A System for Peace

I am always trying to be more efficient. Or, more precisely, I am always thinking about my need to be more efficient. And, one of my dreams is to become really efficient at having peace as a featured part of my life. I long for a system for personal peace.

The problem is, I’m not sure that peace can be that neatly arranged or packaged. After all systems have a tendency to fail.

We see systems fail around us constantly. In fact, system failure is one of our most popular topics of conversation with our friends and acquaintances. “You won’t believe what happened to me today . . .” we begin. And then we spin our story designed to evoke incredulity and amazement at the way someone or some system has failed. Fast food restaurants that aren’t fast. Parcel delivery services that tell us our address is not valid — by mailing a card to that same address (which we received, by the way, because every one knows this is a valid address). Publishing companies that can’t ship a review copy of a text book.

And with each new failure of a system, we sigh and long for a better way.

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Yet, systems engineers often point out that a system failure can often be corrected by addressing a very small part of the process. For each piece of the process, no matter how small, is extremely important to success.

In a system for peace, small pieces are important, as well. We look at the major conflicts around the world, in our own nation, and our own backyard and we wonder, “Can anything be done?” Often we respond with a “no.”

The truth is that peace systems work when people are actively engaged. Your piece of peace, regardless how small, is important. If you want to be part of a peace solution, you have to address the conflict appropriately. Your system will always fail if you don’t.

Shouting Back and Forth

I was caught in a social media trap. Browsing through countless posts by friends, I came across a fairly innocuous “shared” article. Straightforward, to the point, and, by my judgment, fairly innocuous.

Then, I noticed that there were more than 50 comments tied to it. So, I clicked to see what the conversation was about. And that’s when the noose tightened around my ankle and pulled me in.

It seems that a couple of individuals had made comments supporting the theme of the article and expressing gratitude to the one who shared it. But then, for deeper and darker reasons, those two people began to fire insults back and forth at one another.

Seemingly playful jabs at first. More pointed in only a few rounds. Then outright hostile and mean. Others joined in apparent attempts to protect a friend or bolster a point. What had been a misbegotten tirade by two, became a swirling mass of hate for a dozen. And then suddenly, a couple of shouts went back and forth dismissing the opposing sides. And it all sank below the surface.

To what purpose? Shouting, argument, debate. Little is ever won with these behaviors. And now I, too, am a victim of the carnage as I wrestle with my thoughts and feelings about these people — most of them strangers to me.

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My observations came at the end of this confrontation. I’ve been thinking about what I might do if I stumbled into its midst? Would I do what comes naturally? Would I enter the fight or perhaps turn quickly and walk away?

Perhaps the next time, a kind word or, even better, a selfless act should be my response. Those things seemingly make us vulnerable. Yet, such things open us and those around us to unfathomable strength.

Kindness. Selflessness. Humility. We all could use a little more of these good things.