A Journey of Peace
By Matt Carter
I was a high schooler in the 1980’s and I remember very clearly that the possibility of global nuclear war seemed very real, almost imminent. Music, movies and the media all played with this idea and at that young age I guess I thought Peace simply meant…no war.
As I continued my education and had an opportunity to travel the world I began to meet a variety of people from various walks of life who had different ways of thinking and doing things that I had never considered before. These differences were beautiful to me and I felt if I could keep an open mind and open heart I could significantly grow and expand my character in very positive ways.
It was during this time that I began to view peace not just as the absence of war but as a condition, of state of being, a backdrop that was conducive to personal growth and the pursuit of dreams. Peace allowed for safe travel between countries and the free flow of information and ideas in a setting of mutual respect for the betterment of humanity. So for many years I thought the way to peace in this world was through the creation of laws, treaties, and codes of conduct that helped to maintain the external peace and allow humans to naturally be at their best.
Looking back now I know that I was young and idealistic. I didn’t take into consideration that there were forces dedicated to chaos, fear and profit at any cost. Even in Peace if the heart is dark it can lead to dark places. So in Hawaii, a paradise rich in cultural gifts, I came to view peace in a different light. As I began to study the history and cultures here I realized that they were rich in what I call Invisible Treasures. An invisible treasure is something you can’t see with your eyes but it is definitely a part of you. It is something that has been handed down from generation to generation and has stood the test of time. Is it any surprise that the older cultures of the world seem to be the richest in these invisible treasures?
The Japanese immigrants who came to Hawaii with no land, money, family or political rights found within themselves these treasures. Isshokenmei (Work hard), Mottainai (Don’t waste), Komakai (Be precise), Antei (Cultivate stability, Chokin (Save money). These were ways that led those immigrant sugar workers to a brighter future. In Hawaiian culture we find Aloha, Kuleana, Malama, Kalana, Pa’ahana, Pono. These are not just words but philosophies that guide humans in wise and sustainable ways. Words that when you find yourself with nothing give you strength, meaning and direction.
So I thought…yes! The way to peace is to cultivate it within myself. I will work hard at being calm, gentle, kind and loving. I will refuse anger, reject worry, be grateful and giving everyday and Peace will live within me. Be the change you want to see…right? I found this was not easy. I still continue to struggle and stumble. But the process of trying to grow these things within myself lead me again to a different understanding.
They say that when a caterpillar creates a cocoon and begins the transformation into a butterfly about 5 days before the butterfly emerges it is fully formed inside the cocoon. Yet if we cut open the cocoon and released it early it would die. It isn’t yet strong enough to live as a butterfly. Nature requires it to battle and struggle it’s way out thus strengthening it and conditioning it to survive. Again…the struggle is nature’s way to prepare that creature for the next phases.
I take this as a metaphor for the struggles that I have faced. The very difficulty of practicing peace with all that goes on in a life prepared me for a new phase. A few years back I came to the deep realization that everything in life is an exchange. Whether you think about it on the quantum or atomic level, whether you think about light and dark, the air we breath in and out, communication, even farming…everything in our universe is an exchange.
I decided that I wouldn’t truly be an instrument of Peace until I actively began to exchange the negative to the positive. From that point on, at least in my mind, I became a peacemaker.
Being a peacemaker means that when I hear negative words I will respond with positive. I have the power to exchange the destructive for the constructive.
Being a peacemaker means that I will be impeccable in my own words, speak with integrity, say only what I mean, not speak against others, use the power of my words toward truth and love. (This alone is very tough!!)
Being a peacemaker means that I will stop making assumptions, stop judging, and always move toward understanding.
Being a peacemaker means that I will not take anything anybody says to me personally, what others do and say is a reflection of their own reality. I will let it go without need to defend of promote my point of view.
Being a peacemaker means that I will always do my best while trying to improve. This will release me from future self doubt and regret.
I am not a master of these concepts. I am still a student climbing the mountain, sometimes falling down, sometimes forgetting, but as I have dedicated myself to the path of peace, I will persevere no matter what monsters I may encounter.
On this International Peace Day let’s all reaffirm our own paths of peace, and remember that peace is not just something for which you hope and pray. Peace is something you do, it is something that you are, it is something you create, and something that you share.
Matt Carter is the owner and founder of Universal English Academy, a unique school in Kailua-Kona dedicated to positively enhancing lives through Culture, Nature and Communication. www.uea1.com’