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Peace is Not the Ultimate Answer

--by Andrew Cohen (Apr 21, 2008)

Audio Reading by Liz Helgesen

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It continually amazes me that the majority of spiritual seekers from the most affluent countries on our small planet seem to be looking for one thing above anything else: Peace. Peace? Why on earth would the luckiest people to have ever been born express their spiritual aspirations through questing for relief and release—for peace? Why are we looking for a way out of the challenge of human existence? I mean, has our lot in life really been that bad?

[...]

So why, then, are we still looking for a way out when we look to spirit? I understand that just because many of us have been graced with a high standard of living, it doesn't mean we don't suffer at an existential level. But I wonder if we haven't fallen into the habit of giving undue significance to our existential angst.

[...]

It just doesn't make sense that the experience of relief and release from the very process that produced us should be the goal of the luckiest people who have ever been born. Why not? Because the very energy and intelligence that gave us life, that produced us, needs us lucky ones to take responsibility, to wholeheartedly participate in the life process in a deeper and more authentic way than most of us ever imagined possible.

As long as the focus of our spiritual aspirations is relief and release rather than a much more profound relationship with life at the deepest level, we will never be of much use to the energy and intelligence that created us. To put it in theological terms, we will be letting God down, because we will always be seeking for a way out rather than wholeheartedly engaging with the life process, with other human beings, with our own highest potentials. As long as we are seeking peace above all else, we will never know what it means to live at the very edge of the possible. In order to be truly available to the energy and intelligence that created the universe, we do have to transcend our angst-ridden separate selves. But the motive for doing so is not so we can abide in a state of peace and freedom beyond the process. Our motive is to become passionate and egoless vehicles for its own ongoing evolution.

--Andrew Cohen, from WIE Magazine


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Previous Reflections:

 
On Apr 21, 2008 supun wrote:
I thought about this same idea the last few weeks but in a different way.

There is something inside me that will never be happy no matter how "well off" I am. Sometimes this frustrates me. Sometimes it is the motivation that keeps me feeling alive.

There's a song I like right now called "keep on wanting more". The first verse seems to be about either a social activist or a singer (or both) that want to fill the world with meaningful words or songs. There's another verse that might be about a someone that isn't quite aware of what he wants. That resonated alot with me.

I think we will at some level always want our lives to be something more than what it is and we may question it even past our own understanding. It seems very human to do this.

The other thought I had was that I don't quite agree that peace is a release. There is some aspect of that. But when I read what Gandhi wrote or what Gil Scot Heron wrote, I understand that peace is something to work for. Something to move towards. Kind of like in calculus class they say a function approaches infinity. Peace is a very good word for motivating us.

Service is a good way to move towards peace. It requires a lot of work to self-realize what someone wants to do. Meditation is also a good way to work on oneself. I don't think anyone ever means they want move out of human existence when they speak of peace. Peace is a human concept. It's not moksha or heaven. It's something we can build within ourselves and something we can express with the help of the rest of society to ourselves as we get "closer".

On Apr 22, 2008 Dion wrote:
I sought peace for many years, and only through what has been done through me and to me can i say i found peace, but peace was never the only goal.

The peace i have now is the peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace that only Christ can grant.

the peace to endure the process.
the peace that allows me to smile when all things are wrong, the smile confounds others, the smile that never ever leaves.

The grin that supersedes all things. The grin that trusts God implicitly, and leaps abundantly. The peace that sustains me in times of trouble, and elates me in times of pain.

The PermaGrin.

Grin.

On Apr 22, 2008 Venita wrote:
Peace is not non-action. Sometimes we get caught up in the projection of symbols and words.

On Apr 22, 2008 David wrote:
I agree with Pope Paul VI, who said that if you want peace, work for justice.
The strong individualist strain in American life ignores the social dimensions of peace and reduces peace to the development of a "beautiful soul." This attitude comes out in both religious and secular spirituality movements; Billy Graham, new age spirituality, and psychological therapy.
Escape from social conflict may sound good, but it is not possible, especially when much of our abundance deprives the rest of the world of a decent standard of living.
Peace comes from solid convictions about one's responsibilities to others, to the common good, to a more just distribution of wealth at home and abroad, a sustainable future for all, and a willingness to work in organizations devoted to these goals.
In all of this, we can have "the peace that passes understanding," but it won't untroubled water. It will probably increase conflict as we become more engaged.
There are very powerful forces that simply want to keep things going the way they are. I can only look on with horror at the consequences of that.


On Apr 22, 2008 Mary Ann wrote:
Peace and activism are cohabitators. I seek to be peaceful as I go about working for social justice, personal empowerment, loving and caring with all the enthusiasm and passion that can be generated with a peaceful spirit.

On Apr 22, 2008 Khrishna wrote:
Peace is not something I move towards, it's something I carry with me as I move...

On Apr 22, 2008 Conrad wrote:
Thank you Nipun and Viral. We can with balance be involved in what might earlier have been considered a hectic process and we may be able to do it peacefully. Be peace


On Apr 22, 2008 UR MOM wrote:
in many dictionary definitions, peace is considered the absence of violence, but also freedom from disquieting thoughts. in my opinion i think this would be something that God wants us to have, and its a strong goal to works towards. maybe humanity's purpose is to achieve peace? hmm?, but that also depends on your opinion of peace.

On Apr 23, 2008 Richard Shotz wrote:
I read this week's piece. I read the reflections. We all have our thoughts, don't we? We're all such unruly creatures, aren't we? Words...thoughts. "The peace that only Christ.." Have you locked onto something there? Beware of dogma...anybody's dogma. But sure: keep that permagrin going, Permagrin. The smile that smiles through all things thick and thin...Permasmile...

On Apr 29, 2008 2trang wrote:
I'm extensively involved in peace/antiwar work. I hope that people will be able to discern that Andrew Cohen is talking about internal peace vs. social peace and justice. [it delights me to see that others here see peace & social justice as inextricable things, that they necessarily complement one another]

I'd re-phrase Cohen: "As long as we are seeking peace for our Self above all else, we will never know what it means to live at the very edge of the possible." For me, conscientiously working for peace is to live at the very edge of the possible, and again for me, that is world peace.

Hoa` bi`nh.


On Jul 15, 2008 Glory Be wrote:
Your article hit the nail on the thumb for me. It showed me that what I call "peace" is really avoiding confrontation. Making others happy, calming things down when tempers get heated, soothing hurt feelings and stuffing my own. What good a peace that only covers up the deeper issues? I have much to ponder. Thank you.