Peace must become our highest concern

December 11, 2017 GMT

When society is returned once more

To unimprisoned life, and to the universe …

Then our entire twisted nature will turn

And run when a single secret word is spoken.

— from Novalis (1800)

I am wondering what single, simple word might we speak in unison today to safely carry ourselves to our designed place in the universe?

Eirene? An ancient Greek word for peace, with layers of meaning, from peace within one’s soul to peace that permeates a society with benevolent leadership. Gandhi reminds us with timeless wisdom: “Nonviolence is the greatest force at our disposal.” I wonder if Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and others speaking truth to nonviolence have been preparing us for this very time in which the push of a button could annihilate all and peace must become the highest concern.

Unite? True power can only come through unity. “Divide and conquer” will never be true power. Walls ultimately come tumbling down. Again, tapping into Gandhi’s wisdom, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always.”

Now? This is the moment that the entire global population — and especially the United States — could start a chorus of “no more” to national atrocities and the devastating effects of power mongering and war and claim that another way is possible. Without knowing what that way is. An ancient Chinese proverb offers encouragement to speak and be heard in the human symphony we are part of. “A bird does not sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.”

What, I wonder, can mobilize resounding, in unison, any of these possible words — eirene (peace), unite, now? Interventions are appropriate and called for during crises of spiraling destructiveness; a hopeful future springs from people coming together and acting for the common good. Can a coalition of United Nations intervene and mandate a timeout, stopping people and actions that may appear to relate to “faraway countries over there” but in reality affect the entire world? Might the only button to press be the pause button — until ethical, life- and world-supporting actions can be thought and worked through together?

Today, with flames of incendiary blindness and shortsighted insanity being dangerously fueled, this is the moment for people who care about the world to unite, in ways we creatively come up with — taking an unwavering, resolute stand of No! to actions that threaten the whole. Because what is visible, very clearly, is that the whole is dangerously threatened.

There is power in numbers — as individuals and as nations. This we have as a resource in our hands right now.

This is a plea — please — especially right now within our home country, for the cause of moral decency, sanity, preservation of life, health, wholeness. Let us internally and externally commit to eirene (peace), finding a way to unite (join forces) and put a halt now to the life-destroying trajectories that will take unfathomable time, energy, people power and resources to recover from. If recovery were even an option — humanity well knows the dynamic of extinction.

Can we put our time, energy, people power and resources to work in life-affirming ways, starting with the necessity and grace of a timeout to focus on what we really want and new possibility? To reorient and move forward with safety, there must be a stop in the momentum. Timeout. Is that the single secret word?

Susan Slotter is a humanitarian artist living in Santa Fe.