Wage peace

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(Host) As conflict continues in Iraq and around the world, Commentator Edith Hunter reflects on the idea of “waging peace.”

(Hunter) If the tools for waging war are bombs and guns, what are the tools for waging peace? Judyth Hill, in her poem “Wage Peace” has several suggestions. She writes:

“Remember your tools:
Flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Make soup.”

In other words, the tools for waging peace are such basics as planting, using the natural resources of wind and sun, and working for an unpolluted environment.

I recently reread William James’ “Varieties of Religious Experience.” Toward the end of the book, he lamented that the religion of his day (this was 1900) was too soft and too undemanding. He blamed this “on the worship of material luxury and wealth which constitutes so large a portion of the spirit of our age.”

How to overcome this softness? Many people, he suggested, find in militarism the antidote for (in the dated phraseology of his day) “unmanliness, and … trashiness of fibre.” He wrote, “War keeps all those who engage in it from treating themselves too tenderly.”

He went on to observe that when people are waging war they are energized, “discomfort and annoyance, hunger and wet, pain and cold, squalor and filth, cease to have any deterrent operation, ranges of new energy are set free, life seems cast upon a higher plane of power.”

“What we now need to discover,” urged James, “is the moral equivalent of war; something heroic that will speak to men as universally as war does, and yet will be as compatible with their spiritual selves as war has proved itself to be incompatible.”

Having surveyed religion in its varied manifestation throughout most of human history, he suggested that we should take a second look at the values achieved through asceticism. “May not voluntarily accepted poverty be the strenuous life,’ [we seek] without the need of crushing weaker peoples?”

Is not Mary Oliver also suggesting something similar? Instead of squandering the good earth’s limited natural resources as we accumulate more and more unnecessary “stuff,” should we not pursue a simpler way of life? Should we not use sparingly, as a sacred trust, the resources of our planet?

Let us fly over what was the historic “cradle of civilization,” which is in danger of becoming the graveyard of civilization, and drop bags of onions and potatoes, carrots, celery, and thyme. Let us share the renewable resources grown in the good earth. Let us make soup. Let us wage peace.

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

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