I love the play on words of whirled peas. It makes me think of all the peas as people, and we are whirling around together in an attempt to make a batch of sacred people soup. It’s a deep and abiding hope. And one I believe will, in time, symbolically at least, come to pass.
But peace has its obstacles. Our duality of nature creates a tension between our biology and our spirit — the spirit wanting to know and the biology wanting to protect, each making its own progress according to its individual ethos. The joke of whirled peas makes me feel safe about this duality for a moment in the face of a future most are not sure we can believe in.
What exactly is our purpose? We fuss and fit and struggle and whine. We complain and we correct. But what moves us to do that? What inner directive exists within us suggesting that we strive to be happier, to solve problems, to make more friends than we do enemies?
It seems that we have thrust ourselves at birth into a maelstrom of life and all its pain and suffering with a mind to rise above it all and conquer it. We are squeezed out into this life, into this tumultuous world and age, with some kind of purpose: an agenda to thrive.
We are born to thrive. We are born to succeed. At least that is what every stem cell and neuron and particle of our bodies has encoded into it: success. That is not to say that they don’t also have our struggles encoded into them as well, for that is truly their secret treasure. Each cell in our bodies has a potential struggle and sorrow programmed into them for when and if the time is ever just right for that extra secret potential to manifest itself.
But does the cell fear this future time? No. It looks forward to it. It embraces it. Because it knows why it’s there. It knows the potential that exists within the struggle and what beauty may come of it. The cell cares not that it will one day die. The cell is fearless because it understands not only the purpose of its obvious function, but also the purpose of a possible future function it carries within itself. It knows the blessings inherent within challenge and does not shrink from it.
While we fight, we also love. While we debate who has a right to life, to voice, to matter, we maintain a thought in the back of our minds that peace on Earth is a thing, however unattainable a unicorn it may seem to be. Hope springs eternal.
We have overidealized the concept of peace on Earth to the point that we have no choice but to consider it impossible. But we should recognize that a peaceful world would not be free from struggle; it would know how to peacefully respond to it. A free world with equity as its prime directive would not always experience fairness, but it would know how to peacefully reclaim its equilibrium. A peaceful world will have learned over time how to love the thing that troubles it most, so that the trouble will become transformed by love, rather than resistance. A just world would have compassion encoded into its practices learned from ages of war and battle, and oppression. It will have learned this hardest of lessons in the hardest of ways. And for that reason, it will truly value and work to preserve its hard-won peace.
We delude ourselves into thinking that a world community is free from life. And life is hard. Even in peace, life will still be a challenge. But we will have learned more how to face it with dignity and grace.
Peace on Earth will actually occur, just as soon as enough people believe it’s possible. But then you have to believe in that. Today we are beyond challenged to believe that one day enough people will think world peace is a good idea to make it so.
The wider swath of our human society has elevated the idea that we must at least lean toward a reality of justice, however improbable it may seem, just for the sake of it. Just for the power of it. And that by doing so, we are one small step closer to the reality of it. It is a decision to place ourselves squarely on the path toward that eventuality. We shall not be in full agreement on how that moment will arrive or when. We can say only that it is our goal, and that we should at least do nothing to interfere with it, and at most be a participant in that future reality in whatever ways are available to us.
We are free to bring about peace in the world in any way we feel moved to do so. And as the saying goes, no act of kindness is ever wasted. For every single beach is comprised of millions upon billions upon trillions of grains of sand. Is any one of them less important to the creation of a safe harbor? Can you pick through the grains and say which ones were more valuable? And if you could, would you tell them so? Could you say to them, “I’m sorry, you’re less important than the others, so please refrain from taking equal credit as that much finer grain of sand over there.”
In the end, it won’t matter. Each grain of sand in a safe harbor was created through struggle and violence done to it over the ages. Through wars among rock and explosions from the earth. A tiny grain of sand has a story of its own, and much went into the creation of it over millions and millions of years.
Would you devalue its life experience simply because it is so small? A beach would still be beautiful if you removed one grain of sand. No one would likely notice if you added one either. A beach is not a testament to our individual insignificance or glory. It is an epic saga of triumph achieved by a community. It is a strip of glorious beauty and soft, comforting sands, shining in the sun and reveling in its very existence. A bed that cradles and supports us as we join it periodically to lay in the warming and healing sun and share in the experience of what it means to be a participant in life on the planet Earth.
Do not shrink from finding solutions to our problems just because you think you are too small to do it. Do not despair. You are not insignificant. You are as powerful as the motions of any planet in the cosmos. You are bigger than you realize, and your story holds all the wisdom you need.
Wil Darcangelo, M.Div., is the minister at First Parish UU Church of Fitchburg and of First Church of Christ Unitarian in Lancaster. He is the producer of The UU Virtual Church of Fitchburg and Lancaster on YouTube and host of the Our Common Dharma podcast series. Email email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @wildarcangelo. His blog, Hopeful Thinking, can be found at www.hopefulthinkingworld.blogspot.com.