January 15, 2016
“The days of peace and slumberous calm are fled;/ Those days, all innocent of scathing war,/ When all the fair Existences of heaven/ Came open-eyed to guess what we would speak: – / That was before our brows were taught to frown,/ Before our lips knew else but solemn sounds;/ That was before we knew the winged thing,/ Victory, might not be lost, or might be won.”
– John Keats, “Hyperion: A Fragment”
Why isn’t Peace in the Syntopicon? For those of you who know the Syntopicon, you will say that it is in the Syntopicon, under the heading of War and Peace. True, but that is not the same thing as Peace. Before reading the entry, peace is already framed as if it can only exist in opposition to war. As humans, we often use opposites to begin a discussion, a way of understanding giant abstract terms. This provides a point from which to argue, define or extend discussion. Before the first war, there was only peace – and therefore peace was an unnecessary, and very likely, nonexistent term. Before the reality of war, peace lacked definition. This makes sense, of course. However, it is also possible that this old juxtaposition can grow stale or outdated. Is there a way to look at the great idea of Peace through new eyes?
Each war continues to define and change, augment and color our understanding and hope for peace. With each generation, war grows in numbers, tactics, techniques and weapons. Instead of periods of peace, we experience breath between periods of strife. If you could dream it or imagine it, what would everlasting or eternal peace look like?
Immanuel Kant states, “The morally practical reason utters within us its irrevocable Veto: ‘There shall be no War’… Hence the question no longer is as to whether Perpetual Peace is a real thing or not a real thing, or as to whether we may not be deceiving ourselves when we adopt the former alternative, but we must act on the supposition of its being real. We must work for what may perhaps not be realized…” If everlasting peace is to be realized, it will come, perhaps as something near what Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks of: educated minds learning to live together through forgiveness and compassion.
Perhaps, as wars have evolved from tribal to civil to global, our understanding of peace has also evolved. Has it distanced itself from the frame of War and Peace? What would result from a minor edit to the Syntopicon, replacing two opposites, for example, with two similarities? What if instead of War and Peace, it read Peace and Forgiveness or simply Peace? How would our dialogue, our arguments or our viewpoints change?
Martin Luther King, Jr. thought deeply about peace and he cared deeply for the future of humanity. His words remind us of hope, ideals and peace. His words belong to the future of our discussion, whatever it may be.
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
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