Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mental Meanderings on a Train: Peace and Justice

I wrote this a little while ago on the train back from a wonderful weekend in Alexandria with two amazing friends, but I never posted it and since there's not much new news currently, voila.

As the train moved smoothly out of Alexandria, I stared in awe and wonder at the lush green grass and trees that lined the sides of the train tracks. I hadn't seen that thriving fertility of earth in months. Alexandria itself is more biologically alive than Cairo, but the few miles outside the city took me to a place in time where I used to run through forests and roll around in the rich grass and clean soil of the earth. I miss natural beauty.  It’s been a long time since I last took myself hiking up mountains or biking down rocky forest trails, basking in the solitude and glory of this world we live in; the small pockets of this world that our race hasn't yet destroyed with high rises, piles of trash and chemical concoctions which pollute our earth, our bodies and our minds.  Why it’s so hard for us to step outside ourselves briefly and re-evaluate how we have damaged the magnificence that has not only been an inspiration, the muse of all muses, for art of all forms, but the provider of life and sustenance since the beginning of time, I will never know. I am guilty of it too. I ride in cars, buses, subways; I feed into the poisons of this world and buy processed and packaged food. There are few innocent of crimes against nature, a crime not punishable in a court of law.

And then I look at what we’ve done to each other, and I cry from the inside. Tears gleam in my eyes but roar like high waves in my heart; loud, crushing and infinite. I once felt glimmers of this sentiment when I lived in the States, reading about suffering in stories and viewing it through pictures. Now I witness it walking and commuting and wondering what I’m supposed to do. What am I supposed to do? And what I witness is not the extent. The stories I hear stain the mind with images of rape, murder, torture and gore that we see in movies, but rarely connect the dots in our heads to the people that not only experience anguish on a daily basis, but have accepted it as a reality; as their reality. I have only heard tell. The empathetic emotions that feed the fiery flames of passion and anger and frustration and “why, why why?” in my soul fade and fizzle when stories are all that stain. What will happen if I enter into those stories; if I stop listening and imagining and start seeing and hearing with my own eyes, my own ears.   
“Life’s not fair.” Every parent dispels this wisdom on their child from a young age when not every lollipop can be bought, not every whim indulged. We say this when we don’t get the job we want or the person we want or the lifestyle we want. And sometimes we say this and shake our heads when we hear tell of the suffering overseas, even in our own backyards.

Justice is elusive. So is Peace. Both I've found are just as important to seek and pursue, as they are elusive. Some would say Peace and Justice are often at odds: that sometimes Peace is evaded in pursuit of Justice; or Peace won at the cost of Justice. I wouldn't think to argue this, as both are relative: what they are in nature varies in definition and connotation from society to society and individual to individual. For me, personally, I see peace as being not just the absence of fighting or conflict, but the presence of harmony between the self and everything else. When the music of your soul synchronizes with the music of the earth and the music of the people around you, there is nothing more joyful or blissful, except the additional synchronization with the music of the spiritual. And where this harmony exists wholly and in pure form, conflict is hard pressed to penetrate. The way I see justice is not just the conventional triumph of good over evil and right over wrong, but the recognition and restoration of the humanity and equality of every human born on this earth. We all have souls, hearts, millions of thoughts, emotions and feelings. We all have needs and desires that vary immensely but all stem from our common humanity. For me upholding principles and morals are far less important to living justly than perceiving every person around you with the dignity of their humanity--the equality of our existence.

 So for me, when their definitions are extended beyond absences and triumphs (although these definitions I conjured are no more finite or complete), Peace and Justice fuse and together orchestrate melodies of true ecstasy. In order to achieve harmony with other people, Justice must be present in full force. How can one synchronize the sounds of the soul between two people that refuse to see each other as equally human?
The world we live in today, in the macrocosmic sense, seems highly opposed to this theory, or at the very least, highly opposed to pursuing the postulations of this theory. Who will convince the entirety of majority clans in Somalia that the minority clans are just as human and important to this earth as they are? Who will convince multi-national corporations of the so-called “civilized and progressive world” that the people who lose their homes and lives because of their dams and mines are more important than the billions of dollars the CEOs get to put in their pockets? Who will convince governments to stop sending drones that kill innocent villagers and children when power and empire are at stake? Some people don’t want to harmonize with others. Music is of little importance to them when money and power are at play.

 War and suffering are the spawn of a flawed relationship between the self and all else: that the self’s wants and needs are of more value than the life and humanity of another; and therefore to convince everyone on this planet to seek and pursue Justice and Peace (in the sense I mentioned earlier) is an impossible task in this lifetime.

Therefore the start must be microcosmic, the individual relationships and interactions one person has with the small percentage of the world he or she comes into contact with. And even then, it is easier said than done. Sure, I have achieved harmony with many of my friends, here and at home—those that are tuned to the same pitch; but I cannot count the number of times I have intentionally and unintentionally ignored Justice’s loud calling and Peace’s sweet song. Because to not only recognize, but restore humanity and equality is an emotionally and often physically and mentally draining task. And in witnessing so much suffering (and knowing I'm not even in the worst or even near worst setting of suffering) the music I hear in my head is that of an out of tune orchestra playing different songs at different tempos. And I cannot seem to conduct them into a clear melody or song. At this particular stage in my life, I am left with the option of trying something new and perhaps dangerous, or tuning them out entirely: putting in earplugs and living in quiet indifference.

I believe that harmony with others and harmony with the earth go hand in hand. While I would place harmony with others as more important in terms of Peace and Justice; I believe that once you begin to break down the barriers between people and start caring more about people than personal comfort or convenience, you being to care more about the environment that you share.

I don’t have delusions of all people living in a communal state of equality with the same standards of living and same quality of life. There is a difference between recognizing the equality of someone’s humanity and living a uniform lifestyle.  I don’t think there will ever come a time when we all live completely equally and in total harmony with each other and this earth. But that doesn't mean we should abandon the pursuit of Peace and Justice in our own lives, in our own interactions with others. That’s how restoration begins; and besides, a little extra musical harmony is always appreciated.