“Peace be with you.”
“And also with you.”
I’m not Catholic but I’ve been in the pew for this moment. When strangers turn to strangers and reach out with hands and words of comfort.
And smiles. The smiles always cemented the bond, the truth of the simple gesture.
It seemed easier with family and friends but more important with strangers.
The moment would pass, but the words would linger. The word … peace.
Such a simple word that has floated in my life for years, like a bubble shaped by sunshine, full of rainbows and natural beauty … and so fragile.
You want to protect it. Call others to see it. So calm. So gentle. So vulnerable.
I clutched the word like a holy grail. It was all about hope.
I was young. I was scared. It was the ’60s.
Assassinations. Vietnam. Protesters vs. police or national guard.
The word peace became a shout, a chant … a scream for help.
It’s the word I would put on any door that opens to a room full of hopes.
Peace is a word we toss around, a lot like the word love. They bond well. Hard to discuss one without the other.
They represent a feeling that’s universal. Global. And kind of mystical.
I don’t mean to say peace and love are not real, but they do float a bit higher than human understanding. Like that bubble.
I guess I clung to the word peace because of war. I foolishly thought both cannot exist in the same forum. They are opposites.
Of course, civilization learned long ago to use peace to defend wars.
The atom bomb brought peace. We have missiles called Peacemakers and historically the “peacemaker” was the moniker given the sidearm in a holster.
In other words, to make peace, you need to shoot something. Or more likely, someone else. The enemy.
Like I said, peace is a universal goal. So, of course, the enemy must shoot back. You know, to protect their peace.
The ultimate peacemakers, I guess, would be nuclear weapons.
But let’s pause for a moment. Let’s take a closer look at the word we’ve turned into a weapon.
The definition covers a lot of ground. Freedom from disturbances or war. Law and order.
But also tranquility, mental calm and serenity … like peace of mind.
Calm, restful, silence, safe … peace and quiet.
Free from anxiety or distress.
Some would say you are at peace after you died. And, to be honest, perhaps that is the only place you can find it — beyond this world.
Peace is a wish. A constant wish. We love to put the word into song and poster and poem. We preach peace.
The slogans and quotes are endless. Because hope is endless.
“Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Mahatma Gandhi said a lot about peace: “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” And … “Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.” … “The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.”
“Peace begins with a smile.” — Mother Teresa.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” — Jimi Hendrix.
“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” — Albert Einstein.
“Dad, how do soldiers killing each other solve the world’s problems?” — Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes.
“And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.”— from Maya Angelou’s “When Great Trees Fall.”
And of course, John Lennon:
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”
“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”
“If someone thinks that peace and love are just a cliche that must have been left behind in the ‘60s, that’s a problem. Peace and love are eternal.”
And this … “Give peace a chance.”
To believe in world peace is naive. Probably foolish.I see that.
But it’s a wonderful thing to imagine. (Thank you again, John Lennon.)
Like anything important to the world, it all starts with us, you and I. Treasure the word. Stop abusing the word.
Perhaps the most relevant definition comes with the simplest of wishes. Because that’s what peace is. A wish. A hope. Personal.
And don’t all of us make the same wish … for just a moment’s peace. For ourselves. For others. Even knowing it will not and cannot last forever.
Which is why it’s so important. Especially the next time someone extends a hand and says, “Peace be with you.”
Don’t hesitate. Reach back and say, “Also with you.”
And smile. Smile because you mean it.
Smile like the world is full of peace.
LONNY CAIN, of Ottawa, is the retired managing editor of The Times. Please email thoughts, comments or ideas to email@example.com or mail care of The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.