Regardless of one's faith or background, this day brings to my mind the reason people celebrate the day. It is about wanting Peace. The Christmas saying "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men" makes me pause and reflect upon the concept of peace itself.
For where do we find peace in this world of strife, war, disease, pestilence, dictators, terrorism, brutality and more atrocities than I could ever describe? Where is the good will? Does it exist at all? Why do we sing about peace on earth when it doesn't exist?
I don't know about other people, but I sing about peace on earth and good will toward men because I choose to believe it CAN exist if I put forth the effort to create peace on a daily basis. For me creating peace is not about influencing the world in a big way, it is about trying to live by the tenets set for me by my faith and my own beliefs regardless of who else does or doesn't try. And it is about forgiving myself for not always making the grade in that effort.
For I am human. I came into this world born with no innate desire to be good. Nope. I personally believe we come into the world with the natural instinct to survive. To win at the survival game means putting ourselves first, not last. I recently learned that man's first weapons were not weapons at all. They were tools to obtain food. To obtain food is to survive. Then some ancient human realized that if he took a stone and threw it at another man who had food and knocked out the man he could have that man's food. Voila! Survival of the fittest and the smartest! And in that moment weapons came into existence.
I have news for you. Weapons aren't going to evaporate. Not anytime soon. At this stage of my life, I no longer wear Pollyanna Glasses and believe wars will fade away and that terrible things will cease to happen. As long as there is one person who chooses to put him/herself first over the rest of humanity, the world will never achieve Peace.
Yet the world seeks peace. People of all faiths seek peace. How do they seek peace? Through these words:
Baha'i: It is our wish and desire that every one of you may become a source of goodness unto men, and an example of uprightness to mankind. Beware lest you prefer yourself above your neighbors. Baha'u'llah, Gleanings 315
Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. Undana-varqa: 518
Christianity: As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Luke 6:31
Confucianism: Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that would not have them do unto you. Analects, XV, 23
Hinduism: This is the sum of all true righteousness: deal with others as thou wouldst thyself be dealt by. Do nothing to thy neighbor which thou wouldst not have him do to thee after. The Mahabharata
Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. Sunnah
Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. That is the entire law, all the rest is commentary. The Talmud, Shabbat 31a
Taoism: The good man ought to pity the malignant tendencies of others; to rejoice over their excellence; to help them in their straits; to regard them in their gains as if they were his own, and their losses the same way. The Thai-shang, 3
How do I live a life by the tenets set forth to me given that I was born into this world with the same innate natural instinct to survive? How do I bring peace into my world when there are days that my nature overrides my desire to choose to be good and put myself last, not first?
For me it is a matter of trying again despite the failure to succeed. My hope is to one day have more A's than F's. I don't have lofty ambitions about changing the world. I don't have power over these other countries and their people. I am not in a position to make a huge difference that way. But I can make a difference in my own corner of the world.
For if we can't have peace at home, in the workplace, with our fellow writers, with our neighbors, with our communities then who are we to harp about lack of peace in the world? So here is my challenge to all of you--every day start the day with the desire to put yourself LAST. Try to practice patience in those long lines, bite your tongue the next time you want to nag your spouse, wait for everyone else to fill their plates before you fill your own, and treat the people you meet with dignity and respect.
I'm not asking you to be a doormat and let people walk all over you. I am asking you to stop, pause, think about what you are going to do when you are annoyed with the grocery store clerk, the slow driver in front of you, the co-worker who drives you batty, the neighbor who hasn't weeded in a week. Ask yourself HOW you will present yourself in that situation. Choose the kinder way.
Choose the way that might lead to more peace. Not just peace in your corner of the world, but peace in your mind and peace in your heart.
As we head into 2011 let's move into the year with the spirit of trying to bring Peace into Our Corner of the World.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. John 14: 27