Where Peace Comes From

World peace is difficult precisely because I couldn’t resist spending half an hour at the Calvin Klein 70% off sale this evening. I wanted to forego Calvin Klein not because they make their clothes in Asia or Latin America but because I need to get some sleep tonight to avoid imploding. Yet there I was.

We cannot create something we cannot imagine, and we have so little experience with peace. At a conference last spring, a presenter spoke about the connections our brains are and are not capable of making. She put the word “apple” up on the screen and asked the audience to get a mental picture of the word. She then showed a red apple, a green apple, and the Apple logo and asked the audience which image they had in mind. About half the audience, myself included, had pictured the Apple logo. “That result was not possible 20 years ago,” she said.

Twenty years ago we couldn’t have connected an existing concept—apple—to something that didn’t exist yet, the current Apple logo. And pre-iPod, pre-commercial Internet almost, only a handful of members from a 1991 audience would have pictured the Apple logo of the time—most of them hadn’t practiced that connection.

We imagine war every day. We build monuments to it. We watch movies about it. We play it in games. Enter Calvin Klein. How can we imagine peace if we can’t feel it within ourselves? And how can I feel it when I continue to do things I know don’t make me peaceful?

The amount of time I spend fighting myself—not wanting to get up, not wanting to go to work, not feeling I’ve gotten enough done—is much greater than the amount of time I spend at peace with myself—admiring a scarlet leaf shot through with sunlight, sitting still long enough for the cat to crawl up on my lap, feeling pride in an accomplishment. I suspect I am not unique in this internal war/peace ratio, yet we haven’t completely destroyed each other yet.

I think humanity has survived because peace is tremendously powerful. Ten seconds of peace must count for at least ten hours of strife. Which means even in our human-ness, in our infinite capacity for making mistakes, in our resistance to change, in our succumbing to the temptation of the fancy jacket reduced to $30, even in the midst of all that, if we spend just a few more moments breathing or appreciating, thanking or complimenting, being still or being astounded, we will add not drops but bucketfuls of peace to the world.

No one can say whether it will be enough, but let’s imagine what life will be like when it is.

Note: The blog and I will be on vacation next week. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice, and joyous celebrations of whatever other holidays you honor at this time of light growing out of the darkness.