By Margaret-Anne Enders –
While visiting my parents in Alberta a short while ago, I picked up the Edmonton Journal. The world news page was filled with tragedy: a French priest is murdered while conducting mass, a shooting rampage by a teenager in Germany leaves nine dead, and the list goes on. As I continued to read, stuck in a strange state of being mesmerized yet repelled, I felt my anger rising. What good comes from knowing these things? How will this benefit society, these continual stories about brutal violence in countries far away from here? I do not wish to be callous. I know that each of the victims left family, friends, and communities in despair. Each victim was a person whose life meant something, just by virtue of being human. But where does it lead us to, in this world, if we are bombarded by such pain every day? It sends the message that violence is the norm and that none of us are safe.
How do we as humans cope in a world where there is so much bad news? Better yet, how can we return our world to some sort of equilibrium? A well-known quote comes to mind, “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.”
Contemplating the way of peace and visions of peace, I immediately thought of the Biblical quote, “and the lion will lie down with the lamb.”I confess that it has been awhile since I have picked up my Bible for a good read, so I needed to look up the reference. Imagine my surprise to find that that phrase doesn’t even exist in the Bible. The closest phrase is from Isaiah 11:6: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb.” No matter, we can go with that.
I got to thinking about this uneasy partnership. There are many peaceful, sun-drenched, white-clouded images in Sunday School classrooms across North America of the lion and lamb just hangin’ out basking in their new-found company. But I suspect that that peacefulness came with quite a bit of trust-building. Think about it. What kind of self-control would a lion, or wolf as it were, have to possess to snuggle up beside its prey? And who can imagine a lamb without the instinct to know that it could be in grave danger of becoming dinner? Are we who are lambs (and I suspect most would consider themselves to be the on the side of the good-guy lamb, as opposed to the wolf-lion-enemy who devours cute fluffy creatures) being encouraged to submit ourselves to dangerous situations? Upon further reflection, it proved helpful to me to abandon the whole “good mammal, bad mammal” line of thinking. When I did so, it became clear that both sides were being challenged to stretch beyond their basic instincts, to sit awhile in discomfort. In this journey that is peace, we are pretty much guaranteed discomfort for the questions are difficult, there are many shades of grey, and we are pushed into new and unfamiliar territory.
While holding gently these two seemingly opposite experiences of peace and discomfort, how do I go about making peace the way? How do I sit in companionship with the other in our midst? The desire for peace is not simply wanting to avoid war, but more importantly involves how to make the world a safer place everywhere, in and for all things. The wolf and the sheep are not sitting individually; they are connected. If I am truly dedicated to peace as the way, then I must recognize that it is not just peace for me. Peace needs to be for all.
Peace for all is a loaded concept, with far-reaching consequences. Peace calls for ethical investing, for how can I justify benefitting economically when others are exploited for my profit? Peace means being aware of what I eat, the living and working conditions of the farmers who produce my food, and the health of the land on which it is produced. Peace, too, encourages me to purchase ethically—not simply relying on the cheapest deal, but caring about the working conditions of those here and abroad who labour for my goods, the majority of them non-necessities. Peace involves trying to live sustainably and decreasing my environmental footprint. And in the true spirit of wolf and lamb dialogue, peace requires that I try and understand the viewpoints of those who hold different opinions. It is a long road and I don’t claim to have made it very far.
These are not easy tasks and in some ways, many ways actually, they disrupt my peace. It would be far easier to live without the knowing, the researching, the agonizing decision making. Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it? However, if we all follow that kind of peace, we will soon find that the wolf is mighty hungry.
To stave off the appetite of the wolf, there are two critical points to remember. First, action is most effective when partnered with contemplation. Franciscan priest Richard Rohr teaches that “only the contemplative mind has the ability to hold light and dark together.” In my life, I have found that contemplative practice helps me to balance the joys of living with the inherent darkness. Nurturing my own spirit gives strength for the journey.
The other key is remembering that the path to peace is not travelled alone. The wolves and sheep that are my companions on this journey lift my spirit and help me to find a sort of peace in the midst of this, the long road to peace.
In her work with the Multicultural Program at Cariboo Mental Health Association, as well as in her life as a parent, partner, faithful seeker, left-leaning Christian, paddler, and gardener, Margaret-Anne Enders is thrilled to catch glimpses of the Divine in the ordinary and the extraordinary. To learn more about the Women’s Spirituality Circle, call (250) 305-4426 or visit www.womenspiritualitycircle.wordpress.com or on Facebook at Women’s Spirituality Circle in Williams Lake.