A few months back my daughter talked me into joining Facebook. I was active on it for a bit, but most of my contacts were her friends, and they've been off doing other things this summer, so I hadn't been on in a while.
But I got a couple of notifications yesterday, so I went online and spent some time exploring the various links that had surfaced in my absence. And I noticed that one of my daughter's friends had joined a group called "I bet I can find 1,000,000 people who just want peace." When I went to the group site I found this mission statement:
"*OUR MISSION*- Spend ten minutes a day doing something nice for someone. It doesn't have to be anything big, just do something to help them out or make them happy. Then, maybe they will take the initiative and do something nice for someone else. Start a chain reaction and make this world a more peaceful place!"
I like this idea -- that doing something nice for someone creates a chain reaction -- but I think that if that were all it took peace wouldn't be such a rare commodity. Which is not to say that this approach wouldn't be helpful: in order to do something nice, we must first be mindful enough to notice what someone else might need, and that's a good thing, to step outside our own longings to attend to others.
But I'm thinking that true peace requires a more deeply rooted change than just 10 minutes of niceness a day. I'm not sure I can articulate this very well, so I'll quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn:
"Things happen because other things happen. Nothing is separate and isolated. There is no absolute, end-of-the-line, the-buck-stops-here root cause. If someone hits you with a stick, you don't get angry at the stick or at the arm that swung it; you get angry at the person attached to the arm. But if you look a little deeper, you can't find a satisfactory root cause or place for your anger even in the person, who literally doesn't know what he is doing and is therefore out of his mind at the moment.
Where should the blame lie, or the punishment? Maybe we should be angry at the parents for the abuse they may have showered on a defenseless child. Or maybe at the world for its lack of compassion. But what is the world? Are you not a part of that world? Do not you yourself have angry impulses and under some conditions find yourself in touch with violent, even murderous impulses?"
Peace, concludes Kabat-Zinn, can only come about through the inner cultivation of compassion, "a compassion that is not limited to friends, but is felt equally for those who, out of ignorance and often seen as evil, may cause you and those you love to suffer."
There is a lovely poem called "It Acts Like Love" from the Islamic saint Rabia of Basra which beautifully captures this thought:
"My body is covered with wounds this world made,
but I still longed to kiss Him,
even when God said,
"Could you also kiss the hand that caused each scar,
for you will not find me until you do."
Peace will not come for us -- as individuals, as a culture, or as a world -- until we can so develop our compassion that we come to see that we and our enemies are one; that we are capable of as much evil as they, that what we perceive as their evil could be rooted in our own, and that everyone -- both us and them, whoever "them" is in your world -- is both deeply wounded and deserving of love.
That place, that compassionate space, is MUCH easier to describe than to enter; getting there will be, I think, the work of a lifetime.