Peace Begins with ME! Have We Become More Peaceful Since 9-11?

- Leonard Ellis


September seems to be filled with opportunities for peacemaking. September 21 is International Day of Peace with many events scheduled, and of course, September 11, the remembrance of the 9-11 World Trade Center attack and destruction.

While the emotional impact of 9-11 seems to lessen each year, the question of "why?" is always there. Why did people put their energy into destruction rather than finding nonviolent ways to express what they need? How do we minimize the possibility of this happening again? I don't have an answer in terms of an ironclad defense, and I don't believe there is one. What I do know is that if people feel disrespected and ignored and desperate and isolated, they may choose to draw attention to their plight in destructive ways. All the walls and missiles and bombs and bullets will not protect anyone from someone who is determined to harm another. Just reflect on all the mass-shootings over the past several years. The energy that created the 9-11 attacks is no different than that of the energy that someone uses to justify a mass-shooting. So it comes down to the question of what would mitigate the desire to kill another human being.

I believe the only way to prevent people from killing or harming each other is to dissolve the walls that we have constructed to divide us. When we recognize each other as human beings, as brothers and sisters, as all having a common connection, then we will stop the violence and harm to one another. This may seem like an impossible task, but it has to start somewhere, and we can't wait for "the other" to start. And our society doesn't help with this message, either. We are constantly shown how revenge and payback are the ways to resolve conflict, rather than forgiveness and compassion. This reinforces the false belief that we are different, or better than, or separate from others. And unfortunately, we now have a role model in the White House who demonstrates this mode of interacting. .

In the prayer of St Francis of Assisi, he asks to be an instrument of peace. When we ask to be made instruments of peace, what we are really asking for is the boundless determination to empty ourselves of every state of mind that disrupts relationships - anger, resentment, jealousy, greed, self-will in any form. Our first priority is to have compassion and understanding for ourselves, which will then bring about change in the way we deal with others. In the ultimate analysis, our resentments and hostilities are not against others but rather, against our own alienation from our inherent state of love and connectedness.

Learning to return love for hatred, being always aware of the unity of life, these things are the most difficult achievements on the face of the earth, and the most rewarding, because Peace begins with ME! I encourage all to look inward and recognize and heal those emotional scars that prevent us from being truly loving, caring, human beings. By doing so, we will each help create a more loving and caring world, and indeed we can then say the world has become more peaceful.