Today is The International Day Of Peace.
When my boy was three or four years old he asked me what peace was. I remember the day distinctly because it was one of those questions like why do we have to die? or why do some people have to suffer? that leaves you feeling uncomfortable, leaves you feeling that there is no one answer that can adequately sum up the reasons those things happen.
I remember looking up at the sky for inspiration. I often look to the sky at such moments. It usually doesn’t let me down but on that day it regarded me with its still, smiling blueness like freshly laundered spring curtains and I could see no answers in its vast expanse.
No answers but the blue of the sky. And it came to me that maybe that was the answer – the unwavering blue. So I tried it out to see how he would take it.
Peace is when people can stand and look at the sky and marvel at the beautiful blue without worrying that someone is going to come and tell them to stop or make them go to a place where they can’t see the sky anymore. Peace is being able to look at the sky and not be afraid.
Simplistic, I know. Inadequate. Totally missing the point. Yet my explanation has remained part of the way my son regards peace. He has put his own spin on it as he has grown older. When he catches news bulletins in war torn areas he often speaks of the people who live there not being able to enjoy a sunny day, or to notice wildflowers growing by the side of the road or to hear the joy of birdsong.
It’s not their fault, he says. They’re too worried to enjoy those things because there is no peace.
So what is peace?
Is it the absence of war or conflict or an army occupying your country?
Is is a mental state or a physical one?
Should it be visible?
Should we feel a ripple of apprehension as we bandy the term about because we know in our hearts that the peace we actually think of when we say the word – the still blue sky kind of peace – is unattainable in this imperfect world we find ourselves in?
There has to be a chance of it. There has to be a chance for people the world over to feel it at least once in their lifetime.
We speak so often of peace in our countries steeped in democracy. We go on and on about liberty and freedom and our rights. But do we really understand what it would mean to not experience those things? To perhaps never experience them.
Maybe the answer does lie in the unstinting blue. Maybe we are meant to look up at one of the most amazing sights we will ever see and breathe in the wonder of it. And feel at peace. And want others to feel the same. Maybe that thought is where we start.
Maybe that thought leads to another and another. And yet another.
Maybe that thought is all we need to say – enough. It’s not right people should live without peace.
Maybe that thought will lead to enough action so that one day we can say to anyone in the world – go in peace – and know with confidence that such a state is possible.
Maybe I’m a dreamer.
But maybe, just maybe, the tenacious, glittering, enduring blue really is the place to start.