Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Reason 85: I blog for peace because it's my way of making a joyful noise

I blog for peace because it's my way of making a joyful noise. 

Randall, somewhere in here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/peacebloggers/ mentioned music, which was cool, because I've been trying to find a way to hook the blog for peace to music.

I love music.  It is probably not true that I married my husband because of his incredible music, but it sure didn't hurt.  I love to hear my children sing, even if their idea of beautiful music is rap or metal and mine... isn't.

On the other hand, I don't make music.  Until recently--- when Mark and I joined the hand bell choir at St Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.  Now, Laura, the infinitely patient and talented music director, said that we would be fine.  We would have fun.  We would sound wonderful.

And we are having fun.  And Mark sounds wonderful.  And I sound... well, not horrible.  And I'm getting better.

I haven't tried to perform music since Mrs. Bailey kicked me out of the 6th grade choir.  That was after I got kicked out of the 6th grade band. 

I REALLY wanted to play the flute, and Mr. Sistrunk, bless his heart, tried to teach me.  But it seems that being able to make the flute make a sound is an essential part of playing the flute.  Not being able to make a sound with the flute was bad, but not as bad as the various frightening sounds I made when I attempted the clarinet and the saxophone.  And so I went back to home ec, where I didn't hurt anyone.

And what does this have to do with peace?  Well, I don't know.  Oh wait, how about: we all have a part to play, no matter how small or how large.  And we all can find a way to make a joyful noise, sing out for peace, ring out for justice, hammer for love between our brothers and our sisters, all over this land.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Reason 86 to blog for peace: Education not War

My son has spent his first week in a conventional middle school.  It is a new experience for him, since he spent 6th grade at Carolina School for Inquiry, a K thru 6th grade child-centered, multi-age, inquiry based public school & last year at a virtual school.  Now he is caring a 20 lb book bag, changing classes, eating school lunch, spending time with people he didn't know before Monday.  For an introvert and a thirteen year old, this is hard.  But he's a trooper, and I'm cautiously optimistic.

What does this have to do with peace?  Well, middle school isn't really a peaceful place, is it?  The theory is great.  Take kids whose hormones are exploding like popped pimples, whose intellectual development is leapfrogging over the factory-model teaching formula of traditional public schools, and whose social awareness is limited to their hair and their latest crushes; throw them together with a bunch of other kids like them and feed them junk food. 

Oh, no, wait, that's not Best Practices...

Middle school has a great deal of potential.  Kids ARE developing quickly, but they are still kids and haven't lost their enthusiasm and joy (unless it was already beaten out of them in third grade.)  There are lessons in social responsibility, personal responsibility, and personal development.  There are lessons in meta-cognition --- how do I learn best?  what do I want to learn?  how can I organize myself to be the best I can be?

But we don't want to "throw money at the problem" of inadequate education.  We want to continue to do the same thing over and over again, to see if the same things get different results.  (Which is the definition of insanity.)  Then we test and test and test.  As someone once said, that's like "treating" an illness by taking the patient's temperature over and over again without any change in treatment.  (Which is the definition of malpractice.)

But we are willing to throw money and people at war machines.  I mean, look at Afghanistan.  Again, we are doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  (See definitions above.)

So, let's quit throwing money and good  people at war machines & toss some money and good people toward authentic education of EVERYONE.

Just a thought....

Reason 87 to blog4peace: stop the name calling!

Let me start with a disclaimer, or a confession, or whatever this is:  I am a Democrat.  I live in South Carolina and I'm old enough to remember when there was (for all practical purposes) ONLY a Democratic Party in SC.  I am a "yellow dog" Democrat, which means, I'd vote for a yellow dog if he ran as a Democrat.  My mother told me that if I voted for a Republican, hair would grow on my palms.  I have since found that that isn't necessarily true, but I've had very few temptations to test the threat.  One time someone said to Mom, "I'd bet you'd vote for Satan if he ran as a Democrat."  She thought a minute and said, "Well, yeah, but not in the primary."  This is where I come from. 

Now, let me say that I am very tired of name calling and bad rhetoric on ALL sides of what passes for political debate.  Governor Perry calls a respected economist and member of the Obama administration a "traitor" and laughs when people get upset.  But what does that mean, dude?  Don't you know that treason is a federal crime punishable by death?  You are accusing a man of a federal crime simply because you disagree with him.

And "Nazi."  Can we quit calling each other Nazis?  Do we have no idea what that word means?  Do we have no idea of the eerily efficient bureaucracy of death associated with that party?  We trivialize horror when we speak of "food Nazis" (who are really offensive, but not eerily efficient bureaucrats of death.)  Someone disagrees with us and we compare them to mass murderers.

The same thing applies to all of the words: communist, fascist, traitor, insane, criminally stupid.  Perfectly fine words that are trivialized while the rhetoric of CIVIL POLITICAL DEBATE is twisted into ever escalating words of hatred and separation.

Pull back people.  I'm not saying don't disagree.  I'm not saying don't articulate your points of disagreement.  I'm saying... I'm PLEADING:  Don't use angry emotion-laden key words as symbols for what pass as ideas.  ARTICULATE.  I know you can.  Please.

And Thank you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reason 88 to Blog for Peace: Stubborn acceptance of gladness

I am behind again, which is not a problem for me.  The problem has been the intrusion of life on my meditations on peace.   The intrusions of the wars, the riots, the famines; but also the intrusions of changes at work, my son starting a new school, and a high school reunion.  The World has been overwhelming me for the past week or so.

Then my O magazine came in the mail, and I finally sat down and turned to Martha Beck, my favorite columnist, and guess what she is writing about this month?  Stubborn acceptance of gladness.  She writes about how our storms of negativity coming from our fear incite storms of negativity in others.  When we are scared, we are scary. 

While reading this, I realized that I have been both a victim and a source of these storms of negativity.  I am feeling overwhelmed and helpless in so many areas.  And thinking about World Peace in these times can bring impotent rage.

But that's not the point of this exercise.  The point is Peace --- internal & external.  Peace with justice, peace with quiet, peace with joyful noises.

And so, for now and for the next few "days" (or however long it takes me to catch up and keep going), I will blog about peace to glorify the oasises of peace, love, kindness, and hope in this world.

As Pablo Neruda wrote (and I'm borrowing from Martha Beck's column):
Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.
...it opens for me all
the doors of life.
Peace be with you.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Reason 91: Because if we say it enough we might start acting it

When I was a child attending St. Peter's Catholic Church, my favorite part of the Mass was The Peace.  It made me really really happy to stand up and turn to people I knew or didn't know, shake their hands, and say "Peace be with you," or to respond "and also with you."  I visited friends' churches but none of them included The Peace.  "What was that about?" I'd wonder, feeling incomplete.

I now attend St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church and my favorite part of the service is The Peace.  Now we say "God's Peace," or simply "Peace."  If my husband is with the choir, we wave peace signs at each other.  Every Sunday, all of us stop and say Peace.

A long time ago I read a letter in which the writer said, "we say 'Peace be with you' in the Mass, then run over each other in the parking lot trying to get home.  What's the point?" 

Hmmm... good question.  I think the point is that if we keep saying it, we will begin to be it.  Eventually we'll stop running over each other in the parking lot.  Maybe.

So, once more, with feeling:


And also with you.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Reason #92 to blog for peace:

"The principle of an eye for an eye will some day make the whole world blind."


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reasons 97 - 93 to blog for peace

#97:  There is so much going on in our lives, sometimes we forget to pray for peace.  Maybe this will help.

#96:  What is peace?  My peace, your peace?  A piece of your country, a piece of his?  What do we mean by this?  Why do people keep saying it's impossible.  Let's talk about it.

#95:  Talking about things is a step on the road to fixing things.  (This is NOT the same as #96.)

#94:  I choose butter.  (Remember?  "Guns or Butter.")

#93:  Peace is a learned not inherited.

I celebrated my 51st birthday on Saturday.  I celebrated with friends on Friday and spent Saturday reading and sleeping, which is my idea of a peaceful, perfect day.  It was made more perfect by the presence of two of my grandchildren, Gabe (almost 4) and Brendon (almost 3).  Brendon decided to cover me with French chocolate while I napped, which is a little frightening, but interesting.  Gabe and Brendon both had me and others read them books.  And Gabe talked a whole lot.

Gabe is a very intense and logical little man.  He wants to understand things and people.  He needs to see why things are as they are.  He is a very empathetic child.

I don't know why it would surprise me.  My three sons are all empathetic and caring and have been since they were very young.  Gabe reminds me a lot of his father.  The intensity and ease with which Gabe and Robert embrace empathy has to do with their souls, their personalities, their THEM. 

However, it was my husband and me, along with other friends and family members (my mother in particular), who nurtured and valued those traits.  For children who are not as naturally empathetic, empathy can be taught and nurtured as well.

Empathy, I believe, is the beginning of peace.  And no, it isn't necessarily natural. 

Yes, there have been wars and oppression always and everywhere, from battle grounds to board rooms to school yards.  And yes, it is hard to overcome human nature, which often needs groups of "us" and "them" in order to feel safe and secure.  Our separation from god, our excessive knowledge of the differences among us, and our sparse knowledge of the sameness; all this makes it hard to be at peace. 

And so, we must learn peace.  We must teach peace.  We must act in ways that are not "natural."  And no one said it would be easy.