Thread: Peace
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Old 09-09-2010, 10:58 AM   #19
Dojo: River Valley Aikido
Location: Vermont
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 51
Re: Peace

Thank you, Bjorn, for a thought provoking post.

A long time ago (in the 1980s) I once had the privilege of hosting Justine Merritt in my home. She is the woman who started the Ribbon Project which was a folk art effort to encircle the pentagon with a long ribbon constructed of fabric panels, each one made by a person or group expressing their grief over nuclear weapons. Justine was remarkable person and I was moved by her faith and deep wisdom. Despite the idealism of the Ribbon Project, in no way could Justine be called naive. She was an older woman who had seen much of the world. The Ribbon Project had brought her into contact with many world leaders and military people who held to the necessity of having nuclear weapons in today's world. During her short visit with me, she made a important comment about her experiences that has stayed with me every since. In essence she said (I am paraphrasing) that she had to learn to stop thinking she had the power to change other people. She said that her struggle was "to remove the pershing missles from my own heart. I have one for President Reagan, one for Margaret Thatcher, one for Mikhail Gorbachev..."

This struck me as profoundly honest and a difficult pre-requisite for the pursuit of peace. Statements that have to do with Aikido "providing an opportunity for the attacker to learn from his mistakes" have always seemed to me to be not only naive but putting the emphasis (and problem) in the wrong place. Peace building begins with removing the beam from our own eye before removing the mote from the eye of another.

I have long felt that once I have accepted the responsibility that comes with being brought into existence and begin to hold to certain principles of living, then I have to continue the hard work of improving myself so that I am actually competent in promoting my ideals. For example, is it not important to develop a useful understanding of what peace consists of? It is clearly more than just the absence of violence. In order for there to be peace, Franklin Roosevelt's four freedoms are a good beginning. These are:

1. The freedom of expression
2. Freedom of religion
3. Freedom from want
4. Freedom from fear

Ironically Roosevelt was making a case for war when he promoted these in his 1941 State of the Union address, but it seems to me that unless people everywhere can have these freedoms, then conflict and violence will persist. Peace may not happen if we reject the use of force from our toolkit, but it will certainly not happen if we have a narrow view of ourselves, our family, our community and the world.

A necessary peace-building skill is the ability to clearly perceive what is truly going on in a given situation and the true nature and motivations of the people involved. I find that this is not always easy (since I have been wrong a significant number of times) and begins with a trying to get a clear understanding of myself. Aikido can be a very interesting tool for self-preparation if we practice it from this point of view.

Best regards,

Don Hebert
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