I think at the extreme ends of the spectrum, most people can agree on what peace is and isn't. For example, most people would consider dropping bombs on other people to be the opposite of peace. Most people would consider the silent prayer/meditation for world peace and the om to be examples of peace.
That's the easy stuff. In fact trying to define peace can cause even the most peaceful among us to be less than peaceful. So what do we do if we say we want peace, but we can't even agree on what peace looks like, feels like, acts like or talks like?
I'll throw out a couple of high level ideas, but even these are subject to much discussion. I hope you continue these discussions in the circles in which you find yourself. If all goes as planned, I will be doing a few workshops at the gathering on "What is Peace and How do We Create Peace?" -- hopefully I won't be the only one.
In Creating Peace, Parts 1 to 3, we looked at some of the foundational aspects of peace (click on the topic "Creating Peace" under Gathering Topics on the right hand side of this blog).
First graders have a very good concept of peace (image from Miss Krug's Our Grade One blog):
Some people view peace as the absence of war or violence. Perhaps this view comes to us from Ancient Greece in the goddess Eirene the goddess of peace, who also celebrates decisive battles that end wars. If we subscribe to this paradigm, we probably are following the axiom "the ends justify the means."
Another high level view of peace is one that focuses on harmony and tranquility that can take the form of an inner state or a state between people. We can say she is always tranquil and peaceful or they have a harmonious marriage.
Peace can be considered as cooperation between people in a social group or culture to maintain a certain level of social order. Keep in mind that slavery existed in the USA during times of peace and for me, slavery does not equal peace.
|Liberian Women for Peace|
The Global Peace Index (GPI) attempts to identify countries by their level of peacefulness focusing on various formal military measures, prisoners per capita, refugees, wars, etc.
In the last hundred years, peace has been tightly coupled with the idea of non-violence. So now we have to define what non-violence is and how non-violent methods contribute towards creating peace. Now I'm sure most of you are familiar with the teaching of the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. -- all of which emphasis non-violence --another problematic concepts. Defining non-violence is just as hard as defining peace (but I think by now you know how to approach this issue.)
The Dalai Lama offers these words, "Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free." Of course now we have to figure out what "free" really means. For example, do we include the freedom to harm others in free? Or are your freedoms curtailed when they impact my freedoms? How does your pollution impact my freedom?
Peace is often negotiated between groups of people. For example, a family, school, city or state negotiate what they see as peace.