Expecting Peace is Childish

While visiting Sacramento, I jumped on an opportunity to visit the International World Peace Rose Garden.   It’s a beautiful oasis amid downtown Sacramento, offering meditative pathways that wind through rows of various types of roses.  Nestled on the ground between the rose bushes were small plaques immortalizing the ideas, sentiments, and reflections of local school children to celebrate the garden’s inception.  I was struck as I walked the paths, carefully stopping to read each plaque.   So many children beautifully articulating their personal understanding of peace and in some cases, their individual responsibilities to nurture it.   

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At that moment I finally had language for a personal and continual developing understanding of the incredible cycle we’ve created and perpetuated generation after generation.  We hold so many sentiments of peace as these sacred pillars or ideal aspirations for humanity.  Yet how often is our personal energy earnestly focused on the actions that create this lived reality?

We proudly praise the youthful perspectives promoting peace and relish the feelings of hope that flood over us. These sentiments are held as dreamy reminders of both the possibility we once embodied and memories of our expectations before they were altered by experiences or “reality.”  In those moments we regularly and proudly announce a version of the opinion, The child is all that is good about the future generation and how lucky we are…  In that flippant acknowledgment, we often hang every hope and intention of doing the work of creating a peaceful society on their shoulders.  Of course, by the time each generation is old enough to have an impact on the community, let alone voice; most have lost the youthful confidence that actualizing peace is even a possible concept.                       

We must question our common logic and rhetoric.  A child who is confident and believes peace is possible, we celebrate their innocence and praise them for these hopeful sentiments.  How often are we capturing those moments to build and nurture that behavior, instead of returning to the task of conditioning them to toughen or man up for living in the real world?   How many times do we fear what their experience of the world will be if they are too sensitive or compassionate?  

When I read the sentiments these children offered, they gave me great pause, hope, and joy.  I reflected on how differently we collectively tend to react to grown human beings sharing these ideas of peace.  We praise, find joy, hope, and comfort in the words when it comes from a child’s voice.  However, as the child ages and becomes an adult seeking conversations of peace, we collectively meet them with our discomfort, mockery, dismissiveness and/or belittlement. 

I’d been reflecting on why we hold two separate comfort thresholds for an individual’s relationship to peace based on age.  Why do we hold peace up as a value to embody, yet don’t invest the time, energy or emotion to live as though we believe creating and experiencing peace is an actual possibility?  Why do we work so hard to toughen people up to survive the “harsh” world; instead of seeking ways to prioritize a shared experience of thriving?  Why do we have so much invested in reinforcing the narratives of violence and pain and how many of us are contributing to the problem without realizing it?  

It seems incongruent that we create and perpetuate suffering in individuals in the name of strengthening their character.  We justify our behavior as preparing them for survival in this harsh climate. Then often foster the toxic environment through our current actions and greater inaction. 

When I reflect on the current state of the human condition, how we got here and how can we recover from this?  I ask myself many questions.  Have we given up?  Is it laziness? Maybe many of us genuinely desire to engage, foster and work to become the ideal we profess but don’t know where to start or wonder if we’d be doing it alone?  Many of us seem to be in a personal survival mode not even realizing we're trying to find excuses, reasons, and justifications to awkwardly cram ourselves to this world as it exists; instead of intentionally building a more compassionate, equitable, peace-focused reality.  We behave as though this constant state of hate, fear, and violence we’ve normalized generation after generation, as acceptable and a necessary constant with which to contend. 

When did we become so powerless in our thoughts and beliefs about our individual or collective capabilities to engage, learn, mature, and ultimately heal the issues or problems that afflict us? Maybe some see the potential for change, but think they’d be doing it alone or question how one person can bring peace?  I’m sure it is all of this and many more factors.   But at what point do we finally say “ENOUGH!” and begin to explore challenging and changing this oppressive narrative for ourselves?   At what point do we earnestly commit our own actions to be part of building and co-creating a peace-focused reality?   As that awareness grows, imagine what kind of ripples toward change might be possible on a larger scale for issues that overwhelm us to think about today?

My walk in that garden that day made me realize something differently.  Thinking we can build bridges toward peace in the purest sense of the idea is child-like.  Children continually come into this world to remind us who we are supposed to strive to be.  We old folks are the ones who resist living the values of peace.  Children are blessed with such incredible vulnerability that fosters this inquisitive relationship to the world.  As part of their development, they’re encountering new things with abandon as they explore, experience, and engage to understand themselves, others, and their place in the world.   Kids remind us that before we are taught who and what to fear or hate, we came in with this incredible light and capacity for compassion.   Each time this is a reminder for us of the potential that exists within ourselves we might have buried long ago. 

Adding to that, we live in a reality TV world.  Our avid consumption of many of these products has embraced and promoted the format of elevating and rewarding individuals committed to engaging in drama, toxicity, and severe disruption to the environments around them.  This is the same world where the mainstream news crews only show up to peace rallies if violence is expected or considerable opposition is scheduled.  They engage as though the virtues of peace is not a worthy subject for promoting and educating the populous.   Is it any wonder we don’t even know how to see our way out of this, let alone know where to start embracing personal action toward peace based solutions? 

I know people have adopted and will continue to find this childish notion that if peace is to exist, it must start with me.  As we commit to a path of personal reflection and do the work to heal ourselves, we heal our negative impacts on the world.  Each day, each moment is a choice.  The more individuals committed to that effort, the more comfortable the path becomes to just start the conversation; let alone begin trying to build bridges toward the aim of nurturing cohesive, healthy communities. 

As Haley so beautifully put it… 

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“World Peace Beings With Me!”

I’m grateful for that day in the garden.  I struggled to find words for the complexity of all these problematic dynamics I was witnessing.  It was not until that day, did I understand how profoundly saying the phrase publicly, “I want my life to stand for peace and love.” paralyzed me.  I feared the judgment. I feared the mocking.  I feared the disapproval.  I feared an inability to overcome social programming of peer pressure to conform and that desire most of us have, to “belong.”  I feared reactions rooted in fear and violence sometimes triggered when you even try to start a conversation about peace. 

But here’s what I now understand.  This is the only path that I can walk and still look myself in the mirror every night.  I learned to live from a place of extreme self-protection, cynicism, skepticism, fear, anger, self-loathing and regular emotional complacency.  It was a natural path because all of those things intellectually and emotionally protected me and kept me safely in my comfort zone.  It’s easy to feel superior, dismissive, or judgemental.  It is a hell of a lot harder to continually work to check my ego, learn, listen, and work to engage from there.    

In the incredible sermon, Three Dimensions of a Complete Life, Martin Luther King, Jr shared this wisdom, In a sense every day is judgment day, and we, through our deeds and words, our silence and speech are constantly writing in the Book of Life.

Light has come into the world, and every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness.  This is the judgment.  Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

54 years have passed since Dr. King spoke those words.  As I reflect on today’s backdrop of societal chaos, I feel it safe to say, we have some room for improvement.  Despite that shared reality, I’m regularly blessed to meet new amazing people who have made a life commitment to walking a path of “light and creative altruism.”   I began to reflect on what all those passionate and creative people could achieve if only their paths connected.  So many of them move in different circles, causes and communities, natural connections seemed impossible. I thought, what if those people could find each other? What new, positive ripples might be created?

This idea of creating a community like this started off as a solutions-seeking pipe dream of what ifs.  But the idea quickly took on an additional value of possible potential in a more significant way.   So many of those friends had great ideas and wisdom in different areas.  The way they moved in the world, caused me to think more complexly about my negative or positive impacts. I never know who is going to be a teacher next. A space dedicated to this exploration creates a reciprocal learning opportunity.  Lastly, walking this path sometimes can feel lonely, isolating or not valued by others at times.  I realized many would benefit from just knowing they are not alone in the world on the harder days they need to find the motivation and ability to take their next step.   

What might come of a community of individuals whose main shared belief is a deep personal commitment to valuing, seeing and understanding the human being in front of them? How many spaces are you fortunate enough to occupy where that is your standard and consistent experience?  I think a person is fortunate if they can say 1 or 2.  

Welcome to CPR rEvolution. CPR stands for Creating Positive Ripples.  rEvolution is a nod to the individual and collective evolution we must co-create to usher in any kind of revolution framed in peace.  This is just the beginning and will evolve as we go. 

Welcome to the conversation.  Welcome to the rEvolution.

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Written by Jackson Jantzen