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The Price of Peace

There is nothing more satisfying to me than to be in the mountains, swimming in fresh river water cooked by the warm lick of the sun above. Nothing makes me feel as tranquil as a hike through forests of giant Redwood trees towering as high as a skyscrapper and making you feel as tiny as an ant. In those moments, there is peace, but such bliss cannot always be. Peace is the prize for personal strife awarded after facing the fires of conflict that help us grow and change into different beings.

Inner peace and international peace exist on the same coin, only the size of the coins give them difference. Peace has many definitions: a state of tranquility, a cessation of hostilities between nations or peoples, or a clarity of mind free of anxiety or annoyance. Peace is, like so many sides of a coin, dependent on the energy of its opposite for its existence and appreciation. And for that reason, peace is a temporary state of being...it has to be, because the alternative is neither peace, nor conflict, but apathy.

Life is conflict, every day. It took me a long time to realize my beliefs, my body, my spirit, and my mind undergo a perpetual state of change, fueled the by challenges to my established world-view. That conflict is necessary to uproot me, to make me feel uncomfortable, frightened, sad, and even lonely at times, because I think we all need to stray away from paradise in order to understand it better, to really want it, and at times to fight tooth and nail for it.

Ask any European after witnessing two horrible World Wars that left the continent in smoldering ruin, killed millions upon millions of innocent and guilty alike, and left world-views ravaged. From that horror emerged hope, an understanding that the tradition modus operati could no longer exist because its consequences were too great. Change needed to happen, one that moved all Europeans toward lasting peace. And so we have the development of the European Union.

My point is the people Europe would not have decided, collectively, to strive for harmony, for peace between themselves and their neighbors, if it weren't for the destructive and challenging hand of conflict to force change. The same goes for each of us as individuals. Could you ever truly understand what love is without understanding hate? Happiness without depression? If we aren't testing our mettle, we can't understand who we truly are and we certainly can't metamorphose into more enlightened beings swimming in a sea of euphoria. Peace is the ultimate reward for such strife and it must be earned, but it must also be short lived or else we fall prey to internal apathy, mesmerized addiction to comfort, and stagnation.

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Conflict and peace

Good calling attention to how peace can come from conflict. Thanks for commenting on my piece. I happen to be spending a few days in Branscomb, near Laytonville. Here's something I wrote from bed this morning:

The old madrones bend their long thin trunks
Toward the east, bowing their busy green heads
In reverence to the rising autumn sun.

April Ninomiya Hopkins