JUST A THIN LAYER OF PAINT
By Deborah Rodney
Maybe we don’t have to create peace. She’s right here, already.
Peace is waiting for us to remember what she looks like. It’s true we’ve had a distressing lapse for the last 6000 years or so, but she hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, there are plenty of places where she resides right now, just hanging out quietly.
While 6000 years may seem like an eternity, it’s only an eye-blink for Gaia, the living Earth under our feet. In his book, “Waking Up In Time,” revolutionary futurist Peter Russell compares the 4-billion-year history of the planet to a 108-story building. Less than one fiftieth of an inch at the very tip-top represents recorded history -- about the last 6000 years. The time between World War I and today is slimmer than a microbe.
Except for the thin layer of paint at the top, in the 108 stories of the building there was peace on Earth. Imagine that for a moment.
Images are very powerful when visioning. So, if we can see that peace has reigned almost all of Earth Time, then it’s easier for us to understand that the last 6000 years was a slip off the track, now in need of a serious correction.
But there’s a very influential image that contradicts this idea of a peaceful Earth: the caveman knocking a woman over the head with a club and carrying her off by her hair. This image that we grow up with propagates the idea that violence not only dominates our history, but is securely imbedded in our human disposition. Sadly, too, this image tries to justify male power over women.
So, in conversations about peace it’s not surprising when somebody invariably brings up the gloomy assumption that peace is impossible because we’re violent by nature. There have always been wars and there will always be wars, they say. And I see little cavemen running around in their brains banging and grunting.
Once on a river tour deep in the bush near Katherine, Australia a guide pointed out some wondrous, ancient Aboriginal petroglyphs. He matter-of-factly told us a white man discovered them about a hundred years ago and that was the end of his story. The beautiful rock art had a history thousands of years before they were ‘discovered.’ In fact, the Aborigines in Australia have the oldest, continuously peaceful history known -- a mind-boggling 20,000 years or more! And except for very recent, heartbreaking lapses related to poverty, city-fication, cultural genocide and alcohol they’re still very peaceful people connected intrinsically to the natural world.
But before we get there, lets go back a long, long, long time ago, before any humans walked on the planet so we can understand our true past beyond the legitimized, sanctioned and recorded history of the last few thousand years.
Admittedly, we don’t know much about the first three-quarters of the Earth’s existence (about 3 billion years). After that, life consisted of microbial ‘mats’ incapable of doing much more than gearing up to produce enough oxygen to support single-celled life, which appeared about 2000 million years ago.
It’s true that that liquid rocks, deep in the earth spent time blasting into mountains and creating higher, cooler, more fertile soil. But they weren’t fighting over borders and saying, “You can’t put a mountain here, this is my territory.”
The earliest known fossil animals, called cnidarians showed up about 580 million years ago, although the earliest animals might have appeared before then. And, yes, as animals worked their way up the food chain they killed each other because, by design, they needed to eat. They weren’t greedy and they certainly didn’t go around senselessly killing each other because they didn’t like what their neighbors thought about god or property. While some scientists would like us to think male animals kill each other over females, others say they overpower their competition as a natural way to keep their populations from expanding beyond their food sources.
Flowers have been around for 130 million years and they certainly weren’t aggressive; they were diligently scattering their seeds helping to create a wondrous and beautiful diversity probably like no other in the entire galaxy. Just look at the star-filled sky on a dark night to understand the magnitude of that possibility.
Butterflies and other insects made their entrance with the flowers. They make up the overwhelmingly greatest numbers of living things populating the earth today and there is no evidence that they kill each other for power or sport.
Six million years ago our first human ancestors came on the scene. “Uh, oh,” you might think, peace was in trouble. But today’s scientists are hard-pressed to find examples to justify the caveman’s brutal ways. With carbon dating and modern forensics it’s extremely rare to find a death that can be attributed to man’s inhumanity to man before about 4,000 BC. While we don’t know a lot about how people lived, we do know that over 30,000 years ago our ancestors were burying their dead in very sophisticated ways.
Nature was awesome to our ancient relatives and a critical partner in their lives. Women were honored in prehistoric artifacts and art because of our miraculous ability to create new life. Clans were organized around matrilineal lines. This reverence for nature, life and death surely must have spilled over into a healthy respect for each other.
But wait, you might say, aren’t the Earth’s quakes, hurricanes and volcanoes violent? Weren’t the dinosaurs, ah, wiped out?
When a sperm punctures the wall of an egg it’s not violence. A natural forest fire catalyzing the growth of a new, diverse forest isn’t violence. And, in the big picture, a volcano creates rich soil for a distant future. These acts are part of dynamic creation, making way for the new.
The killing of over 10 million people since 1950 by other people for power, greed, resources or religion is violence. The killing of thousands of prairie dogs by trigger-happy sportsmen is violence. There is no rational way to justify the killing of one race of people by other people as dynamic creation--unless you think like Hitler and his genocidal historical partners.
It’s important not to confuse ourselves by defining dynamic change in nature as the violence that is created and perpetuated by humans against humans or humans toward trees and mountains. Violence is Powering Over. Dynamic creation is Powering With. And there’s a big difference.
So, going back to the Big Picture of Earth Time-- doesn’t it seem possible that we can undo a measly 6000 years? Violence isn’t in our psyche, our genes or tucked away in our subconscious. It’s a lapse. We took a wrong turn for a while that took us to the unconscionable and shadowy depths of our collective soul.
But now there are rapidly expanding numbers of us who are heartsick and bone tired of war, killing, genocide, misogyny and arguing. We are refusing to go in that direction anymore, starting with how we choose our words all the way to working actively to end today’s shock-and-awful wars.
As we vision the world back into balance and find the courage to create peace hands-on, it’s important to remember the whole collective story, not just the one that has been told, recorded and re-told for the last 6000 years.
There is immense strength in remembering that peace is the natural condition of our world and that creation, in every form, is a continuous process of renewal and change.
Peace is the natural condition of our being. It’s where our mental, physical and spiritual health springs from. And she’s right here, patiently residing in our hearts and minds if we choose to see her and open to the potency of her nourishment.
She will radiate out again, though us, in these powerful days of dynamic change and the new layer of paint on the top of the building of Earth Time will be a completely different color.