What is Peace?

The simplest definition of peace, would be the absence of war. We can think about it in terms of external realities, or inner emotional states (and I’ll explore that in more detail in the coming days).  Does peace mean absolute calm and tranquillity? Is there any difference between peace and stasis? I’m going to argue that for peace to be a useful concept, we need to define it, not as an absence of conflict, or as some kind of inactive, insipid, uninspiring state either. Peace, as an external reality or a state of mind, should be something we can realistically strive for, and then work with.

I don’t think it’s possible for humans to live without conflict. People have different ideas and needs and they won’t always fit neatly together. Contemplating the conflicting needs of fish and otters, birds of prey and endangered songbirds, we can see that nature is not inherently unchallenging either. For peace to be a realistic thing not an abstract ideal, it cannot be defined as the impossible ideal of freedom from conflict.

If we wanted some kind of Time-Machine-esk future where humans sit round being lazy and stupid (I wonder sometimes if the majority do) then we might define peace that way. Freedom from hard choices, from need, pain, distress, and so forth. Nothing to upset us. What kind of life would that be? There would be no scope to grow or prove your strength. There would be little inspiration or motivation to create. I feel very strongly that to flourish and live fulfilled lives, we need challenges. Druidry is all about creativity and living honourably – you can’t do that without choices and challenges. Peace cannot therefore, from a Druid perspective, be about having everything easy and painless.

I have no way of talking about this on a social scale now, and must turn to the personal. From my experience, a sense of peace in a home does not come from everything being smooth and outwardly calm, nor from an absence of conflict. What it depends upon is those involved working honourably and co-operatively to try and find the best solutions for everyone, as an ongoing project. It’s the approach in which people speak gently, and listen to each other with respect. Conflicts arising in such an environment remain challenging, but the distress is kept minimal, and the seeking after resolution is a priority. Consequently it’s also very good as a pragmatic approach to life. This kind of peace gets things done well. 

So I offer this though. Peace is not a thing to achieve as a one off ‘and now we’ve done it.’ Peace is a way of life, an intention that informs action – just as honour and love do. They go together well. Being honourable is not a one off event or achievement, it’s how we live, moment to moment. I think that peace is the same. It’s a life choice – not a desire to live without conflict or difficulty, or the passive acceptance of whatever comes, but an approach. Peace means seeking solutions that work as best as possible for everyone, not the loudest voice forcing their will on others. Living peacefully means avoiding aggression as far as is possible, and not pushing others into it. There is no scope for peace without respect and honour, but where those are present, and are values shared by all, then peace can be created and sustained.

There will always be challenge and conflict. A dedication to peace, is a dedication to finding ways forwards, and through, or around issues. It is a dedication to good solutions and equality, to justice, fairness and honour. It’s a process that is internal and external, and ongoing.

2 thoughts on “What is Peace?”

  1. For myself, peace is a very active and exciting state. Peace in the broadest and deepest sense is about maintenance of balances. Here in the Northwest US, the Eagle and Salmon are often represented as two mutually interdependent expressions of the same continuously circling energetic whole. And much Ceremony is about establishing, re-establishing, affirming balances– between people, with the Sprits, within the land. This process really quickens the sap in me. So anything but dull:). Thanks for good column.

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