“Peace is Possible”


At Bloggers for Peace, the Monthly Peace Challenge: Mad Men is to create something that conveys the message of peace: an ad, a slogan, a short film, a poem, a song perhaps.

My modest contribution is this slogan, “Peace is Possible”. It might seem simplistic at first, but it has a powerful message, and that is, don’t give up hope and always think positively. Perhaps the slogan should be “Peace is Positively Possible”.

"Peace is Possible", by Caron Eastgate Dann:  I put together this makeshift peace sign out of bits and bobs—buttons, brooches, earrings (I always knew those buttons you get in tiny plastic packets when you buy something new would come in handy one day).

“Peace is Possible”, by Caron Eastgate Dann: I put together this makeshift peace sign out of bits and bobs—buttons, brooches, earrings (I always knew those buttons you get in tiny plastic packets when you buy something new would come in handy one day).

I was reminded how important hope is for achieving goals by my friend Bryan Patterson on his Faithworks blog this week.

Without hope, we may as well give up. With hope, there is still possibility.

Kozo at Bloggers for Peace has discussed (in the post linked above) the idea that in achieving a goal, it is important to affirm what you want, such as “Peace is Possible”, instead of making a negative statement, such as “No war”.

By envisioning what you want, you can work towards it. This reminded me of something that happened to me 10 years ago. I was working as the branch editor of a magazine, and was particularly unhappy with the way the job had progressed under a new supervisor. However, I felt trapped because I had a big mortgage and needed the regular income.

My friend, who is now a clinical psychologist, asked me what was wrong, and I explained. She said, “So, what do you want?”. I told her I wanted to become a freelance journalist and work for myself from home while continuing my PhD studies. She said that because I already knew what I wanted, I had won half the battle. “Now, you just have to work out how to get there,” she said.

I decided to sell my expensive house for a cheaper one in the same area, thereby halving my mortgage. I could now afford to become a freelance and casual journalist, and did so for about four years, until my PhD was complete and I became a university lecturer.

So, if we know what we want (peace), I reckon we have won half the battle. Now, if we could only work out how to get there…

Bloggers for Peace: Rediscovering the inner peace of childhood

This post for Bloggers for Peace is inspired by a photograph taken by my childhood friend, the New Zealand actor Yvette Parsons. She took it while lying in a hammock during her annual break on Waiheke Island, off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand. This looks like paradise to me, and she agrees. It brings back to mind those simple pleasures in life: a good book, warm weather and a gentle breeze, an unspoilt view, nothing much to do but go for a swim, read a few pages and doze the day away. It took me, in fact, back to my own childhood in New Zealand.

The view from a hammock at Kennedy's Bay, Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Picture: Yvette Parsons

The view from a hammock at Kennedy’s Bay, Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Picture: Yvette Parsons

Remember childhood, and how easy it was to find inner peace, even though you didn’t know that was what you were doing? Provided you were lucky enough to have a great childhood, like I did, peace was something you took for granted. As I see it, peace is about safety, shelter, freedom, love and comfort. I was so lucky to have found all these things at home.
To illustrate this, I’d like to share in this post some of my favourite childhood memories:
*Deep, long sleeps, and next morning bouncing out of bed, eager to meet the day ahead. On Sundays, I was told not to get up too early, so I’d lie in bed listening to the children’s requests story hour on the little red transistor radio my parents had bought me.
*Our “under the house house”. This was something my brother, Phillip, and I put together. Under our house was a basement, not big enough for an adult to stand in, but big enough for a child. It ran the length and breadth of the house and contained the wooden foundations which, upstairs, divided the house into rooms. Mum and Dad used the front space by the door to store the lawn mower and gardening equipment. They never went further back: if they had, they would have found our secret house: rooms with curtains (cadged from discarded material), book cases, tables, cusions, cups, knives and forks. It was like a giant dollhouse. Phillip and I would allow only the two neighbouring kids, a brother and sister about the same age as us, to come in. We’d think it hilarious to hear Mum or Dad above, calling our names in vain, not knowing we were right beneath them. Then we’d hear, “I don’t know where they get to”. We never did let on, and Dad eventually found the “under the house house” many years later when he was preparing to sell the Auckland house. He found it just as we’d left it, and it must have been sad for him: I had moved out of home at 17 to become a journalist, and Phillip was killed in a motorbike accident when he was 17 and I was 19.
But to continue with some happy memories from childhood:
*Finishing a homework assignment, and having the rest of the day to play.
*Sprinting across a field, running as fast as I could.
*Ice skating to disco music, skating very fast with the wind in my hair.
*Rolling over and over down the freshly mown lawn at my grandparents’ house, then sitting with my grandad on the deck, sharing his binoculars to watch the yacht races on the Hauraki Gulf.
*Reading Famous Five books under the covers, with a torch, when I was supposed to be asleep. It was like being in a tent.
*That lovely feeling that, no matter what happened, Mum and Dad would make it right. No matter how many kids were mean, or if you’d fallen over and hurt yourself, or been disappointed with a classroom grade, when you got home, you were in that magical world again, our own domain.

Here’s to a peaceful New Year: make goals, not rules

Wat Buppharam, Chiang Mai. Pen & wash, by Caron Eastgate Dann.

Wat Buppharam, Chiang Mai. Pen & wash, by Caron Eastgate Dann.

Whenever I am in Thailand, I like to visit several temples. I enjoy wandering around the compounds, and though I no longer call myself a Buddhist, I find an enormous amount of peace within them. This illustration was inspired by a photo I took when I visited Wat Buppharam in Chiang Mai in November. Just looking at it now makes me feel peaceful.

I would like to wish everyone a happy new year—tonight for us here in the Southern Hemisphere and tomorrow for others. Instead of “resolutions”, I’m going to make a list of things I want to achieve this year. That way, I will have goals rather than rules. One of those goals, of course, will be to write one post a month for the Bloggers for Peace cause.

Bloggers for Peace: Baby steps to peace on earth; or, ask yourself, “What would Jo March do?”

Road rage: don't do it!

Road rage: don’t do it!

Have you noticed lately how furious people in the street have become? I’m not talking about the obvious ones—rather, the ordinary, everyday person who could be your neighbor, your colleague, your relative. This fury—I think at the stresses of modern life—manifests in random acts of anger and retaliation, ranging from the minor to the serious. This month, for example two young women in Melbourne were abused and followed when one inadvertently brushed another woman with her bag on a tram.

My last post was about rediscovering the children’s book Little Women. I talked about how the book has strong moral overtones, and I’d like to add the thread that runs through the book of dealing with anger, the sort of anger that can bubble up as a result of minor occurrences in everyday life. The character of Jo March has to learn to control her anger, and her mother advises her to bite her lip rather than give an angry retort. Well, I have been trying this too in the few days since I finished the book. I can report that it really does work! It helps so much to keep the peace with those around you. So, next time you’re tempted to lose your temper, ask yourself, “What would Jo March do?”

I want to talk mostly in this post of the aforementioned furious people, the ones who need so little provocation to unleash an angry reaction. Here’s an example: a few years ago, I got on a tram and was fumbling in my wallet for my fare. A well-dressed thirty-something woman virtually pushed me aside, furious that I was taking a few seconds extra, purchased her ticket then grabbed the last seat, next to the machine. I smiled at her and said politely, “I was only going to take a few more seconds”. Her well-spoken reply was, “Dickhead”. I was shocked.

Everywhere, I see drivers furiously swerving and making their tyres screech in a bid to get past someone, to beat a red light, to get round an intersection before pedestrians get to that part of the road. Just a few months ago, an ambulance was rushing along the main road in my suburb, lights flashing and siren blaring. As it approached a major intersection, the “cross now” sign went for pedestrians. I was astonished to see them actually running to try to get across before the ambulance, rather than waiting for a few seconds for the vehicle to pass.

It seems to me that many wars are started because people are angry as a result of being jealous, greedy, impatient, or intolerant, or all of them. But on a much smaller scale, in our everyday lives, we also show these traits. Maybe if we could learn to be less  jealous, greedy, impatient and intolerant, we would avert not only day-to-day anger, but also the sort of anger that eventually causes huge, evil events such as wars.

What I want to say, on behalf of peace, is that we need to practise peaceful behavior every day. Now, I don’t mean not sticking up for ourselves against injustice and bullying. They are quite different matters. I mean, don’t allow small events to build up and enrage you against everyone and everything. Don’t unleash this fury when it’s not going to lead to a positive change.

So don’t toot and shake your fist at a driver who has just cut in front of you; don’t tailgate someone just because they’re not going as fast as you would like; don’t yell obscenities at someone who may have simply made a mistake.

Here’s an example of how positive behaviour can work for the better. One day, I had stepped out on a pedestrian crossing at the university where I work. A car approached and seemed about to stop, but then accelerated. At the last moment, the driver saw me and stopped abruptly. I was about to say something rude about her driving skills, when she looked me in the eye with a big friendly smile of contrition and mouthed “SORRY!” My nasty words stuck in my throat, and instead of yelling at her, I smiled back, said, “It’s OK”. Both of us, I’m sure, had a better day than we would have, had I directed my anger at her.

And finally, in this, my first post for the Bloggers for Peace cause (which you can also access via the button on the right-hand side), I’d like to share two stories of kindness that promote peace and goodwill in our community.

Firstly, last winter I was catching the train home from work one day. It was very dark outside and as we drew close to my station, sheets of rain were falling. I had no umbrella, as the rain was unexpected. So, I prepared for the walk home in the rain by saying to myself, “It’s only water”. Anyway, just as I got out on the path and started striding toward home, a young woman, a stranger, ran to catch up with me. “Would you like to share my umbrella?” she said. I gratefully accepted, and learned she was an exchange student from China.

The second story occurred when I was at our local shopping plaza. I had used the ATM to withdraw some cash, went in to the supermarket, picked up a basket and walked down the nearest aisle. Suddenly, a voice beside me said breathlessly, “Excuse me, excuse me!” I turned toward the voice: she was wearing a burqa, and all I could see were her eyes, full of concern. She continued: “You withdrew $50 from the ATM—but you forgot to take it.” She held out her hand and gave me the $50. I thanked her profusely and I felt as if there was some hope yet for humanity.