[This is the text for a speech I plan to deliver this morning at Christ Community Church in Grand Haven, MI.]
Is peace possible? Not simply the absence of conflict, but true peace, the ability to engage life without anger, greed, jealousy, or hostility of any kind? Or are we doomed by our very nature to war, inner and outer?
I am not asking for an opinion or a conviction, but for an investigation. You may think one way or another, but your thinking is conditioned by your parents and peers, your religion and your politics. You may have been taught that peace is possible, and you may have spent your life cultivating it personally, professionally, and politically, but this doesn’t mean peace is really possible, only that you have been conditioned to think so. Or the opposite may be the case: you were taught that life is a zero-sum game; that if you are going to win others must lose; and that the only way to win is to grab all you can when you can regardless of the consequences.
I was taught the latter. I was taught that life is war, and I am warrior, albeit not a very effective one. My personality isn’t geared for war. I dislike conflict and shy away from it whenever possible. I would rather surrender my slice of pie than defend it. Of course there are limits; there are things for which I will rally, but I prize quiet and calm and being left alone too much to fight for much.
But quiet isn’t peace. The silence of guns and gangs isn’t peace. Being left alone isn’t peace. The battles continue in my own mind, and as long as there is war inside, there will be war outside.
So I am asking, can you be peace? I cannot answer this for you, I can only explore it for myself, and ask that you do the same. So lets look at this for a moment.
I am not peaceful now. I am even at this very moment a jumble of conflicting stories, drives, passions, longings, hungers, etc. To end this inner turmoil is only to add another conflict to the mix. It is bad enough that I am at war internally, now I must be at war with the fact that I am at war. I must declare war on my warring nature. I must defeat my desire to defeat. This is simply more of the same thing.
So, is peace possible? Not if I define peace as being other than I am. Yet if I simply accept what I am and act on it, that is not peace either. So I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. A classic double bind.
Double binds are the gateway to transformation. The key is to learn to hold reality in a larger context, a bigger mind. Can I simply make room for war without identifying with it? Can I realize that anger, greed, jealously, hatred, fear, and the rest are a part of me, but not all of me? Can I allow them space without allowing them to define me?
This isn’t peace. This is freedom. Freedom allows me to engage the moment in a manner unscripted by my psychological, political, and religious conditioning. I can’t say in advance what this engagement will look life. There is only the truth of the moment. But coming from freedom rather than conditioning I suspect that compassion rather than conflict will be the norm.
Freedom isn’t won. That is another war. Freedom isn’t cultivated, or earned. That is more struggle. Freedom is here and now if you simply look at the reality within you. There is no awakening, or enlightenment, or salvation, or transformation. All these are trapped in linear time, and time implies change and change means conflict as you move from one way of being to another which you imagine is better.
Forget better and worse. Forget peace and conflict. Forget being other than you are. Simply see all that you are. The one who sees is free from what is seen. And that makes all the difference.
Is peace possible? No. Conflict is systemic to the human ego. Is freedom possible? Yes. There is something greater than the ego. And that something is the real you. Live from that.