Praying for Peace

For days I’ve been trying to sort through my thoughts, to know if I can even say anything meaningful in the face of all of last week’s violence and terror. Everywhere you look it hurts. We seem to be hellbent on complete annihilation, like we can’t wait for time to end us, like we have to do it ourselves right. Fucking. Now.

It’s no easy thing, to stay present in the midst of all this loss. Easier to find someone, something, to fight. So governments go to war to perpetuate the cycle of violence. And we at home, desperate to ease our pain, go to war with words, arguing over who deserves our pity and our prayers the most.

To be fair, I think those who draw attention to the inequity of media coverage, the focus on Paris over Baghdad and Beirut, have a valid point. It’s typical of our culture to cry over the pretty white people in the pretty, romanticized mecca of western culture while accepting the continual tragedy in the middle east as “just the way it is”.

But the horrors around us needn’t compete for our grief or our prayers. Our hearts can break an unlimited number of times for the endless suffering of the world. We can mourn every victim. We can weep for every loss. There’s no end to the sadness we can feel.

Sometimes, though, we feel there’s a limit to the amount of sorrow we can bear. Sometimes we feel like the grief will actually kill us, like our hearts will burst from it. And it’s hard to imagine how we can go on, much less make any kind of difference.

The truth is, I STILL don’t know how to respond, though I’ve mused on these troubles while showering, driving, walking, snuggling my pets and my wife. I don’t have any answers. But I’m not ready to stop searching.

As my friend Kate says:

“I haven’t been able to change the world. John Lennon couldn’t change the world. Gandhi didn’t change the world. That doesn’t mean we should stop trying and let the greed of a few people destroy our societies.

“I don’t care how woo-woo it sounds, but until we try certain things we don’t know if they work. What if we could over-power greed and war with a mental energy vibration? What if millions of people took off their shoes and socks, placed their bare feet on the earth, and imagined the connection of their naked feet to all the other naked feet feeling this earth at the same time? What if those same naked footed people, shared the same thought or prayer for universal peace simultaneously? Might we be able to influence actions of warmongers and violence perpetrators toward a change?”

Why not try the impossible thing? The solutions that seem to make sense have failed. Maybe it’s time for nonsense. Maybe it’s time we as a culture lighten our hold on reality, put down our cynicism, end our love affair with facing “facts”, and widen our perception of what is possible. Kate, I’m going to join you. I’m going to put my bare feet in the grass and pray for peace.

With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.

Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.

Ellen Bass, “Pray for Peace”


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