And what of peace? In this revolutionarily evolutionary, topsy-turvy world turning upside down, what can peace mean? What is the role of peacebuilding in such a world? How do we go about it and make it practical in our daily lives, no matter who we are or what we do?
Peace, according to the Earth Charter, is a wholeness that comes from right relationships with self, with others, with all life, with Earth, with all that we are part of. So, the question comes down to, how do we, in the midst of these topsy-turvy times, build right relationships at all those levels (not just one or two of them – all of them) and thus create the wholeness that is peace? And “we” means everyone, from accountants to zookeepers, doing whatever we do in our personal and professional lives through the eyes of peace.
First, a word about “revolutionary evolution”, then what each of us can do about a culture of peace.
The etymology of “evolution” is of a rolling out or unfolding, like the unrolling of a scroll to reveal what is written there. The etymology of “revolution,” on the other hand, is of a rolling back or turning around, like a planet going round and round its star, or, as has happened time and again in political revolutions, the oppressed throwing over the oppressors only to become the new oppressors who themselves are ultimately overthrown.
The two terms are sometimes considered antonyms of one another, one referring to gradual, sometimes imperceptible change, the other to dramatic, sudden change. Either way, however, both are change. Indeed, in biological evolution, the theory has evolved to the understanding that the development of life on Earth has not been characterized by an accumulation of slow, steady change but rather by long periods of equilibrium punctuated by sudden, dramatic jumps (dare we call them revolutions?) to a new equilibrium. Hence, the current theory of evolution is called “punctuated equilibrium."
Further, revolutions aren’t a matter of merely going in circles. A planet doesn’t return to its starting point because its star has also moved along its own path through its galaxy, and the galaxy, as well, through the firmament – and the firmament is really not so “firm,” after all, anyway. This dynamic works as a metaphor for human revolutions, as well.
So, the revolutionary evolution moves along in something of a spiral pattern, a Slinky toy, if you will. In the topsy-turviness of the world today, the Slinky toy seems to risk going down, step after step, to oblivion. How can we can turn it around so that it ascends to a culture of peace?
Toward a Culture of Peace
Actually, there already is a culture of peace in the world. It’s just under the radar of our collective awareness. All we have to do is open our eyes, see it for what it is, and make the personal decision to spread it around. Impossible, you say? Incredulous, are you? Well, I see peace:
- In the eyes and giggle of my two-weeks-shy-of-two-years-old granddaughter Coco.
- In the regal bareness of trees silhouetted against a pink December dawn, as well as the bright green shoots emerging out of their dark green roots in conifers in spring.
- In the thousands of children and parents taking the time and effort to play in, organize, manage, and attend the flag football playoffs in West San Jose last December – and in the annual cycle of Little League baseball, basketball, lacrosse; and never-ending rounds of piano lessons and recitals, children’s acting classes and performances, and…well, you get the picture.
We have just to open our eyes, look around, see it for what it is, and know that peace is not just possible; peace is.
Not-peace is everywhere, too, to be sure. It’s very much the story of the two wolves fighting inside us. The one that grows is the one that we pay attention to, nurture, feed, and manifest in our daily lives.
So, while we must point out the not-peace in the world in order to know what it is and hold it accountable, if we pay too much attention to it, it will be the one that grows. Vastly more important is to point out the peace in the world so that we can practice it. Calling upon the top to change itself will not work. Change will only come from the bottom – from the individual, the family, the community.
It is very much an inside-out, bottom-up process: first, we, each one of us, open our hearts to right relationship with ourselves so we can then discover how to practice – in everything we do in our daily personal, family, community, and professional lives – right relationship with other persons, other life, Earth, and all that we are part of.
It can happen very rapidly, and the topsy-turvy will settle into a new equilibrium in a culture of peace.