Should we strive for inner peace when we are facing mountains of social injustice before us? Of course we must, or the injustice will kill us. Our inner peace is what keeps the body’s hormones balanced and our bodies in good working order. The trick becomes one of working for social justice while maintaining an appropriate inner balance. It isn’t easy. I admire those who perfect the skill of radiating peace while speaking out for social justice. I’ve also noticed that such people are far more effective at influencing social justice than I am.
I think those who do maintain inner peace while being effective advocates for justice have a sense of perspective that sees the big picture while rejoicing in the details of life. I am more inclined to get sucked into the problems before me and agitate over those problems until I get sick. There are many problems in our human condition that are not just and are sickening. We must do our best to stop the worst of the practices that victimize the innocent. Getting a stress related illness is not the most effective way of addressing those injustices. So, how do we focus on the big picture while rejoicing in the details?
I’m not the best person to answer this question, however, I’m not going to tell you that there is only one way to achieve consciousness of the beauty of your surroundings. I suspect that each of us may have to find the path to peace that suits us. Finding this path is part of our journey.
I’ve seen those who find the path to peace by sitting quietly and focusing on being in the present and being aware of your present surroundings. I tried this approach. It is peaceful. I can hear the quiet. It is very quiet where I live. The only thing I can hear is the refrigerator running. Why is the refrigerator running? It runs constantly. Is it dying? Is it keeping the meat frozen enough? I really need to buy a refrigerator thermometer. Do I have the money to buy a thermometer? I am now in a state of hyper anxiety over whether or not the refrigerator is going to die soon and how am I going to pay for a new one. (The refrigerator is dying-huge anxiety.) Deep meditation doesn’t work for everybody.
Some people run. Running is very good. It stimulates the good neuro-transmitters and gets the blood flowing through the body. For an older woman running may cause her to pee her pants and yes the doctor knows about this problem and says, “with your back you shouldn’t be running anyway.” Running isn’t for everybody, but if you find peace when you run, go for it.
Some people find peace in prayer. Prayer can be a bit like meditation. The opportunity exists to touch the infinite and find peace in the knowledge that human dramas are insignificant in the face of infinite power and love. Then again we may find ourselves ranting, “How long oh Lord…?”
For me, I can find peace in writing about the lives of the characters in my head. I slip into the zone and become totally engrossed in Jake’s world where the problems are just as big and horrid as the problems in my world. Yet, in Jake’s world, I find community among those who work for justice. I find the tender love between a man and woman that makes the world “go away for awhile.” I find the love of a parent for his children. I find those who love truth, mercy and justice. I see my own world from a different perspective.
When I write about the big picture I get in touch with the details of life that give life richness, depth, and a tapestry of adventure and peace. When I write I again focus on the importance of the fact that an adolescent boy has a new girlfriend, that an older woman grew a magnificent squash, that a child’s soccer team won their first game-ever!!!
Once in touch with the reality of the big picture and the details that tell me life is beautiful and people are beautiful, I can get up and tell a frustrated mother that she’s okay. I can explain, yet again, what Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is and why no level of alcohol exposure during pregnancy is safe. I can encourage my fellow organic gardeners and prepare to fight for GMO labeling in my state. I can offer alternatives to education plans that don’t work. I can write to my representatives in Washington DC and express myself clearly without calling them names. As Mr. Wu, Jake’s martial arts master says, “First you must conquer your fear and your anger, then you can learn to fight.” (M’TK Sewer Rat: End of an Empire.)
Peace be with you.