In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (today he would have been 85), I would like to share a few comments on peace and peaceful living, and honor a man who was a real pathfinder and activist for civil liberties. If we stop for a moment to ponder his enormous courage to speak out and unite people, we have to bow to his brilliance and tenacity. He was a role model inspiring people to speak the voices of their heart and reach out to attain peace in their lives.
As a spiritual person, I believe that peace begins within. If everyone makes an effort to bring peace to their own personal lives, then the chance of world peace increases. This means a daily practice, whether it is meditation, yoga, stretching, walking, cycling, hiking or a daily bath. A practice which calms your body, mind, and spirit. Perhaps I am being overly simplistic and idealistic, but we all need to start somewhere. Situated in the corner of my desk, from where I am writing this blog, is a calm Buddha statue holding a little a stone which says, “Serenity.” I like the calm that the Buddha and his stone bring into my day. Every so often I glance over at him and he calms me. We all need reminders around us that do this. Whatever works for you.
In a recent op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, Luke Glowacki posed the question, “Are people violent by nature?” “Probably,” he answered. To me this was a disturbing perspective, but as I read further, his premise made more sense. He talks about the war of ideas over violence and human nature that has raged since the 1600s when philosopher Thomas Hobbes speculated the “natural condition of mankind” was one of violence and conflict. I think more like Jean-Jacques Rousseau who viewed things differently and said that culture and civilization, not nature, was responsible for violence. I concur with his sentiments.
I believe that the nature of war and violence is everyone’s yearning for happiness and survival. During the time of hunter-gatherers, there was the fight for food and survival. Some researchers such as Samuel Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute believe that warfare is necessary for the evolution of humanity’s exceptional altruism.
My preference is to believe that even though violence and fighting for rights is necessary for evolution, it is also a way for certain groups, which can influence change, to join together. Like King’s mission and also the strong environmental lobbies present today. I also believe in the 1960s phrase that was posted in the hippie shops, and on a button fixed on my overcoat, “Make love and not war.”
In conclusion, Glowacki deftly and wisely states, “Whether our genes lead us to war or peace depends on the particular social environment in which we live.” There are just too many variables to consider when ascertaining the role and origin of violence in our world as we know it. We need to do our part and aim for peaceful existence, first in our little inner worlds and then the world-at-large.