Sunday, January 3, 2010

For all that has been, thanks! For all that will be, yes!

I have always believed that books come into my life for certain reasons. At one of the darkest times in my life in the mid-90s, a book suddenly fell out of my bookcase -  a self-help book written by Robert Schuller - and it opened to a page where I had previously highlighted in neon green a sentence: You are bigger than your problem. That sentence was a ray of light in my moment of dark depression.

I am no stranger to depression. In times of introspection while in freshman college,  I was given Dag Hammarskjold's Markings by an aunt. US President John F. Kennedy hailed Hammarskjold as “the greatest statesman of our century.” He was the second Secretary General of the United Nations and was the only person to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously (having been nominated before he died in a mysterious plane crash).

Markings featured Hammarskjold's spiritual musings, struggles and triumphs and from which the blogpost title was taken. His reflections resonated in my own struggles for self-worth and identity. My search for inner peace was guided by his words. I savored his thoughts and his efforts to make peace with God and the world. He became my first mentor in peacemaking. Later in life, I would take a big step toward living the life exemplified by another peacemaker, St. Francis of Assisi. And the third and latest mentor I discovered was Mahatma Gandhi.

And what have I learned so far from my mentors? Peace, inner or global, begins inside each of us. No one can impose or legislate peace. We must want peace; we must need it. Peace cannot exist in a vacuum; nor can it be imposed by silencing people who need it. Many people today believe, in a Machiavellian manner, that to exact peace, we need to eliminate those who dare to disturb it. Those who believe that to obtain peace (and order), criminals have to be summarily executed by those in authority or through extrajudicial means, are living in an empty, meaningless peace. We cannot establish peace using emotional blackmail ("you should reconcile with each other because Christmas is coming or it's his/her birthday next week, etc."). When two people/groups are ready to talk without any other agenda than peace can there be genuine communication.

Peace is a struggle, a cause worth dying for. We have to work hard toward peace. I treat each year as a grand opportunity for me to keep and make peace with myself, other people and the world. That is why every time a year ends, whether it was a good one or not, I say Thanks! And for every incoming year, I say Yes!