Somewhere, sometime, and in some way, each of us thinks about peace. We might not call it “peace,” but we think about it. We wonder where or what peace is with questions like “why can’t we get along?” and “what is wrong with this family?” We sense peace each time we say, “what a wonderful time together!” and “I’ve never felt so whole in my life!”
Peaceable experiences happen individually and collectively. They may be calm, joyous, profound, silent. Akin to love, we sense peace among people whom we know by name, blood, heritage, geography, affiliation, beliefs, values as well as among people we may never know in any of those ways. Maybe rarely or perhaps daily, we recognize the reality of our human unity and, in peaceable moments, we embrace it.
Also, individually and collectively, we can be just as likely to judge, curse and blame a person we know or a people we will never meet. Akin to hate, we dismiss peace with individuals, groups, organizations, regions and countries when we cannot recognize ourselves in them. “Us” and “them,” “you” and “I” become polarized opposites whether next door or across the globe. Peace on earth?
Like any pair of opposites, love and hate can and need to be mediated, mellowed, mixed. It requires a “thirdness” – a third person, place or thing – to enable us to live with ourselves and each other in more ways than we have figured. Peace is that third sense that opens our hands rather than closes our fists, literally and figuratively. Otherwise, we would violate ourselves and each other much more than we already do.
Cultures have created occasions that remind us to open our hands. We call them “holidays,” “celebrations,” “observances.” We easily name them in any given calendar year.
Is International Peace Day one of the annual occasions you count?
Since 1981, the whole globe has shared International Peace Day, when the United Nations resolved to establish “a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples” (www.un.org/en/events/peaceday). A minute of silence at noon across all time zones on Sept. 21 captures the most universal observance. Anybody anywhere alone or in a crowd can participate. One minute, one day, once a year. We can do that. We can open hands together for peace, in peace.
Want more? A wonderful range of “what to do” on Peace Day is available at International Day of Peace (https://internationaldayofpeace.org) and Time and Date (www.timeanddate.com/holidays/un/international-peace-day). Light a candle, take a walk, plant a tree, sing together, open your home or business doors for peace. Whatever you do, do it for peace on Saturday, Sept. 21.
Marsha Lee Baker is vice-president, Board of the Center for Domestic Peace.