A Sordid Relationship with Peace

Am I a raging lunatic or a peaceful loving person? I’ve asked myself this question for a long time. I have the potential for great anger and great love. I used to see these in conflict, but now I no longer see them as different. Some others around me still do see the tension between. I can empathize with that. It took me a long time to understand myself. I expect it will take others some time as well. I’ve had a mixed relationship with peace. I can’t pretend to be an expert on it. You could say I’ve had a love affair with war. I cheated on peace; I was a two timer. I went from being a meditating Zen Buddhist, Toaist, Quaker in college to being a raging authenticity, empathy, and unconditional love activist now. 

When I found the war I was willing to die for (unconditional love and authenticity), the love of my life, to this point, went to war with my newly warlike way of being with others who were living in evil in my perception. Did I say evil? Doesn’t every self-righteous crusader call their enemies evil? Let me explain… it’s not as simple as you might think.

I define evil as being unconsciously identified with fear and refusing to come out of it when it’s pointed out. I was in a cult for 18 years and was living from fear, though I didn’t realize it. It was a cult which had great values (most of which I hold to this day). It set me up to live my life, run my company, and fulfill my destiny. I have no regrets about being in this cult. However, it was run by a leader who had narcissistic tendencies and was trying to mind control people. He would tell me what to do in my relationships, try to control my exercise habits, the length of my hair, insist I share my journal with him, analyze in a judgmental way every little element of my emotional process, and much, much more. 

When I woke up to what was happening, I became furious. I started fighting battles for the “souls” of my friends and I would not tolerate them continuing to follow this hurtful and deeply lost man. My former fiancé also recognized the truth I was finding around this all. Yet, she couldn’t handle the changes I was going through in my demeanor. I used to be peaceful and easy for her to be with. At that time, I was volatile with all these strong feelings around the cult abuse. She couldn’t stand by my side, while I fought these demons. So, she fought me and that was where war entered our relationship. Before that, we had mostly peace and love. We sought peace together, basked in each other’s loving arms, and we knew no war between us.

This warring in our relationship shattered the love we had built. When I declared that I would not fight anymore trying to convince her to love me while she was hating me, she didn’t honor my feelings. She retaliated by doubling down on her hatred and cutting me off from her life. This has been the single greatest heartbreak I have ever known. 

In many ways, I’m a warrior of love and this leads me into conflict not peace. There’s a peace underneath this, which I’ve always lived from. I remember my mother reading from the bible and helping us both learn this passage: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.” We learned these words together by heart and they became a guiding light to me in the very dark places which came later. Similar to the experience of Phial of Galadriel, in author J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings, this passage has served as the light of a beloved star illuminating truth. Even when the fires of war rage around me, I hold to peace as my guiding star.  

True peace is not found by avoiding conflict. True peace is the peace which comes from being true to yourself. When all beings are true, there’s a peace that goes way beyond the absence of war. The peace we are searching for here comes from the heart. This peace is found when we relinquish the controlling ego driven by self-interest alone. Most fears, when acted upon, destroy peace. The fear that comes from prudence is different. It’s okay to be afraid of getting hit by a car while you are crossing a freeway. However, living in fear and making decisions out of fear, attacks peace.

Only when fear is embraced, can we have true peace. The peace beyond peace is the peace of God. It is the peace deep in the heart of every human. We can feel this peace underneath all the turmoil, like the deep still ocean water underneath the stormy surface. It’s the peace that’s found in the eye of the hurricane. No matter how strong the winds are around the hurricane, the very center is still and calm. Remember, at our essence, we are all peace.

I wage war with war in a peaceful and bellicose way. I synthesize the language of battles (enemies, evil, war, rape, torture, murder, competition, oppression, genocide and power) into the language of love (acceptance, feeling, connection, unconditional, eternal, peaceful, empathic, cooperative, nurturing, and communal). I use the language of oppression to set us all free. I curse to awaken the heart. I shout insults, not to insult, but to describe energy. I am a pacifist in a very radical way. I do not fight physically with others; I would only do that in self-defense if it was absolutely necessary. I fight with my tongue, heart, and lungs. I let the sound of my voice thunder from my heart. I say whatever is true for me in service to the others I’m with. This service is not always gentle, but it is true to what I’m feeling with empathy for the others’ being. May we all find our way back home to the peace beyond the temporary wars of this world. May the light of love illuminate the way to peace in our hearts and in our lives. May we all know the peace of true authenticity, empathy, and unconditional love. 

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