where the writers are
Somewhere Between Serenity and Activism

"That's what carbon-based life forms do."

My dad called and told me he was going to ruin my day: He had a brain tumor that was probably cancer. He had surgery, went through radiation and for today he's ok. I was pretty angry and unpleasant to be around for awhile - just ask my spouse. I'm still angry sometimes. He, on the other hand, is handling this with a grace I would not have imagined. After the conclusive diagnosis, he called and said, "Some people ask why. Why? Because that's what carbon-based life forms do. They break down after awhile." I'm sure he has his moments of anger and fear, but he has found a peace I would never have thought possible for my occasionally volatile, sometimes obnoxious, New York-raised father - and I find myself feeling jealous.

"You were always happiest...."

During a conversation several years ago about my travels and phone calls for the Kerry campaign, an old friend said, "You were always happiest when you were being politically active." I was? Being politically active has always risen out of my anger, so how could that be? I don't feel at peace when I'm angry - I feel agitated and pissed off. As far as paths to peace, that one seems a dubious one to me.

"My personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

Post-Katrina, my spouse traveled twice to Mississippi to help rebuild. One of the supervisors on the construction site used to run a TGIFriday's; he said his goal every day had been to make one of his employees cry. He had left his business in the hands of his employees and moved his family temporarily to the area; he was one of those people that others are drawn to because he exuded peace. When my spouse asked what changed him, he said "My personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

I am deeply moved by the idea of Jesus's unconditional love - the depth of love that would lead to that sacrifice - but I simply can't hang with the resurrection, so that path to peace is pretty much closed for me. Christianity is obviously out.  

"A ten-day silent meditation retreat."

I was stunned when my brother called and said he was going to attend a ten-day silent meditation retreat. I was even more surprised when he said he'd been meditating for over a year, twice a day for 45 minutes. My brother? Practicing Buddhist meditation? At some later point, I realized it might not be that out of character for my emotionally shut down brother to develop a practice that helped him detach. But still...he's found something that brings him peace and I'll admit it has made him a more compassionate person.

This morning it occurred to me that maybe the path to peace (my path) is more complex than I'd thought it should be. Maybe peace requires struggle first. In that case, I'm definitely on my way.

Keywords: