nytime I am confused about a definition of a term I find my old beaten Webster’s Dictionary that is always found on the corner of my desk in order relieve the stress. With war becoming a probable reality and rumbles of peace starting to be heard across our nation a definition of peace becomes very important.
Webster defines peace as being, “a state of calm and quiet. A freedom from disturbing thoughts or emotions and a state of concord between persons or governments.
“Webster continues his definition by stating that, “peace is public security under law and an agreement to end hostilities.” Living in a powerful and prosperous nation the concept of peace is something that most of us take for granted. Not since the beginning of the Vietnam War has the concept of peace lost its value. I don’t think the people of my country have become warlike. I do believe they have forgotten what a loss of peace means.
Still confused over what this tiny powerful word means I started to look up some origins of the term peace. In our Judean past peace in Hebrew is Shalom. Looking further into other origins of the term I discovered that the word peace in Arabic is Salaam. Even the term demonstrates how close the histories of the Jewish and the Arabic worlds are.
A Moslem friend informed me that Islam means peace. Not being an expert in any religion I believed him. I later looked up the term and found out that Islam does not mean peace but it does mean, “submission or surrender.” When I checked back with my friend he told me that I was wrong. I have been wrong about a lot of things in my life.
T.S. Eliot who was an Anglo-American poet and critic wrote in his “Definition of Culture” talks about peace. He stated in 1948, that, “I do not approve the extermination of the enemy; the policy of exterminating or, as it is barbarously said, liquidating enemies, is one of the most alarming developments of modern war and peace, from the point of view of those who desire the survival of culture. One needs the enemy.”
Anton Chekhov in 1897 stated, “We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.” Chekhov was obviously an optimist in a pessimistic world. Hopefully we can find more of them.
Aristotle in his thesis, “Nichomachean Ethics” stated, “We make war that we may live in peace.” To me this was one of the more disturbing definitions of peace. Do we really need war in order to achieve peace? If this is true does it make sense that the concept of peace is more of a dream than a reality?
Baruch Spinoza who lived in the seventeenth century stated that, “Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, and justice.” Even back in those violent times there was a debate as to what the term meant.
Dwight D. Eisenhower who led our country in both war and peace stated, “I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our government. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”
The Vietnam protests of the 1960’s and 1970’s seem to prove this thought but in today’s violent world most of my neighbors favor war. Could it possibly be that they don’t remember what war is? Could it be possibly be that they think that war is some sort of a game that is seen on television or through the camera that is attached to a bomb that is sure to kill something? The more I dig into the historical definitions of peace the more confused I become.
Flavius Vegetius Ranatus at about 375 AD in his work, “De Rei Militari stated that, “Let him who desires peace prepare for war.” I believe that this is what our nation is doing today or at least I pray it is.
George C. Marshall, another one of our famous wartime heroes stated, “If man does find the solution for world peace it will be the most revolutionary reversal of his record we have ever known.” I wonder why the men of war seem to have the best concept of what lost peace is?
Hermocrates of Syracuse summed up the value of peace by stating, “Has not peace honors and glories of her own unattended by the dangers of war?” From the times of the beginning of history to our present world it is obvious that we have not found that solution. I fear we haven’t found the definition of the problem.
Malcolm X in 1965 stated, “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” An obvious question here is why do we as a nation have to lose many of our freedoms in order to achieve peace?
Marcus Tullius Cicero who lived between 106 BC and 43 BC is said to have stated, “The name of peace is sweet, and the thing itself is beneficial, but there is a great difference between peace and servitude. Peace is freedom in tranquility, servitude is the worst of all evils, to be resisted not only by war, but even by death.” Could this be a reason that peace in our world is something to be dreamed about and not achieved? As a nation are we striving for peace or striving to retain what we all know are impossible standards of life? The more I study the more confused I become.
The famous Israeli General Moshe Dayan talked of peace by stating, “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” This concept makes so much sense. I just pray that it makes sense to those of us in our nation that is hoping for war.
Thomas A. Kempis in 1420 stated “First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.” Could this possibly mean that in our present need for war we are not comfortable with what we have become as a society and have a need to make the rest of the world a bit more miserable then we are? It has been stated that misery loves company and I don’t have a clue who first said it.
William Shakespeare summed up the concept of peace by stating; “The peace of heaven is theirs that lift their swords, in such a just and charitable war.” The idea that one can use the terms just and charitable in the same sentence has always astounded me. So here I sit, with my old beaten Webster’s Dictionary in hand attempting to understand what the definition of peace is.
With war becoming a probable reality a definition of what we as a people have always dreamed of and strived for becomes a definition that is probably so simple and so obvious that we as a species can never understand it.
A definition of peace by J. G. Fabiano
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and a writer living in York, Maine, USA
e-mail him at:firstname.lastname@example.org
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