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Down History Lane: What Does the Word Peace Mean?

By Remy Benoit

It is the last day of the year - time to reflect a bit before partying in the New Year. So, I am running once again a piece I put up here a few years back. It's questions remain unanswered - not acted up - truly neglected.

My best hopes for all of us across this so fragile planet. Like anything else, peace is a "can do thing" if we set our minds to us - it truly is all in the choices we make.

Miz' Remy

I have asked some people to write on the subject: What are the major obstacles to peace? Two questions came from a friend yesterday: “Just what is peace? What does the word mean to each person?” Those are good questions.

I was driving in to work this morning, crawling along the entrance ramp to Route 10 headed into New Orleans. It was very hot and humid outside, temperatures well above normal for this time of year, and rainfall well below necessary levels. There were all kinds of vehicles stretched out along the two lane onramp. I was wondering, thinking about the people sitting behind all those steering wheels, how many were going to jobs they did not want to go to? I was wondering how many were overtired, overtaxed, and overstressed? And I was wondering how we got to the place where so many are?

Just as you get to cruise on to Route 10 itself, the two lanes merge into one. It is the custom here to let cars from the right lane slip into the left, one car from the right into the left, one moving forward, one from the right slipping into the proper place so all can get where they are going. It is all really quite civilized and courteous. That in itself is a kind of peace: making the system flow well. But the real questions come up when something in the system in flawed and the mechanisms break down, and the confrontations, conflicts begin. When there is a breakdown, an accident, the system is interfered with, time is spent sitting and waiting until it is rectified. When the ‘system’ breaks down internationally, there is war, a definite absence of peace.

I went back to my original question - How many of these people were involved in jobs and lives that did not suit them? Then the question expanded itself - why?

Some tell me that we can never have peace, that it is ingrained in us not to; that we are basically belligerent. That thought took me back to the playground bully syndrome. Generation after generation is plagued by the playground bully, yet did you ever ask yourself why he is allowed to ply his trade generation after generation? Isn’t there something that could be implemented that would stop his reign of terror? You would think so. Perhaps we should start with a personality scan. Who were/are the playground bullies and what makes them do what they do? What is lacking in their lives that makes them act they way they do? What is going on, or not going on, inside the school perhaps that releases their actions in hallways and playgrounds, street corners as they age?

Through the course of the Boomer years we have heard a lot about schools. The Three R’s need re-instituting; the best size for a classroom is 15 students; we need CORE curriculums; we need more math, more science, LOOK at what the Russians put into space. We have Team Taught, written Personal Improvement Plans, had students sign Contracts for x amount of work for a certain grade. We have tried endless things, resurrected them under different names and tried them all over again.

What we have not done, while we have piled tons and tons more on the schools in loco parentis, is to ask ourselves what we are truly trying to achieve with them.

The children are there to be EDUCATED. The word comes from the Latin and means to bring out.

I looked at the people again, all those people sitting behind so many steering wheels, and asked myself, I wonder what they would say if I asked each of them did their schooling bring out who they truly were?

This is not faulting teachers who put in endless hours trying to meet impossible demands.

This is about asking ourselves exactly what we expect of our schools; what do we truly expect them to “bring out?”

Yes, indeed, the Three R’s: Readin’, Ritin’, Rithmetic are essential. They are skills that can be mastered, but they are not necessarily the "bring outers."

As I watched the cars weave and braid themselves onto the highway, it occurred to me that the schools also need the Three C’s: Compassion, Creativity, and Cooperation.

What would we hear if we really listened to the way young people solve things with constantly thinking outside the box because they haven’t learned yet that there is one to think inside of. That is something we teach them. What if we rejoiced in purple trees, and orange skies and opened picture books of peoples and places and let them ask the questions instead of our giving answers before the questions came. What if we didn’t discourage kindergarteners from giving hugs? No, we cannot have chaos in classrooms, but we can have openness. We can show them how to cooperate rather than to compete for grades. We can have helpers in each room, across grade levels, even across generations helping each of us to bring out what and who we truly are.

What if all the people sitting behind all those steering wheels were off to a day’s adventure in doing what they truly loved? How would they impact on, and what would they communicate to, those with whom they came in contact? Inner peace, fulfillment, commitment? How much more of themselves would they have to give to global issues if their immediate environments were not devouring them?

What is peace?

Well, we have to work on a working definition of that, but it does seem to have something to do with waking with a roof over your head, food to nourish you for the day, clothes to protect you from the elements, maybe even make you feel good about how you look, appear to others. Peace seems to have something to do with your being able to bring out the best in you, with a lot of help from a lot of all kinds of different kinds of friends.

Perhaps peace comes from doing, be able to do, what you feel you were “meant to be doing.”

Perhaps peace means helping others to their center, their purpose, their life filling paths.

Perhaps peace means forgiveness for mistakes of the past, and action taking to correct their wakes.

Perhaps peace means all of those things and a whole lot more and that we really, really, really have to think about that on a personal, national, and global level.

Those of you who are here at this seminar for healing using history and writing, personal and collective, may have felt the Onion Skin Syndrome. Have you felt layer upon layer peeling away, falling away, day by day, word by word as a new you, constantly a different and new you, emerges as each layer of heaviness drops away; as each piece of “clothes” put on you by someone or something else falls away? How many, many, many layers of history do we have to peel away to reach the point where we know that to truly educate we must bring out who each and everyone of us on the planet is?

It is an awesome job, but it is also an awesome prospect.

And so, I have asked, and ask anyone who wishes to, to answer the questions: What is peace? What are the obstacles to peace? Do you remember as a small child the sense of power you began to feel as you learned the names of things, and could begin to grasp them and their place in your everyday world? What if we find, identify, and name the obstacles to peace? What if we TRULY identify and name them; can we then be able to deal with them in a new way, from a new perspective, knowing that if we apply compassion, creativity, and cooperation we just might bring out ways to make the necessary corrections to achieve global healing?

Each of us gets to give that order of the day through our own actions, reactions, deeds and communications. To have peace, well, it must start with each and everyone of us examining the obstacles both in and around us to it. Can we, dare we, "Make it so?" Can we be Star Captains for planet earth, and however far beyond we go? The journey to peace is certainly a journey beyond where we have ever gone before.

What do we need to stock for the journey? Patience, understanding, forgiveness, compassion, creativity, and cooperation.

Dare we, "Make it so?"


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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