At a Hanukkah party the other night, I spent a long time looking at the mantel full of glowing candles. I felt blessed, peaceful and safe.
But even at this holiday time of year, it's hard not to be cynical.
For example, I was looking for quotes of peace and love and found Isaiah 11:6: "The wolf shall also dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them."
That's heartwarming, isn't it? So full of peace and love.
Then I remembered a joke about a visitor to a zoo who spots a lion and a lamb lying down together in a cage. Amazed, he says, "That's remarkable!" And the zoo-keeper says, "Not really. Every day we put in a new lamb."
And then I think of Iraq again.
Speaking of lions, an African proverb says, "Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters."
And in the same vein, the truest words on war I've ever read came from former British prime minister Stanley Baldwin, who said, "War would end if the dead could return."
With the help of the San Antonio Peace Center (www.salsa.net/peace/quotes.html), here is a collection of thoughts about peace and love for the holidays.
There's always Isaiah 2:4: "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." If only it were true.
The Buddha says: "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned."
That's very true. But then, what do we make of author Robert Louis Stevenson's piece: "There is so much good in the worst of us/And so much bad in the best of us/That it behooves all of us/Not to talk about the rest of us."
Does he mean that during the holiday season I should be silent about George W. Bush, who wants to send as many as 30,000 more troops into Iraq? Or about Dick Cheney, who said the history books will prove that Donald Rumsfeld was the greatest secretary of defense America has ever had?
No, because I believe that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al, illustrate perfectly author Isaac Asimov's idea: "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."
This would be a good time to consider General Omar Bradley's
remark: "We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living."
And Oscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize winner and president of Costa Rica, said, "Peace is not the product of a victory or a command. It has no finishing line, no final deadline, no fixed definition of achievement. Peace is a never-ending process, the work of many decisions."
Hopefully in the coming new year, many, many more of us will work on this never-ending process. Singer Joan Baez called nonviolent protest "organized love." The only thing, she said, "that's been a worse flop than the organization of nonviolence has been the organization of violence."
How is it possible to move, as a nation, as individuals, from war into peace and love, from swords into plowshares? As pacifist A. J. Muste said, "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way."
And we tremble on the edge of great planetary changes, it is also wise to remember the words of the great Oglala Sioux leader Black Elk: "The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us."
Black Elk's words are not difficult to understand, so why have our leaders failed us so deeply in this regard?
As astronaut Frank Borman said, "When you're finally up on the moon, looking back at the earth, all these differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend and you're going to get a concept that maybe this is really one world and why the hell can't we learn to live together like decent people?"
Mahatma Gandhi had an answer. He said, "When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall - think of it, ALWAYS!"
Then he was assassinated.
These are hard times. Evil seems to be striding the earth, and dictators are still dying in their beds.
Still, I wish everyone happiness during the holiday season, when the night is long and the sky is very black. As historian Charles A. Beard put it, "All the lessons of history in four sentences: Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad with power. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small. The bee fertilizes the flower it robs. When it is dark enough, you can see the stars."
So I wish you joy and stars. Namaste, shalom, assalamu alaikum, om, peace.
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist and columnist in southern Vermont. A collection of her columns, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through joycemarcel.com. And write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.