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  • Writer's picturePhil Latham

Peace be with you in Tyler

It’s Art of Peace Week in Tyler, scheduled to end Sept. 21 on the United Nations’ official International Day of Peace.

You’re forgiven if you didn’t know the U.N. had one of those, or that Tyler devoted an entire week to promoting peace through art. Across the world it seems threats are the order of the day from one nation to another. They threaten us. We threaten them. The temperature rises, having nothing to do with global warming. Cooler heads may or may not prevail before shooting and killing starts but the peace already has been broken for the average person.

All that talk roils us up inside with a variety of emotions: Fear, anger, disgust, blood lust, hatred. It all depends on how you roll.

While governments can decide in a moment to back away and order troops to stand down this is not so simple for the rest of us, who are targeted by the propaganda. Long after any confrontation, those feelings persist like the pangs from a broken leg, or maybe a broken heart.

The emotions you won’t feel from an eye-to-eye, nose-to-nose stare-down? You never feel peace. You never feel love. You never feel safety or satisfaction.

It’s clear that some people operate better — or believe they do — when motivated by hate or a desire for revenge.

Obviously, life isn’t perfect. There are going to be times of trouble and angst but I sometimes feel as if the world’s powers that be don’t want us to feel at peace for too long at a time.

That sounds like a conspiracy theory, perhaps or the plot line from “1984.” We may be 35 years down the road from that novel’s title but it sure doesn’t feel like it. That grim world often seems just a season away, the wrong outcome of an election.

See how easy it is to drift down the road of conspiracy theories? It doesn’t matter which political viewpoint you have, either. It happens on the left and the right.

Peace isn’t a political philosophy, though, but a moral one.

Perhaps you’ve heard of that peace that surpasses all understanding. Said in that manner, it is a Christian concept but the same thought permeates every major religion on Earth.

You can believe in God or believe in nothing at all and still grasp that peace is worth the effort and that it should be our highest goal. Patrick Henry dramatically said that it should not be “purchased at the price of chains or slavery,” but he was never in chains or subject to slavery. He owned human beings who were.

There are always evils that will have to be vigorously fought, maybe with an actual shooting war. Fascist Germany was one of those. There are valid reasons to protest today but the aim should be toward eventual peace, not perpetual protest.

Poetry is a major element in Tyler’s Art of Peace Week each year, with a small anthology usually printed of poems received from all over the world concerning peace and how to achieve it. I don’t know exactly who thought of this but it was a master stroke.

It occurs to me that poetry could be the official language of peace. I’ve read a great deal of poetry but never one poem that incited me to violence or anger, even if it isn’t light or happy.

I’ve known people who shy away from poetry the same way they might avoid those who are speaking Spanish or French.

But there are some topics best addressed with poetry and peace is one of those. Poetry doesn’t allow for a wild outburst. It’s more likely to make you stop and think. You might not even understand what the poet is saying until you read it a second or third time.

Contemplation. Now there’s an idea to promote peace. Maybe we should try it.

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