There is so much disquiet; where have all the peacemakers gone?
There is negativity everywhere; oozing out of people in the form of anger, frustration, arguments, and general acrimony in the society. The uncertainties brought in by the coronavirus pandemic are not dispersing away. Four phased lockdowns were somehow endured but the unlock stages are bringing with them new fears and anxieties.
No one seems to have any clue of what next. The media jumping on to every new sensation is the least bothered to tell people about the real struggles on the ground – the plight of students, housemaids, street vendors, courier people. Experts are strangely divided in their opinions as if science has turned dubious. The beautiful world of many hues and shades has been painted black and white.
Where are people like Dr APJ Abdul Kalam – spreading hope, confidence and belief in goodness? There is not even one voice in this cacophony of concerns, accusations, and arguments, talking peace. Everyone seems to have taken a ‘for or against’ stand on every issue and the pursuit of the Golden Mean, preached by Buddha, seems to be abandoned in this country.
Let us not be fooled by this dance of opposites. Whatever is bad, harmful and stressful is almost always man-made. Nature is full of peace and harmony. We are born as blissful – Sat-chit-ananda. English poet William Blake (1757-1827) described a man so nicely.
For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity, a human face:
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.
Peace must be sought from within and must first be practiced amongst the immediate family members, and the workplace colleagues. More and more people doing this will create a peaceful and harmonious society and once it becomes a norm, good effects will start manifesting. So, the question is not how to find peace. The question is how not to lose peace.
First, understand peace as serenity – calmness of the mind, and harmony of the bodily functions. This understanding comes from health, clean and comfortable surroundings and living in a society of justice. A balance or equilibrium of powers tilted towards goodness is essential. Only then can you manage emotions like fear, anger, and hatred so that they do not harm you and others.
Now see the engines of conflict around you – power plays among interests, capabilities, and wills – from simple ones like which TV channel is to be played, to food and fashion, to complex things like income disparity, to a corruptible criminal-justice system, and politics of vested interests – at every level there is a power play going on.
In his 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey (1932-2012) distinguishes between people who focus on what they can do and can influence – and people who focus their energy on things beyond their control. He calls them proactive and reactive people respectively. Reactive people maintain an attitude of being victimised and blame others. This is the root cause of loss of peace.
There is a Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” There may be little you can do about many things, since they are outside your influence. But blaming others and living like a victim does no good to anyone – neither to you, nor to the others around you.
The negative cognitive surplus created by electronic media is making people depressed. Devoting energy to issues beyond our control is such a waste of time – confinement due to coronavirus, the content shown on TV, noisy politics – you can’t change any of them. But what you can definitely do is to focus your energy on those things that you can influence.
You can follow a strict 8-8-8 hour regimen of work, leisure and sleep – equal hours for each. You can pick up a hobby from your childhood that you lost somewhere in the struggle of growing up. You can buy noise-cancellers and shut the TV off for yourself, when other family members are indulging with it. You can start waking up an hour earlier and sleeping an hour earlier to have valuable ‘me time’.
By making these small changes, you will feel peace, little and gentle, like a whiff of fresh air. All people are basically the same – names and forms differ. Everybody wants to be happy, healthy, reasonably prosperous, secure, and above all, to be loved and liked by others. What is life but a struggle to make tomorrow better than today! In their own way, everyone is doing just that, why interfere?
Finally, write by your hand on a paper, The Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
Read it once in the morning and again before going to bed and you will not only feel peace but will become a peacemaker. The Bible declares, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9). The Hindu prayer of peace seeks harmony not only among people but in everything. सर्वँ शान्ति:, शान्तिरेव शान्ति:, सा मा शान्तिरेधि – May there be Peace in All, May there be Peace Indeed within Peace, Giving Me the Peace which Grows within Me.
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