“Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”
–Sy Miller and Jill Jackson-Miller
Just like that, another year has passed. For many, January 1st is a time of introspection, renewal, and goal-setting. While I have spent some of the last few days and weeks on an inward search, I would like to share only an outward wish: peace.
PEACE is a heady word…chock full of deep spiritual connotation. More simply, but no less complex is the idea of peace being the absence of war. Or, even more simply (but no less complex), peace can be silence. On some level, my 2018 wish for everyone is all of these.
I teach Middle School. On the very, very rare occasion of absolute silence in my classroom, there is always one student who will blurt out the words “AWKWARD SILENCE!!!”. My efforts to explain that all silence isn’t awkward are lost as quickly as that sweet but vanishing moment of tranquility. I’ve learned to smile in these moments because I can no longer imagine what it’s like for those little humans to fight The Middle School War every day. Major campaigns of this three-year conflict include The Battle of the Raging Hormones, The Battle for True and Lasting Autonomy, and, the bloodiest of all–The Battle for Inward and Outward Respect and Acceptance.
Unfortunately, these skirmishes rage on long after promotion from Eighth Grade becomes a reality, sometimes even well into adulthood. Is my wish nothing but an impossible dream for the weary and wary thousands even millions who find themselves on the cusp of a new year?
As the words of the iconic song eloquently argue, peace won’t begin without personal action. As busy as we are, we have to find at least a few moments of silence to work with. For some, it may mean meditation, but it doesn’t have to. For many, it will mean setting any and all electronic devices aside. You simply have to stop the noise, even if it’s only for a little while. Listen to your favorite music. Read. Dance. Draw. Write. Create in any and all of your favorite ways. When this happens, you rise above the din that our jobs and other predicaments, our social circles, and the many screens we look upon for entertainment but are often only a seeing eye that only adds clutter to our worldview.
Is it really that easy? Yes, and no. The silence must become a habit. Like anything that yields the most satisfying results, it has to be a permanent life change. Decide what you would do more of if you “had the time”, then do it. For some of us, overcoming exhaustion is the first step. Start small. If you can’t delete the game or social app, try muting the notifications. Very few of the happenings in those worlds really, truly need to be known to us the instant they happen. Even world news that seems to shake us from moment to moment is best digested with less immediacy. Bring a small sketch pad, a book, and/or ear buds to your routine and mundane daily moments.
Warning: discovering and exploiting moments for personal peace is highly addictive. Those tiny revelations over time can become big ones, often opening opportunities for you to network with other like-minded peace-seekers bent on effecting positive change for more than just yourselves. In a similar way, those very same middle schoolers, when forced to live without electronics, will invent their own low-tech play. It’s awkward at first, but with practice, it may become the long-awaited Armistice that will affirm, promote and preserve life, no matter what your age.
May 2018 be transformational; may you seek and find peace.
Charles Alexander has spent the better part of the last thirty years sharing his love for music and learning to people of all ages. He enjoys exercise, dancing, cooking and eating, and can often be seen making and sharing his favorite plant-based dishes. Charles shares his life with three beautiful daughters who are pursuing degrees at Salisbury University, a Chihuahua named Teddy, and a gray tabby named Xander.