ways of being, to me, it becomes a more practical movement. We make up
the culture, and by looking at the level of culture, more tangible
things we can work on within ourselves arise, things that can spill over
into actions in our lives, contributions in our immediate communities,
and a growing movement within the greater human community.
culture of peace needs to start with our own response to the realities
that alarm us, challenge us, and break our hearts. We are all in this
together, we are one community, one human race. When we take collective
responsibility for the problems in our community, we have a collective
power to transform. This march feels like such a beautiful way the
people of the city and surrounding areas are taking that collective
responsibility and igniting their power for positive change.
"Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there." Rumi
me, this field is the culture of peace. When we start spending more
time in this field, acting more from our oneness than from our
separateness, then I truly believe we will see the dawning of a culture