“Take Time for Peace”
January 1, 2006–Welcome to the 109th International Peace Meditation. Today’s topic for reflection is about creating peace in the midst of daily stress. But, it is more than that. It also requires us to look at some of the things that we are doing that create our own stressors. Peace begins with a decision to create peace in our lives, and in the lives of others.
The holiday season is filled with stressors. The “need” created for us by the media and retail is that we must buy, buy, buy. And if that isn’t enough, we worry that if everyone isn’t buying, the economy will be hurt, which will be further reflected in the stock market. Everywhere there are messages that to adequately celebrate the holidays we must consume until we are stressed for time, rest, and finances.
Peace begins by the decision to have peace in one’s life. However, it is also important to try to create peace in the lives of our families, friends, and even people we don’t, and will not ever, know, around the world.
Songs tell us that peace begins within. But, peace begins with an internal decision to have peace in one’s life. We can react to others, or we can find those solutions that bring us a sense of completeness and serenity. Being proactive does not mean that we have to be hostile to those who would continue to push the idea of consumerism. It means that, in the face of consumerism and “group think”, we decide to act, rather than to react.
True peace is not simply a holiday event. It is a way of thinking and a way of life. It does not seek to hurt others, even when one has been hurt. It seeks to walk a higher plane. It seeks to take hurts that have been received, to note the spiritual level reflected by the way of life of the one who hurt us, and to allow them to learn their lessons. Lessons come. We do not have to make them happen. They will happen. It is so designed. Some call it Karma. Some call it fate. But pain comes to all, and all actions have a built-in response. We do not have to wish ill upon others. Sometimes, we simply have to walk away.
Worldwide political responses to having been hurt are revenge. When one country has had a few people, or even a policy, intended to hurt another, the response throughout much of our history has been revenge. If we are asked why we seek revenge, the response is so that the other’s attack will cease. But, rarely does revenge stop personal or political attacks. More often, the stronger of the two has power for a period of time until new alliances are made and the attacker finds another mode of attack. That is often followed by new alliances, and more revenge. Thus, war, and modes of revenge, causing victims and victors, or strong versus weak, continue over the years as power continually shifts. What has been created, in the big picture, are simply more power shifts, more assaults, followed by more revenge in a never-ending cycle. Peace, any peace, is only temporary in this scenario.
What if we changed the paradigm? What if we walked away from the aggressor? What if we realized that killing the killer brings only temporary satisfaction? That the person we are killing is only another person with a family? That when we kill one, we in reality kill the spirit of many? Revenge may be sweet initially, but the long-term experience is seldom sweet.
Recently the state of California in the United States of America executed Stanley “Tookie” Williams. Up until a few hours after his death, the television news channels carried the appeals, and final refusal to hear another appeal or allow clemency. The stage, if you will, was set for his execution, with witnesses from the families and the media set to watch the event. Those who are against the use of the death penalty had been advocating for clemency for days. Information was released, detailing unique circumstances surrounding this otherwise matter-of-fact legal act of killing by lethal injection, that advocates felt should warrant mercy. Hundreds of thousands signed petitions that he be spared. There was no mercy granted. One would think that, the following day, across America and the world, there were discussions in schools, families, and legislative bodies regarding the wisdom of this act. If there were, where were the media for those discussions? Once revenge had been exacted and the witnesses had given accounts of his final minutes, the media went on to new crises and events. Don’t we ever stop to question? We rush to the next crisis as if we are in a child’s game where speed and destruction determine who wins.
I cried. I got sick to my stomach. I cried for the children who might have been saved by his books urging them against violence and gangs. I cried for a nation which can find no better way to deal with the acts of killing innocent people. I cried for a People who do not believe that people can change and that redemption is impossible. I cried for the children who must have been horrified to think that we put to death a person who was trying to lead them to lives of productivity and success, rather than following the path of many youths who do not see another way out. Don’t we use recovering addicts to lead others attempting to break addictions? Who better understands? Why wouldn’t we use former gang leaders to lead our youths away from that way of life?
I cried in frustration that so few seemed to care. I cried for the teachers across this nation who faced questions by their students that they were likely ill-prepared to answer. I cried because we don’t want to learn a better way. I cry now because we don’t want to stop, think, and re-evaluate the big picture. I cry because consumerism clouds our thinking and directs our actions. I cry for a People who seem lost when it comes to determining values. I cry because we seem to follow the media rather that the great philosophers and spiritual leaders. I cry for a human race in confusion.
Out of our pain often comes creativity. Some of us attribute that creativity to outside sources when it seems almost beyond our own comprehension. Some of us believe that we have been led, or put here, to create art works or carry messages. Regardless of how we explain the gift of creativity, it often comes to us in our darkest hours and helps to relieve our pain. We may feel as if we have given birth at its completion. So was my experience, which I will share. I hope you can read it in the spirit with which I believe it is intended: to help us each stop; question our own values; question our governmental policies; and ask ourselves how we can find peace-in our lives and in our world.
I do not condone the acts for which Stanley “Tookie” Williams was tried and found guilty. However, I recognize that human error is a part of all that is human, and that our justice systems, however good they may be, are not exempt from human limitations. Even technology, which enhances our ability to be sure of our legal outcomes, is not without its own limitations. Perhaps we should reconsider the death penalty in light of two very important facts:
That our Courts are great, but not infallible;
That with rehabilitation and a change of heart, people can turn their lives around and use them to help others.
Death penalties are reflective of a lower level of consciousness that still sees revenge as the only appropriate behavior. However, higher levels of consciousness would advocate for relief from the need to kill to avenge killing. When we kill, our consciousness is at its lowest level. Bringing the world to a higher level of consciousness where we:
work out differences at conference tables;
separate perpetrators, while bringing our best resources to reversing destructive behaviors, and consoling those who have lost loved ones; and
teach children about peace by living peacefully,
will constitute a new paradigm that has the potential to lead to world peace. Wouldn’t that be a better solution? Can we begin anew in 2006?
The writing that came out of my tears of pain and frustration follows. I hope you will read it, and reflect upon it.
My hope and prayer for each of you, wherever you live, is that in the New Year, you may have Peace.
“Let Freedom Ring”
And the light went out on the people
And the darkness covered the earth
And God said, “Were the choices they made,
Made for the greater good?”
And the light went out in Heaven
While the Angels gathered round
To discuss the latest crisis
In the Situation Room on earth.
The Angels were puzzled and restless.
“We did our best,” each one said.
“But the people on earth didn’t listen
And what we saw was all that we dread.
We saw the beauty of sunshine
Marred by pollution till the skies were gray
And the people were not able to see
The ways that were gone awry.
Pollution covered the earth
Until judgment was clouded, and grew
To become the poor judgment of leaders
Because they had no direction.”
The Angels paused in their discussion
Only one happy thought was expressed:
“The people had free choice. It was they
Who wrought such destruction on earth.”
Their judgment was clouded by leaders
Whose values they forgot to examine;
Who sought revenge for justice,
And thought that power could correct.
But killing didn’t accomplish their mission!
People, angered by deception, still cried.
The Freedom dream of each person
Was belied by the misuse of power.
The use of torture and death didn’t cleanse them.
The hate of others they still didn’t understand.
It didn’t clean the air of pollution.
‘Pollution of destruction’ never does.
The People were scared and confused.
The Angels were far too overworked.
How do you stop the pollution of power
That destroys all who dare to oppose?
When does free speech become free?
When are children allowed to be?
When will the monsters of fear and greed
And reckless abandon be refuted?
Who has the right to overtake all that covers
The earth with innocence and peace?
When do we redefine justice
To mean that the terror will cease?
When do we stop and discover
That childhood dreams we, ourselves, destroyed?
When do we learn to remember
That children learn by action, not words?
When do we look for the sunshine,
And realize that we covered the earth
With the shame and destruction of greed?
For other than freedom we chose.
When do we stopping killing in the name of God?
Stop the drugging, the killing, the rape?
When does power get used for building up
Instead of tearing down the soul of the People?
How will killing make us feel better?
How does death another death avenge?
Why does destruction in the name of building
Remain our only defense?
The Angels went back to their business
Of leading the human race, their charge.
But their struggle to stay positive
Went beyond the scope of their abilities.
The earth, once teeming with life and joy,
Was now shrouded in darkness and despair.
Where is the joy, the growth, the realization
That freedom was a choice they once shared?
Hate and destruction will never lead
To peace and freedom and love.
The great divide before us
Requires each to decide in her/his heart.
Will we forgive? Rehabilitate? Renew?
Or Destroy? Tear down? Pollute
The lives of our People? The green of our earth?
The sun that we thought could not go out?
When we kill in our hearts, we undeniably destroy
The potential for peace we once taught.
The children are watching, not waiting anymore,
For we’ve rushed them, and now they are loose.
Some use drugs as they maim and kill.
Others use sex and drugs to escape.
For when the dream of peace is lost
Only escape and destruction remain.
Today we taught our children
That lives cannot be rehabilitated;
That the worth of the person is determined
By a jury of other flawed humans.
Today we put ourselves above God.
Today we chose once again to destroy
The teenager’s belief in forgiveness of sin.
Today we killed one who tried to lead them.
The new direction was away from gangs.
The new direction was toward internal peace.
But the judges of human souls knew better.
And they killed the new direction he showed.
Are we better without him?
I don’t think so, for you see,
He’d learned the cost of freedom misused;
And his lesson is needed more than before.
He tried to send a message to stop
The aimless, horrid killing he’d spawned.
But the seekers of revenge didn’t listen
And they sought “justice” instead.
So today the children listen
To adult claims of justification.
And they see beyond the words
To our motives, unclean, but clear.
Some love to tell about his final minutes.
We sought to find fear, but found peace.
What was hoped for, his fear of death,
Was not present to satisfy our desire.
What was present was peace within.
A peace that death could not destroy.
But the children will make their own interpretations
And they won’t be fooled by our defenses.
The light of a life that went out last night
Won’t avenge the deaths of those lost,
Won’t heal the justice system
That is fraught with human frailty.
It won’t teach acceptance of our diversity–
Won’t teach Black and White to trust.
It won’t improve the human condition.
It won’t teach us how to care.
It taught that death and destruction
Are not within human jurisdiction.
The faces of witnesses to the execution
Were themselves witnesses to the horror.
Life is not of our giving.
It is not of our taking away.
It is mystery of the Universe unfolding.
It is beyond our capacity to understand.
We can punish, hold responsible,
Take satisfaction as we avenge, if we must.
But the final step, to extinguish life,
Is beyond human jurisdiction!
We must open our eyes and view
The destruction we have wrought
On the Planet, it’s People, it’s Children.
And take personal responsibility for change.
Stop claiming the right to hold others
To a standard we refuse to uphold.
See the eyes of the children in confusion
As they witness our actions, not love.
Stop asking why they kill, when we kill.
Stop asking why sex and drugs are their escape.
Look at our behaviors and see who leads them.
Let the image speak for itself.
Stop the killing, the torture, the deceit.
Select leaders based upon their values.
Select Churches that truly lead.
Follow what you Know, not what you hear.
Follow your own Internal Guidance
For death it will surely not seek.
Find other ways to stop terror
That are not, themselves, more terror.
Stop killing by stopping, not killing.
Stop drugs by being grateful, not resentful.
Stop lying to children, for they see
The inconsistency of word and action.
Let the lesson of destruction be
That we have the freedom to choose!
If we choose hate and killing
We will each die by that sword.
If we choose love and caring,
If our actions follow our words,
We will choose rehabilitation and forgiveness,
We will choose the way of light.
Darkness once before covered the planet.
Our religions may tell that, but we
Need to notice that darkness is again falling.
We have only a brief time for reprieve.
Unity and Peace, love of each other,
Caring beyond boundaries of culture and color.
We must show that we believe in Love
By allowing Love to change lives!
The children are watching and learning.
Sue Kidd Shipe, Ph.D.
12/13/05 Following the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams
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