Peace Rose Growing in the Garden of Hotel La Maison Templiere – Belvines-et-Cavirac, France – May 2016
In this world as we know it,
The only vessel light enough
To carry our eternal essence
And vast enough
To guarantee our passage is
– Rebecca Folsom
Sometimes living seems so hard. Daily messages over sound waves, internet or TV are full of discontent and suffering. Trying to cultivate a sense of peace with all this loud noise can be challenging. But what if this suffering is not coming from a distant place and hits closer to home?
I grew up in a family where words between my parents were always kind. Anger was expressed against politicians and dogmas, never directed toward each other. I wish I could say that trait was passed on to me but it wasn’t. I often felt like the tantrums from my terrible twos never left me. I don’t know what ignited them but I recall frequently instigating spats with my sisters over inconsequential things. I find myself doing this today, too, especially if someone’s words or actions hit me the wrong way.
The contrast to my family dynamic occurred when visiting my extended family during summers along the Jersey shore. Days were full of fun and sun either on the beach by the sea or in my grandmother’s back yard exploring the bay. Late afternoons and evenings took on a more somber tone. My step-grandfather didn’t seem to be a happy man. His discontent was exaggerated in the late afternoon as he sipped his martinis watching the sun go down over the bay through a large picture window in his living room. Common themes for angry rants were taxes, kids today (also called the door slammers), different family members, politics. If there was an audience, he would rant on one or many of these themes in what seemed like hours of monologue. If my parents were the audience, they would sit and read. Then the fact that the LeFever’s didn’t engage in the rant would cause a rant that the Le Fevers were just a family of readers. I never understood why this was a bad thing.
My grandmother would sit quietly drinking her stingers and roll her eyes at her grandchildren when a rant was particularly absurd. It was hard to find a way to like him. His words were full of anger. I adored my grandmother and could never understand how she could stay with such an angry man. As a young adult, I learned to take a stand on some of his rants. In one emotionally charged encounter, I thought I would no longer be welcomed back to his home. Instead, he called me a few hours after I left to tell me, “I’m proud to have a granddaughter with spunk.” I almost dropped the phone in shock, but for the first time ever, we had a discussion on our different points of view.
As I grew older and spent time with other families, I realized the way my parents related to each other was different than parents of many of my friends. My parents seemed to share the same beliefs and values which, in hindsight, I think was a major contributor to their loving relationship.
When I grew-up and ventured out into the world, I met people from all different backgrounds. For a long time, I truly believed that people are people and you just need to find a common ground on which to build a relationship. With all the turmoil throughout the world, it’s often difficult to hold onto this conviction. Lone gunman, suicide bombers, political soundbites spewing hate and discontent through the air waves and social media feeds, seem to scream – we are broken. I want to scream back – can’t we all just get along?
I’m tired of sending prayers and healing thoughts to countless victims of an insanity that we seem to have no control over. How does one dialogue with hate or anger? How does one find common ground with a faceless attacker bent on destruction. This seems like a different violence than we’ve experienced in the past. We often don’t even understand “the why” of individual attacks – although many pundits will offer opinions.
How does one dialogue with anger if we don’t understand it? I’ve struggled with this question for decades. In my daily life, I seek to understand different points of view. Sometimes I do well in understanding. Often I don’t – because my world and experience just doesn’t have the context to even begin to understand. If you’re taught that love is the answer, is it possible to dialogue with someone who believes only violence will cause change? After all, martyrs to the cause of non-violence – Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were leaders of affecting change through non-violence and both were struck down by a gunman’s bullet.
As the concept of Globalization took hold over the past several decades, there is a phrase that is common in multinational companies and with advocates of sustainability. “Think Globally, Act Locally” I think this phrase can apply to finding peace as well. While we may not be able to impact world events, we can start with cultivating kindness and understanding in our local relationships. When someone offers an opinion or a rant that presents a view different than ours, we can ask, “Help me understand your point of view”. If you are someone who dreads conflict, this can be a difficult but brave thing to do. Take a news break for a few hours. Go inside and find your own peace so you can be grounded as your explore different points of view. Finally, hug someone close and tell them you love them.