Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Countdown: 11 Days to Go

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

You can't go wrong with a peace pledge. It's everyone's favourite cause even though the exact specifics of what that peace involves is often not made very clear. Inter-governmental bodies, however, are quite sure that - at the very least - it must involve cessation of armed hostilities. And one must agree that it's a reasonable enough condition for peace, and one that fully and rightly deserves the attention of all the diplomatic corps put together.

And then, there are those for whom peace is not only a song and a poetry but it is their muse -- inspiring, challenging, nudging them. It does have a nice ring to it. 'Give peace a chance' does make sense whichever way you look at it, and for protesters with flowers in their head it can be - and very often is -- their calling.

However, having a desire is one thing and seeing concrete results is another beast altogether. Humanity as a race or a species (whichever way you may want to see it) hasn't had much of a success in achieving peace. It has remained an elusive dream almost like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Countless committees have been formed, myriad summit meetings have been held, thousands of emergency sessions have been organised but nothing of substance has been achieved.

The 'war to end all wars' (1914 - 1918)that took place nearly a hundred years ago provoked governments to action and tentative steps were taken to put humanity's bloody past behind once and for all. Casualties in the range of 15,000,000 and some say the loss of an entire generation in western Europe became reason enough to want to do something.

However, the League of Nations became a toothless tiger and whatever efforts were made were not sincere enough and soon in a matter of two decades, the Second World War with its 63,000,000 deaths became another reminder of how incorrigible we as humans really were.

Further statistics on this page provides additional body count of deaths through wars in the post-war era. Fact of the matter is, the numbers do speak a different story than what the chants for peace would like to hear.

While there has been tremendous progress in the post-war era to look at conflict resolution in creative and non-violent ways but the real battlefield -- the heart -- hasn't been sufficiently addressed. This is because peace is as much of a moral and spiritual issue as much as it is a matter for governments to be concerned about. And for most parts, these issues cannot be tackled merely by signatures on a document or a rubber-stamp on a declaration.

What needs to be done is to rise above the shackles of self interest and desire for self gratification, and move into determined paths to calm the raging storm within. As much as we like to do so, the hurdle, most often, is what this journey will ultimately unravel. Self discoveries have a way of doing that because mirrors, for most part, provide a stark reflection of what we really are than we want to be.

St. Paul talked about hamartia being one of the primary obstacles in our quest to achieve the fullness of life that we were created to enjoy as well as to experience lasting inner peace. Hamartia is a Greek word that can be understood on two levels. One, that deals with the tragic flaw in a heroic character that ultimately leads to his/her downfall, and two, that of an archer missing the mark and losing the laurels as a result.

It would be no exaggeration to say that we were created for great things, that we as a species were bestowed with intellectual greatness that brings with it tremendous responsibilities. What we have done - as history would attest - is squander it all away and scarred the world we are living in. Hamartia has taken over and messed up our ability to achieve that fullness we desire and bring that peace we seek.

In this tumultuous world, the birth of the Prince of Peace in an obscure little town of Bethlehem, and His words of love shine like a flickering candle in a raging tempest. However, His command to deny ourselves and take up our crosses each day to become the vessels of love and righteousness can be a bit inconvenient for most of us.

We like our transformations to be painless, scar free and without any setbacks to our comfort zone. But peace comes with our price, and like all noble things worth fighting for, it demands 'our life and our all'.

Question is, do we think it's worth it?

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