“If there is to be any peace, it will come through being – not having.” (Henry Miller)
Living in peace is a state which all nations, and all people want to be. From the time we are children we are taught to pray for peace. We elect officials who strive to bring and protect peace in our time. Unless we are one of the many honorable members of the various military branches, or members of their families, we don’t experience the conflicts between countries on a personal level. For us, world peace is an ideal, but not something we can directly influence or control. The sad fact is that there has never really been a time when the world has been at peace for any significant amount of time. There is always conflict somewhere.
When I was in High School my American History teacher told us something that was a shocking truth at the time, but has been borne out in my observations since. That is that all wars are fought over economics. They may have window dressing to suggest that they are about religion, or some other lofty ideal, but in the end they always come down to disputes over valued territory, or outright wealth. In short, war is about possessions, war is about having.
It is easy to sit in our homes and to criticize world leaders, both domestically and abroad, for beating the drums of war. It is easy to get together with a group of friends and protest against the conflict, then return to our relatively-peaceful existence. It is even easy to say that there is nothing “I” can do about it. Sure, I can vote for different government leaders, or I can join the military, but really, I cannot bring about the end to conflicts between nations or other warring parties.
But, does that mean I am helpless to bring peace into the world? Most definitely not!
The truth is that peace, like any other virtue in the world, begins at home. It starts with me, as an individual, finding my own peace, and then helping those closest to me to find theirs. In today’s quote, Henry Miller reminds me that to have peace, the focus must be on my state of being, not on my house, my car, my toys, or any other possessions. I must learn to be at peace, and not to try to have peace.
Peace and happiness come from my being in harmony with the world around me. They come from accepting who I am, where I am, and what I have in life. They come from being in love – first with my self, and then with the people closest to me – and acting in loving ways toward all. Being at peace doesn’t mean that I never strive to improve, but it does mean that I must learn to accept things as they are while working on that path.
Peace in this world starts with individuals. The more that individuals embrace their own existence, while striving to improve themselves, the more that peace reigns.