As a baby boomer who walked barefoot in the 1960s and held up peace signs, I would like to pay homage to the notion of peace. In honor of Martin Luther King Day next week, I would like to honor a man who was a real pathfinder and activist for civil liberties. If we stop for a moment to ponder his enormous courage to speak out and unite people, we simply must bow to his brilliance and tenacity. Dr. King has been a role model for many people in speaking from their hearts and striving for peace and equality in their lives. We need more role models like Dr. King to help us navigate our journey here on Earth--especially those who advocate for peace in non-aggressive, nonviolent way.
As a spiritual person, I believe that peace begins within. If everyone tried to bring peace to their own personal lives, then the chance of achieving world peace would increase. This means engaging in a daily practice that brings peace to your inner self--whether it is meditation, yoga, stretching, walking, cycling, hiking, or taking a daily bath--basically, something that calms your body, mind, and spirit.
Perhaps I'm being overly simplistic and idealistic, but we all need to start somewhere. Situated in the corner of my desk where I'm writing this blog is a calm Buddha face holding a little stone that says "Serenity." I'm not secular, but I like the calm that the Buddha and his stone bring to my day. Every so often I glance over at him, and he calms me. We all need reminders around us that do this very thing.
A few years ago there was an op-ed piece in the LA Times by Luke Glowacki, who posed the question, "Are people violent by nature?" He answered, "Probably." To me this was a disturbing factoid, but as I read further, his premise made complete sense. He talked about the war of ideas with respect to violence and human nature that has raged since the 1600s when philosopher Thomas Hobbes speculated that the "natural condition of mankind" was one of violence and conflict. I tend to resonate more with philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who viewed things differently and said that culture and civilization, and not nature, was responsible for violence.
I believe that the nature of war and violence represents human beings' yearnings for happiness and survival. During the time of hunter/gatherers, there was a fight for food and survival. Some researchers such as Samuel Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute believe that warfare is necessary for the evolution of humanity's exceptional altruism.
I prefer to believe that even though violence and fighting for rights is necessary for evolution, it is also a way for certain groups and individuals to come together to effect change, as Dr. King did, and as environmentalists do today. I also believe in the 1960s phrase that was posted in hippie shops, and on a button affixed to my overcoat, which read, "Make love and not war."
In the conclusion to his article, Glowacki deftly and wisely stated, "Whether our genes lead us to war or peace depends on the particular social environment in which we live." There are just too many variables to consider when ascertaining the role and origin of violence in our world as we know it. We need to do our part and aim for a peaceful existence, first in our microcosms, and then in the world-at-large.