The 4th Way
“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” So says Ralph Waldo Emerson.
What are we to think of America when we say we are a peaceful nation, but global reports reveal we export more weapons than any country on earth? Some say it is evidence of our desire for peace. It is our way of bringing peace to the world, a balance of power where hopefully a teetering peace will not fall..
Three Ways To Peace
Humanity knows little about peace, and it is time we admit it. During the past 3400 years, the human race has been at peace for only 268 years. In the 20th century, 108 million people lost their lives because of our inability to get along with each other. I say again, humanity knows little about peace, but we have our practiced ways of trying to establish it.
My conclusion is we do want peace. In fact, in the face of the failures of the past, each new generation of leaders believes that it can use our practiced ways and bring peace to the nation and eventually to the world. It is a noble assumption, but it is wrong.
There are three ways we try to establish peace. The first is through war, by conquering the enemy, the one we fear and demonize. The facts are that the supposed peace that emerges after war only sows the seeds of the next conflict. It only took the seeds sown after World War I a few decades before they spouted into a fire and second global conflict that swept the world destroying millions.
The second approach to peace is appeasement. This assumes the appetite of someone like Hitler can be satiated, but history shows us that a hunger like Hitler’s consumes those around it, and the only way it ends is when it consumes itself.
Balance of Power
The third way to peace and the one most preferred today is a balance of power. Here’s the premise: if both sides are equally equipped with the appropriate weapons, neither will be able to dominate the other. They can fight, lives will be lost, but no one will “win.” This, we think, is a deterrent to destruction. Peace will exist propped up by power, the balance of power. The problem is that it only takes an angry, vengeful breath to cause this teetering peace to falter, to fall and to shatter.
Our country believes in two of these supposed paths to peace, war and the balance of power. The current administration plans to strengthen the nation by increasing the military budget. The increased military spending will be funded by reductions in programs of compassion.
Other countries have taken this approach. People programs are diminished, and the military establishment grows. The USSR took this approach and is no more. North Korea has the fourth largest army in the world and is one of the most deprived countries on earth. This is what fear can do, and those who live in fear attempt to instill fear in others, thus in the case of North Korea, the pursuit of nuclear weapons and a means to deliver them.
Increasing military spending at the expense of our people will harden our hearts; it will turn us cold, and the winter will be long lasting. It is already happening, but why? Why increase the military budget?
I can think of two reasons. First, we plan to initiate conflict and war. I doubt that this is true. Second, we build a more robust defense because are afraid. Fear paralyzes and freezes the mind, so it sees only one way, but I say to you, there must be another way, the fourth way to peace, for our practiced ways to peace are actually ways to war.
The 4th Way
There is a fourth way, one seldom tried, but brimming with possibilities.
The result will be a reduction in military spending. Imagine America with billions of dollars used for the people. Not to provide a chicken in every pot, but funds used to care for and stimulate the potential of our citizens. Imagine our leadership finding the 4th way and fulfilling the promise of leading our world to peace, not through intimidation, but by the expression of human potential.
Recent administrations have said their primary mission is our safety. This is noble, but a larger military budget does not make us safe. Safety lies in the 4th way.
We are steadily creating a dilemma. The budget cannot be balanced by decreasing programs for the people while increasing the military budget. What must be decreased is fear. What must be increased is our determination to find the fourth way. This is a hard path for a race of beings who have spend the past 3400 years in ongoing conflict. The good news is that there is a 4th way.
What Is The Answer?
I certainly do not have the answer to our dilemma, but I do have a few thoughts. Part of me wonders if we have the character and stamina to pour our energy into finding the 4th way. I have no doubt there is a 4th way, but I don’t know if we are the people who can see its value. This is my greatest concern.
Profound spiritual truths can be expressed in a few words, but they can take a nation decades if not centuries to finally see the possibilities contained in a single spiritual insight.
I am convinced by years of assisting people in “getting along” that St. Francis of Assisi saw the trailhead of the path to peace. Likewise I believe that what will work for two people in conflict will work for a world at war. In his famous prayer in which St. Francis invites God to make him an instrument of peace he says, “I may not so seek…to be understood as to understand.”
There is peace in these words.
Why There Is War
We are in conflict because we want the other person or persons to understand our position. We think, “If they understood my viewpoint, all would be well.”
There is truth in these words, but there is a stranger truth because the 4th way is only witnessed by those who seek to understand. They let go of being understood and assume a different pose. Stranger still are the two images, one seeking to understand, and the other being understood. One image extends a hand with an open palm and the other—a fist.
Oh, how I would like an artist friend to paint or draw a picture of these two poses…one that seeks to be understood and the other seeking to understand. How subtle are their differences, but until we can see and understand these poses, we will know only war.