This month’s theme question: What does it mean to be a people of peace?
At 08:15 on August 6th, 1945, above the city of Hiroshima, Japan, the bomb doors on the Enola Gay opened, dropping the first atomic bomb to be used as a weapon. Three days later, at 03:49 on the morning of August 9, 1945, the Bockscar opened its bomb doors above the city of Nagasaki. While military historians continue to debate whether the use of nuclear weapons was justified, the words of Albert Einstein continue echo, “The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking. The solution to this problem lies in the heart of [hu]mankind.”
The author of the Tao te Ching, Lao Tse, is remembered as having said:
If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be in the nations, there must be peace in the cities. If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace among neighbors, there must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.
On August 7th, 1974, the French wire-walker Phillipe Petit, danced on a tightrope between the towers of the World Trade Center (a feat for which he achieved tremendous acclaim yet which was, perhaps not surprisingly, only possible because of the group of friends who planned and worked with him). This magical moment is forever seared in the minds and hearts of those who were alive at the time to be aware of it. Yet now those towers no longer exist. Terrorists used planes as bombs, and people as shrapnel, and the towers fell to earth on September 11th, 2001.
The Council on Foreign Relations maintains an interactive website called “The Global Conflict Tracker” (http://www.cfr.org/global/global–conflicttracker/p32137#!/) on which they list places throughout the world where violence, where conflict, reigns. From Afghanistan to Yemen we can see proof that our “way of thinking” has not changed all that much. “Wars and rumors of wars,” as the author of the New Testament book of Matthew put it, seem to have been part of human existence for as long as we’ve been around.
And, of course, we don’t have to look further than our own country to see that peace is not the norm. Orlando, Florida; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Falcon Heights, Minnesota; Dallas, Texas; and so many other cities and town before this and, no doubt, too many afterward. (I pray that there have been no shootings between my writing this and your reading of it, although I confess I would not be surprised if there were.)
If there is to be peace in the world … there must be peace in the heart.
No pressure, but how have you been cultivating peace in your heart lately? If you’re like me, real conscious, intentional efforts at this are too few and far between. I am usually caught up in the day-to-day busy-ness of my life – my job, my family, my friends, my watchlist on Netflix … This month, though, we are being asked to consider what it means to say that Unitarian Universalists are, “a people of peace.” This month could be the month that you and I spend a little extra time and energy trying to cultivate peace in our hearts, minds, and lives. After all, Lao Tse was not talking about the need for peace in some generic heart, or in the hearts of people “over there,” or those people who’ve got some real anger issues to work through … he was talking about you and he was talking about me. For there to be peace in the world … there must be peace in our hearts – mine and yours (you, specifically).
Let’s commit to helping each other with this this month. Our cities, our nations, and our world desperately need it (and probably sometimes our neighborhoods and homes, too!)
Pax tecum, (Latin for, “Peace be with you”)