The great longing in the world is for peace. That is a goal for many, the ideal that has been sought after for centuries. Others think peace is only a dream, something that can never be attained, an impossibility. Still others are quite satisfied with the existence of war, sometimes because of personal convictions and sometimes because it is profitable for them, either monetarily or otherwise.
There were times in which there was a popular belief that a war was for the purpose of preventing future wars. That was true at the time of World War I, the “War to end all wars.” That was also true at the time of the first Gulf War, the necessity for which was debated in Congress. One congressman asked citizens to call in with their opinion as to whether the US should enter the war, which he characterized as the “war to end war.”
There were, at times, scientists and inventors who hoped to develop a weapon so terrible that nations would never again think of entering into hostilities with one another. Still, war continues.
If peace is a realistic goal, by what route can it be reached? Certainly, war itself will not work. The use of violence only leads to more violence. Furthermore, any violence can generate enmity that will fester and cause violence to reappear long after years, generations or even centuries have passed. Examples of this are many. Throughout history, wiser souls have preached against such a policy. There is a story concerning Abraham Lincoln that illustrates this. At a reception held during the Civil War he spoke of the South in tones of reconciliation. A woman, a fiery patriot, rebuked him, telling him that those of the Confederacy were traitors and should be destroyed. Lincoln answered, “Madam, do I not destroy my enemy when I make him my friend?”
Non-violence is the current hope as a route to the abolition of war. It has been advocated and used by great men such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and is the method responsible for great advancement in freedom and human rights. Its use is popular in peace movements in this country and abroad. It is thought of as an instrument of peace because it confronts an enemy without the use of violence of any kind. It does, however, make great use of confrontation as its method of operation. This confrontation can, in itself, be an act that brings on violence. In this sense it promotes what it seeks to prevent.
Mankind has been concerned with the problem of war and violence and with the pursuit of elusive peace for centuries. We seem to be no closer to our goal in spite of all this effort. At times reaching the goal seems to be impossible and yet examples of peaceful times indicate that it is more than a dream. So why can’t we reach this goal?
It is a possibility that we have been looking at the entire situation in a manner that is totally wrong. We have been regarding peace as a goal. It is nothing of the kind. It is, rather, the way we reach the goal; it is a method, a road, a route, a path, a journey. The task, then, is simply to bring peace into being and then travel the path it indicates. How is that done? That is what we will have to investigate.
Those who cannot think outside the box are destined to live within it.