by Jerry Alatalo
“Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead; Too-Hul-Sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are – perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can feed. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
– Chief Joseph (1840-1904) Nez Perce leader
he title of this post may seem to some as a kind of koan, in other words a “puzzling, paradoxical statement” or verbal exchange related to Zen Buddhism. To say that peace on Earth will arrive once war is absent is like saying 2+2=4, or that once an alcoholic stops drinking their substance abuse problem disappears. There are simply times when one views the world with its continuing acts of war and violence and wonders when an effort to eradicate war becomes the greatest collective focus of the human race.
Through history, an incredible amount of words have become written and spoken about wars, their causes, their consequences, possible ways of diminishing their occurrence, and so on. It is amazing to consider the grand total of war and peace efforts, thoughts and actions of men and women through the centuries and millenia beginning even before communication records were available. Taking some moments to consider life in the broadest of contexts – the “what’s it all about, Alfie?”, “what does it all mean?” place of philosophical perceiving – cannot but leave one absolutely astonished at the mysterious nature of the creation.
Various forms of philosophic/religious/spiritual thought have focused on the big questions all the way through until today. Why were wars made optional for human beings by an omnipotent Creator/God? Being omnipotent (having all power), couldn’t he/she have created the world without the causes and eventual conflicts igniting from those causes? American philosophical writer Dagobert D. Runes asked a similar question: “If God could make angels, why did he bother with men?” There are so many more similar questions which truth-seekers and philosophers have tried to answer, and their considerable findings can be found in untold numbers of books.
What has prevented humanity from taking/distilling the very wisest discoveries coming from history’s philosophers and spiritual icons and applying that wisdom to bring war to extinction? One would think that it’s a “slam dunk” choice for mankind when given the options of either continuing to fight wars with all of their heart-breaking consequences or living in universal peace with all that choice offers in joy-producing, positive consequences. Observing the clear, unambiguous, superior wisdom of choosing peace, one can only ask: “then, why isn’t peace being chosen in every situation?”
“They detest war as a very brutal thing; and which, to the reproach of human nature is more practiced by men than any sort of beasts; and they, against the custom of almost all other nations, think that there is nothing more inglorious than that glory which is gained by war. They should be both troubled and ashamed of a bloody victory over their enemies; and in no victory do they glory so much, as in that which is gained by dexterity and good conduct without bloodshed.”
– Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) Lord Chancellor of England, Author of “Utopia”
“Utopia” has been defined as: “n. 1. an imaginary island described as having a perfect political and social system; subject and title of a book written by Sir Thomas More in 1516. 2. any place, state, or situation of ideal perfection. 3. any visionary scheme or system for an ideally perfect social order.” One of the many philosophies for living articulated up to this point in history perhaps coming closest to “Utopia” is that of the “seventh generation”. Adherents of the philosophy hold that every potential action must be given rational, careful thought about how – if that action becomes carried out – it will affect the health and well-being of people born seven generations into the future. Seventh generation philosophy is distinct from others as the concept travels a much greater distance further down the road of future consequences.
As an example for what is occurring now on Earth, if the seventh generation philosophy were an essential factor in discussion and debate on Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Nigeria and other regions of conflict, violent actions would have never occurred in the first place because careful thought would have led to the conclusion that people born seven generations from now may hold residual animosities only leading to further violence. The same thinking would apply if one took current-day examples involving wealth inequality, dislocation from ancestral homelands through financial/legal manipulations for natural resource extraction, as well as other lesser-to-great examples for illustration.
“A brighter morn awaits the human day, when poverty and wealth, the thirst of fame, the fear of infamy, disease and woe, war with its million horrors and fierce hell, shall live but in the memory of time.”
– Percy Shelley (1792-1822) English poet
So, it seems there is no getting around the idea that there will always exist an impossible-to-grasp aspect of mystery to life, describing the meaning of the term created for Creator/God of “The Great Mystery”. Combining the concepts of a three-letter word “ego” that causes separation between human beings, the four-letter word “love” which joins people together and makes it impossible to harm, and the five-letter word “sacred” – considered by some as the eternal, ultimate reality of all people, all life, and all things – may offer one synthesized philosophy that creates a vision and path forward toward peace on Earth.
Albeit the condition on Earth has yet to become one where war is absent and extinct – despite the profound efforts of those millions of peacemakers through history – let it be stated that war’s extinction is certainly within the realm of human possibility. A wise seventh generation philosophy adherent, an advocate of striving for political and social perfection, and perhaps history’s greatest poet perceived that peace on Earth was possible.
Peace on Earth becomes reality as war becomes extinct. A puzzling and paradoxical statement that Zen Buddhists refer to as a koan. The greatest achievement in the history of the world – universal peace – is as complex, simple, incomprehensible, and easily understood as that.