RSS

Tag Archives: International Day of Peace

Happy International Day of Peace, Lahcen and Najet

The Airbnb site says my hosts at the Riad speak English, French and Spanish along with the local Arabic, but it only takes a few minutes for me to realize that the claim regarding English has been exaggerated. Lahcen, the helpful house manager who greets me, probably does know several hundred words of English, compared to my several dozen words of French and two of Arabic, but his ability to answer my questions is limited. Najet, the cook and custodian who assists him, speaks some French and no English at all. Soon the three of us are communicating with gestures, key phrases and facial expressions, and it’s not going as poorly as you might think.

img_3275Still jet lagged, I get a slow start the next morning and Najet is anxious to begin cleaning my room. I am sitting in the public area getting organized for my day when she gestures to her cleaning equipment and my quarters and gives me a questioning look. I nod my consent. She pauses.

“No douche?” she asks clearly and politely. I’m sure that my eyes widen before I remember that douche is the French word for shower. “No douche aujourd’hui,” I declare, thinking that sometimes even a few words in a common language can make all the difference in the world.

When I return that evening, there are lots of things that I want to ask Lahcen. Is Najet his wife? A relative? Is he from Marrakesh? Is this his full-time job? What does he think of tourists, of Americans? But every time I start talking he nods and smiles and looks confused, which is exactly what I do when I can’t understand someone.

img_3290The next day he volunteers some information. “I love Hollywood,” he tells me. “I love your movies, but I watch them in French.” He shrugs, a little embarrassed. “In English I can’t tell what they say.” And I get that I’m like one of those movies to him. He thinks that he ought to understand me but I talk fast and use idioms and shortcuts and make no sense to him at all.

“I wish my French was half as good as your English,” I reply and I mean it.  I think he understands me for once because he gives me a genuine smile back.

“I think that all of your country should learn Arabic. In school,” he adds. I’m sure my eyes widen at the idea. “And we should all learn English here. In school.” He looks at me hard for signs of comprehension. “If we could understand each other, then we would get along.”

img_3284I get where he is going with this and I have to admit that I like it a lot. I appears that my gracious host is a kindred spirit of mine, someone hoping to bridge the gap between cultures, filling it with empathy and a compassion born of recognizing our common humanity. I lack the vocabulary and the inclination to argue with him about the practicality of his plan, so I just say “I hope it happens.”

When I settle my bill, ready to move on to my next destination, I leave him and Najet a generous tip. He takes my luggage to the cab and speaks to the man in rapid Arabic. I realize that he is using part of my tip to pay my cab fare, which I also notice is a only small fraction of what the cab drivers have been charging me. I appreciate his gesture.

I remember my last encounter with people with whom I could not speak. A few months ago a couple in Portugal named Alberto and Maria helped my husband and I rescue our rental car when it became stuck on a dirt road. A few days later, when I discovered it was “International Day of Peace,” I wrote a post about them, and about how the wordless experience was so intense that Maria and I hugged each other afterwards with tears in our eyes.

img_3304I have enough cultural sensitivity to realize that a hug would be inappropriate with Lahcen, especially in such a public place. But I am equally grateful to him and Najet and I wish them both joy and peace, even if I do not know how to tell him so. I can only nod my thanks to him as we part, two souls seeking the same harmony in a fragmented world.

(For more about my trip to Morocco see  That’s Why you Make the Trip, I see ghosts , It’s an angry world in some places and My Way on my other blogs.)

 
5 Comments

Posted by on November 22, 2016 in empathy, peace

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy International Day of Peace, Alberto and Maria!

Thanks to a crude bomb that just exploded in a dumpster in New York, much of the world learned that the United Nations General Assembly is preparing to convene in New York, as it does it does every year at this time. What much of the world does not know is that at the same time the U.N. sponsors an annual International Day of Peace “devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.”

1-multiGiven that I write a blog about world peace, I’m a big fan of this day. This year, I will celebrate it in another country. I’m also a big fan of travel. I believe that war is often (though not always) the result of old grievances and common fears being nurtured and ignited by politicians eager to preserve power and prestige for themselves and wealth for their friends. I recognize that any interaction that results in armed conflict is complicated, and that many people try to do what is best. However, my own reading of history tells me that “bloody few” armed conflicts were ever noble or unavoidable; the only thing they all have in common is that they were bloody.

Those of us not in politics have few ways to steer the human race away from the machinery of war. One of those is travel. As we spend time with others who are currently demonized, or who once were, we learn to question the assumptions about other nations, religions, races, continents, and what ever else you have when you describe “those people” in terms vile enough to make the average citizen believe that they must die. Of course, you can’t just get on a bus or plane and go somewhere. You need to interact.

roadYou need to try to drive up a road that your GPS should never have thought was a road in the first place. You need to try to turn around on a steep, narrow hairpin curve and manage to get your rental car stuck with its nose in the dirt and its ass two feet off the ground while your tires spin. You need to hike down the hill, stand out on a highway, and hope that some decent people will stop and give you a hand.

Odds are they will. If you are lucky, someone like Alberto and Maria will pull over cautiously, looking nervously at their daughter in the back seat. They will see how sweaty and frustrated you are, and ask what is wrong in a language of which you speak only a hundred words quite poorly. You will figure out that they speak no English, but you might manage to convey carro for car and espouso for husband and point up the hill. If you are very lucky Alberto will say “cima?” very clearly, like he cannot believe both the car and husband are up there, and you will recognize his word for “on top of” from your hours with Rosetta Stone and you will nod.

On a good day, Alberto and Maria will take it from there. They will drive their old car up the road that brought you to a standstill, chuckle with sympathy when they see your predicament, and gesture to the two of you to help them lift your car and literally set its rear end down in a better place. While you marvel that it is even possible, it is done. You will try to press some money into their hands, helpless to thank them any other way, and they will not want it, at least not until you insist. Maria will give you a hug and, as she does, you and she will both have tears in your eyes, brought on by the intensity of the exchange you have managed without a single word. They will drive off and you will never see them again.

c_norman_rockwell_do_unto_others_2But later that night, as you read about the ideals of learning to coexist with your fellow humans, you will think of them, and understand how one can travel for world peace.

So, Happy International Day of Peace, Alberto and Maria. May others always treat you with the same kindness that you showed to us. And happy Peace Day, as well, to your seven billion brothers and sisters, most of whom have needed help at least once or twice and, in turn, have helped a stranger or two along their way.

(For more vacation-inspired epiphanies see The Moon Rises on my c3 blog, Our Brand is Crisis on my z2 blog, and That’s Why They Play the Game on my d4 blog.)

 
5 Comments

Posted by on September 21, 2016 in being better, empathy, peace

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy Peace Day

peaceToday is September 21, 2015. It is International Day of Peace.

Never heard of it? That seems to be part of the problem. This is a fabulous idea that needs far more publicity. Maybe catchy slogans would help, or decorations or a little music associated with it. Why? Why not. The idea behind this day should have a deep appeal to all of us. The desire to reduce or eliminate armed conflict spans all faiths, cultures, generations and social-economic groups.

So, what is International Day of Peace?

  1. peace signThis holiday started in 1981. The Secretary-General of the UN traditionally calls for the laying down of arms and a 24-hour cease-fire of all conflicts worldwide. This year Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has done so, adding “Let’s make this International Day of Peace a day without violence, and a day of forgiveness. If, for one day, we can live in a world without aggression and hostility, we can imagine how much more is possible.”
  2. A moment of silence is usually observed at noon (in whatever time zone you occupy.) Candles can be lit, intentions offered, prayers said. The idea is to take a moment and consider the concept of getting along with each other.
  3. International Day of Peace is on Facebook. You can commit to an act of forgiveness, and share it on your own Facebook page or by using #forgiveforpeace. Forgiveness, like so many other human actions, is contagious.
  4. peace 1You will find celebrations of this day in some of the calmest and the most war-torn parts of the world. Two film screenings of movies that emphasize overcoming borders will take place in a UN Buffer Zone in Cyprus. New Zealand is honoring the day with a forum to discuss how peaceful communities are made, while children in Thunder Bay Ontario are singing songs around a peace pole. Are people actually laying down their weapons anywhere? I don’t know. I really hope so.

As to the catchy music, there are a lot of beautiful peace songs out there, but none more poignant than the simple “Let There be Peace on Earth.” YouTube is full of touching videos of this one, but here is my favorite, sung by children. Enjoy, and maybe forgive someone today as you take a moment today to light a candle.

 

 

 

 

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 20, 2015 in art for peace, music for peace, peace

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Not writing books about shallow people leading exciting lives

weird3I am passionate about the cause of the world peace. I believe in our ability as a species to get along without killing each other and it is hard to keep that conviction out my fiction. Yes, I do understand that my stories would be more action packed if I just let my characters continually fire weapons, (or incessantly take each other to bed for that matter), and if I didn’t worry so much about what is in their hearts and minds and souls. But honestly, it is my character’s struggles to be better humans that interests me most. How they triumph over the bad guys is secondary.

So, there you have it. I don’t want to write books about shallow people leading exciting lives. I want to write books about amazing people struggling to lead compassionate lives. I suspect that this limits my potential audience. I accept that. The wall of the spare bedroom that I write in features Kurt Cobain’s famous quote I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not. You wouldn’t think that Kurt Cobain and I had a lot in common, but we do, at least in that I aspire to authentically create that to which I am driven. He, of course, did so.

So as an unabashed peace-nik in the year 2015, I am so happy to have discovered the International Day of Peace.  I came across it a few years ago while doing research for this blog, and have tried to give it mention here each year. Today I will let the organization describe the day in its own words. Please visit their blog, which I quote from below. Please consider a small act of compassion to acknowledge the day.

Then read on to one of my favorite passages from x0 in which my hero Lola wonders whether a telepath is capable of killing another human. Her imagined scenario of war without death was taken from a school paper written by my daughter. The possibility grips me still. Someday there will be at least a short story, and maybe a whole novel, using this idea.

fractal 5A Day Devoted to Strengthening the Ideals of Peace (from the International Day of Peace Website)

International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) is observed around the world each year on 21 September. Established in 1981 by resolution 36/37, the United Nations General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. Furthering the Day’s mission, the General Assembly voted unanimously in 2001 to adopt resolution 55/282 establishing 21 September as an annual day of non-violence and cease- fire.

Anyone, anywhere can celebrate Peace Day. It can be as simple as lighting a candle at noon, sitting in silent meditation, or doing a good deed for someone you don’t know. Or it can involve getting your co-workers, organization, community or government engaged in a large event. You can also share thoughts, messages and pictures to commemorate Peace Day on social media. Use this site to find organized events in your area and for inspiration on celebrating Peace Day in your own way.

From the novel x0

Thanksgiving night, after the dishes were done, the television off, and Teddie and Alex in bed, Lola curled up on the couch with her laptop. With both of the older two kids flying home in just a few weeks for Christmas, the Zeitmans had for years passed on the effort and expense of a family reunion at Thanksgiving as well. So, with other family either far away or passed away, it had slowly become less of a holiday for them, with four days off to relax being its chief asset.

She found a series of new links on the x0 website, apparently posted by members. One area caught her eye. Crime statistics. Hmm. She followed a link, to the website of an organization called the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence, and discovered that there now was a group out there devoted, purely and simply, to reducing the amount of times one human being intentionally uses a weapon to kill another. By any means. War, gang warfare, murder, mass murder. Whatever.

She read that this declaration was endorsed by more than a hundred countries, but the good old U.S.A. did not appear to be one of them. Why not?

According to the website, an estimated seven hundred and forty thousand men, women, and children are shot and killed each year worldwide. She had to wonder how many of those humans would not have died if the person pulling the trigger had been able to read the mind of the life which they were about to snuff out. Would telepathy have prevented every single such death? Most of them?

She doubted it. What about those who were under orders to kill? Those whose fellow warriors faced death or whom faced death themselves if they failed to shoot? Solving that mess required more empathic ability on the parts of those actually giving the orders, she thought, and probably more creative options than shooting for those in the midst of armed conflicts as well.

Lola let herself try to imagine a world in which that problem had been creatively addressed. She saw in her mind’s eye imaginary news footage showing hoards of foot soldiers, armed with Tasers instead of guns. Occasionally a bomb would fall from the sky, spewing pepper spray. The fight for territory, for whatever reason it was happening, was harsh and brutal, but it was being done by soldiers on both sides who were taking unusual pains to spare every life. Why? Because in the war Lola was imagining, the soldiers operated in a world where murder was so abhorrent, so disgusting, that its commission, even in war, would lose the hearts and minds of those they were sworn to protect.

Seven hundred and forty thousand people a year. Could humans change enough to alter the very rules of warfare if society demanded it of them? We’d walked away en masse from cannibalism, incest, slavery, and human sacrifice, she thought. We were capable of declaring some actions not worthy. Why then not the action of taking another human life?

Were there circumstances in which a telepath would choose to shoot? Lola could think of two. The first seemed a contradiction in terms because it required a telepath who could sense the feelings of others and simply not care. He feels the other persons fear, anguish, possible remorse, hope for life, and then he shoots anyway. But to feel and not to feel was an oxymoron, or at least she hoped so.

The second possibility made her shudder as well. In this case the armed, yet caring, telepath sensed the potential victim’s thoughts and feelings, but instead of finding compassion, he or she would find those feelings so reprehensible, and so dangerous, that the telepath would make the painful and yet the fully informed choice to pull the trigger. To shoot anyway. Lola wondered what kind of victim it would take for a caring and moral telepath to make that choice.

(For more thoughts on how my characters’ superpowers might affect their lives see my post If you could see the future would you want to?)

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 13, 2015 in peace, telepathy, writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cease firing for a day: Saturday September 21 2013

c_norman_rockwell_do_unto_others_2

“Do Unto Others” by Norman Rockwell

Every year about this time, the world celebrates “An International Day of Peace.”  It goes largely unnoticed, at least here in Texas where I live, and this year I’m putting some effort into changing that.

This 32 year old event is also called Peace Day, and you can read about it here. It’s goals extend beyond the ending of wars between nations and include improving relations among all peoples. The website says that observances range in scale from private gatherings to public concerts and forums where hundreds of thousands of people participate.Hmm, not seeing any of that here in Houston.

candleSuggested activities for the lone individual include lighting a candle at noon, or doing a good deed for someone you do not know. Both are fine ideas, on any day actually. However, my personal favorite is the suggestion to consider Sept. 21 as a day of ceasefire – personal as well as political. One could take the opportunity to make peace in ones own relationships while they wish for an end to the larger conflicts of our time.What a day it would be if a chunk of humanity decided to call a cease fire on their own anger and resentment for just twenty-four hours.

A simple idea. The really good ones usually are.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 14, 2013 in peace

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: