Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.
~ Etty Hillesum, “29 September”, in An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941-1943 and Letters from Westerbork, p. 218.
I’ve always loved Hillesum’s idea that becoming as intentionally and wholly peace-filled as we are able is our moral imperative as humans, and that the point is to flash that peace back into the world while we can. It signifies to me that words like peace, hope, and love, are more necessarily active verbs than they are abstract nouns. Their life, growth, and communal sharing are both our choice and the reason we’re here at all. Humans, apparently, need to be invited and encouraged to consider this over and over. I do, anyway.
Long treasured friends and I were texting during Thursday night’s January 6 committee hearing. Prior to the opening statements, one friend wrote, regarding shifts in the political climate that might result from the hearings, she was, “…interested but not hopeful…so many fearful and willfully ignorant people.”
This friend has always had more artistic gifts in any given eyelash than most of us have in a lifetime of study, practice, and achievement. She can write, paint, draw, sculpt, sing, and act, and has done all of these professionally, at levels of skill and artistry that leave me stunned. Light literally emanates from her. That she admitted she was not hopeful wounded my heart. Hope and peace are intertwined, and destroyed by the chaos, lies, overwhelm, confusion, and violence so many have armed themselves with in our world. And their victims are too often people like my friend, sensitive and gifted creatives who require healthy doses of peace and hope to change the world. And we need their joy more than ever.
I know what she meant; I’ve had moments of doubt about the state of the country and world as well; I’ve felt anxious and hopeless in the moment, but I’ve always rejected permanent hopelessness as an acceptable and fixed state of being because I continually see so many more alternatives that are possible for us to design and live into as a species. We know there are people choosing those healthier and more compassionate alternatives, following where they lead, and achieving promising degrees of success. There are environmental groups, charities, political action committees, rescue organizations, gun safety proponents, globally-connected scientists, art colonies: communities of people consciously spending their days doing life differently and better so that all of us can look forward to times of greater peace and love. They’re everywhere, but our media rarely feature stories of hope in action, or tuck them at the end of “news” about our dismal world like a bit of dessert after a rugged meal, not so much to promote viable societal alternatives as to leave us with a folksy chuckle and brief smile rather than the massive stroke the preceding news has encouraged.
Consider what the promotion of hopelessness presents as truth, and the damage it’s done to our children. When our leaders can’t abandon their greed and enslavement to billionaires and arms dealers, our children are left with–useless and emotionally damaging–active shooter drills and the lesson that nowhere on Earth is safe, ever. No hope, no peace. Unless you’re a politician, billionaire, arms dealer, or AR-15-wielding “patriot.”
When despots can indiscriminately invade, pillage, and murder innocent people in other countries, our children learn there is no place of refuge. No hope, no peace. Unless you’re a heartless despot, enamored only of power and your own self-image.
When politicians commit crimes, lie, and cheat, and they demonize those who look, sound, and think differently, when they burn books, condemn intellectual pursuits, deny both mystery and science, reduce the world to little boxes and either/or, and ascribe all these behaviors to their puny righteous beliefs, what are children learning about the human spirit, morality, creativity, community, and the concept of the Sacred? What are they learning about truth, listening, leadership, and compassion?
No hope, no peace. Better to be cynical; better to be close-minded; better to be on the “right” side of power and wealth, blaming the weak, the poor, and the “other” for all the world’s misery.
To rob our children of peace and hope, to destroy anyone’s peace and hope, is evil. It stunts our unique gifts and inhibits our growth, ensuring the world will not be healed as deeply, justly, and thoroughly as it might.
These are some of the thoughts that inspire why and what I write, and especially why I write for children. The Rare, Tiny Flower came from the days following the January 6th attack on our country’s heart and the resulting lack of peaceful dialogue, consequences, and change. I was horrified by the sound and news bytes, the continued lies and degrading language on display for our children to witness and absorb. And during the months the book was in production and then suffering shipping delays, we’ve endured more Covid losses, the monstrous war in Ukraine, the ghastly murders of our children, teachers, and elderly, in public places where they should be safe and thriving. No hope, no peace; no love; many lies and empty promises.
We can do better. Many are. Look for them. Share the ways you keep your own hope, peace, and love kindled and active in the world. Choose more. Kindle a friend’s. These are our moral duties, the only choices and actions that matter.
It looks like The Rare, Tiny Flower may finally make her debut on Tuesday, June 28. I’m so very happy to share that Quim Torres’s illustrations for our book have been longlisted for the 2022 World Illustration Awards. Hooray for Quim and our publisher, Tra! (Check out their other wonderful books!)
This weekend, I’m off for a 10-day stay at a hermitage to write and write and write, a birthday gift from my beloved. I’ll miss my lovebugs, but am so very grateful for this gift of quiet time in solitude. I’m seeking to reclaim more and more spaces of peace within myself to flash back at the world, and look forward to encountering my spirit in the silence of a little room beneath a full moon.
As always, gentle peace to all my readers. Be safe and well.
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