Peace, non-violence and ahimsa

ABSTRACT: This is no scientific article but it sill feels right to start with the conclusion.

Global peace, world peace can mean different things. The world of a single human being is also at war at times.

If one wants to help peace, if one has made a decision to abstain from the mental-emotional junk food of Conflict, there are different steps to take.

Ideally one wants to be somebody who cannot hurt others. That is a high goal, which is not a reason not to aim for it. I call that “ahimsa” (Sanskrit for harmlessness).

The step before that, easier and more available, is non-violence. One step at a time we might arrive at peace.

As I wrote earlier I now call myself peace walker. That does not mean a state but an ambition: to really walk the talk of peace.

And talking of talk, let’s look at a very common saying in the peace sphere.

“Peace starts with the individual.”

I don’t like phrases that both 1) sound good and 2) don’t have a clear meaning. This phrase qualifies for both categories. If we want to go beyond mouthing vague feel-good phrases we should have distinct follow up questions.

  • In what way does the peace of the individual lead to a larger peace?
  • What kind of individual peace are we talking about?
  • What does peace mean to the individual?

Let’s have clear answers to those questions and I might agree with that statement.  But just spreading nice-sounding memes about is of no help.

My strong belief is that clarity is a precursor of peace, so let’s think clearly. Here’s my view of how peace might/ could start with the individual.

As I have written in so many texts we humans have something that I call “war seeds” in our hearts. It is only the name that is original, the observation isn’t.

Under the right (wrong) circumstance we can easily catch fire, become angry, and verbally or physically attack each other. Look at sports, football for example, and how this gentlemanly game can turn into violent hooliganism and even killing.

This is what I term war seeds in bloom.

Seeds can be choked, dried up, not watered. Or watered a lot, which leads from sports (Agon =battle, trial of strength) to Antagonism and then Agony, then outright war.

So what can the individual do against this development, this flowering of war seeds? He can look after his own garden, keep an eye on his own weeds.

Let me be much less abstract and describe how I, a soi-disant peace walker, try to handle this. First, some coordinates.

You who are reading this of course know about non-violence. It is called ahimsa in Sanskrit.

Here I want to distinguish two gradations, nonviolence in a more Western sense versus Ahimsa. In my interpretation non-violence (civil resistance, etc.) is what somebody DOES, while ahimsa refers to what he IS (his being).

Ahimsa is obviously the higher goal, admittedly a very high goal. However, it seems important to aim higher than just non-violence. Even if you chain yourself to a tree to passively to resist police arrest you might still have many much war seeds (anger, frustration, hate) in your heart. You just don’t act them out (perhaps because you are chained?).

I don’t want to belittle non-violence. That would be stupid and unrealistic. Non-violence in general is much better than violence, giving in to antagonistic impulses and feeding our belligerent impulses . But let us also see that non-violence only refers to our actions, not to our feelings and thoughts. Our hand is peaceful and passive, but not necessarily our mind and heart.

That said, non-violence is an important step towards ahimsa. We will not get there without non-violence.

A very practical example: Let us say that I have written something on Facebook about a subject on which people have “strong feelings”. (Those words indicate presence of war seeds.) Some people agree with me, some don’t and one person really lashes out against me.

What do I do in that case?

I have a martian element within me, too. I see the impulse to strike back, say something harsh “but just” (as one is tempted to call it). But since I am a peace walker I cannot just go with the downward flow.

If I had attained ahimsa I might give a wise, loving and totally non-polarizing reply. Right now I cannot. But I CAN be non-violent.


In the spur of the moment I can’t write a balanced reply, my seeds are too agitated; I am too angry and irritated.

I see two courses from there.

1) To just ignore it and turn my back. That is a rather classic way to respond. For some people that might be the best response, personally I see that a turn-your-back-to-it response contains an element of self-fear.

“I am afraid of what I might say to that person…”

2) The other response is the break, which in effect means slowing down.

Everybody understands that the break pedal is important, nay, essential in a car. Imagine all the catastrophes that would happen without it. We also have the folk wisdom of counting to ten when we fall into the clutches of Master Anger.

Counting is like stepping on the brake. It slows down our adrenaline reaction, turns off the water supply to the war seed.

Here’s how I step on the brake: I copy the message on Facebook, go offline and read it in peace and quiet.

An important reason for this has to with perceptive clarity. It is not a great discovery to say that a message, for example 3-4 sentences in a comment online, is often not really grasped.

What is really being said,and in what relation do I stand to it?

These questions never emerge, don’t even exist, in a heated discussion. I probably will react with a reflex, a knee-jerk, and reply  something not worthy of a peace walker.

Note here that this slowing down CAN also be part of a very different process, namely showing off, demonstrating how smart and intelligent we are. The goal then is to deliver a mental blow, a “crushing reply”. That does not rhyme with peace walking.

The peaceful aim should be to 1) understand what the other person really is saying 2) understand how I as a peace walker want to relate to it. Then my reply, if I still feel that I want to reply, will come from a very different part of me, a part of the garden where the war seeds do not bloom, at least not profusely.

No, I have not attained ahimsa, the non-ability to hurt. I still have within me the attraction to conflicts and polarization, but at least I have localized my break pedal. Now it becomes a question of remembering to use it.

In this way peace can “start with the individual”.

Realistically it might not go anywhere from there; it might also remain in the individual, although I think that every person who waters his peace seeds will send out positive waves. So I change my mind on that; I think  inner peace will have an effect on outer world.

Whether it can influence world events is another question.

Also one can ask how many peaceful individuals does it take to change the light bulb of war? The TM (transcendental meditation) people claim that a certain number of meditators change the collective atmosphere for the better, thus lowering crime rate for example.

That’s interesting but too often dismissed by “rational” people with irrational reflexes who see red before words like homeopathy or meditation. Who walk, as so many of us are, on the Small War Path; the path of martian conflict and polarization enjoyment.

The path of Venusian peace tries to balance that.

PS: Of course the example with Facebook takes place in the digital domain. Other rules apply for handling war seeds face to face.

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Peace and justice -it’s complicated

Many if not most people would say that justice and peace of course belong together. One is dependent on the other, they are almost identical.

The words “of course” sometimes serve as a warning, indicating that we have not really given much thought to the matter.

My own ponderings show that, sorry to say, the relationship between peace and justice are not self-evident, even are complicated.

For this we need to make clear what we mean by justice and peace.

Possibly our idea of justice is clearer than our idea of peace, because the latter, as far as I have discovered through reading and talking with peace workers, is muddy and vague. Some say it need not even be defined, everybody knows what it is.

Well, maybe until they get the question. What happens after that is more unclear.

These are my own working definitions:

Peace is very close to the concept of HARMONY. Different parts, moving in maybe very different directions, work together, in concord, towards the same end.

The best illustration of this is perhaps music. Witness the motet Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis. Choir music is often in four parts (soprano, alto, tenor and bass). This piece is in forty (!) parts.

It is very harmonious, but at the same time very complex, in the sense that no two voices sing the same melody. Forty totally distinct and different parts! This is as far as we can come from sing-song, where everybody conformistically bellows the same tune.

So here we have total concord, all moving as one, but with all individuality intact. A very rare condition, captured in the expression “unity in diversity”.

This is what I mean by Venusian peace. Allowing differences while simultaneously working together.

However, what we usually see in the world are un-harmonious versions of this. Either unity OR diversity.

Either conformist bonding, mirroring, imitation, where we relish the warm feeling of singing the same refrain, belonging to the same party or shouting the same slogan in a demonstration. This is consonance without real harmony.

The other common extreme is polarization and conflict. Here we relish the feeling of NOT agreeing, of criticizing, blaming and attacking each other. This energy is found in heated discussions, political debates, football hooliganism, demonstrations, quarrels and of course war of different kinds.

In the first instance similarity and concord are too excessively important. In the second not important at all. But in music the two meet harmoniously.

This is what I mean by good peace, dynamic peace. I call it Venusian peace because it is filled with the Venusian qualities of art, love, harmony and beauty.

What is justice then?

A kind of balance (also a Venusian quality).

What is the difference between peace and justice?

It can be the difference between WE and I. While peace is something that you and I or our countries strive for (thus a big WE is involved)  justice is much more concerned with only me or only us.

Justice can be a holistic thing, but often is not. What we term justice can be a mere matter of personal winning that I or my group do not want to be without.

In this way people who work for the rights of others are closer to justice than those who want justice for themselves. Of course it is terrible when you feel that you have been abandoned and badly, unjustly treated. You want to stand up for yourself and get some human rights. That is logical, understandable and right.

However, there is a scale here. Some people are so destitute that they can hardly stand on their feet, even less fight for their rights. Others are much much better off and when they protect their rights only the words are the same.

While the former wants to have a meal and a bed to sleep in the other wants privileges, money and luxuries that he thinks the world owes him. And we know that some people even hurt themselves in order to get money from society. Others practice the game of Suing, something of a national sport in the USA.

So while all these people — from the beggar sleeping in the street to the discriminated rich person who is out to use the system – are talking about rights and justice, they are in effect doing very different things. One wants to survive and have some kind of satisfaction on the lowest steps of Maslow’s pyramid of needs. The other is only concerned with the Pyramid of wants and lusts.

So my critique of the term “justice” is that the same word can mean very different things, and can also be a very egoistic and manipulative thing, not at all concerned with peace (which involves some kind of concord, a WE) but only with personal winnings (I).

In very simple terms: Justice, especially if demanded for ourselves, can be self-centered, an ego thing concerned with winning and gain usually in tune with the normative win-lose model of our world.

Peace, the kind of peace I talk about, can by definition not be that. Venusian peace is a win-win affair, reminiscent of music making.

There is obviously much more to say about this. This is just a preliminary sketch (but still more than the usual fare).

When noting the non-obvious identity of peace and justice, or even the obvious non-identity of peace and justice, one can ask:

Which is the greater, peace or justice?

That question is not amiss nor academic.  Sometimes, quite often in fact, we need to make our priorities clear. Instead of answering A or B I want to rephrase the question.

Which is more important, that you, or me, or the alto or tenor part (or whichever part you sing in) is dressed most magnificently, sing loudest, fastest and strongest, gets the most attention, applause and flowers from the audience — OR that we sing as with one voice, unite in phrasing, breathing and feeling and try to realize as much as possible the conductor’s and, ultimately, the composer’s intentions?

What would YOU answer?

Maybe: I don’t want to choose, I want both!

Yes, in the best of worlds justice and peace go harmoniously hand in hand. I just want to point out that in our less perfect world the matter is often unclear and complicated.

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Peace walker reflection

(Some thoughts about what it takes to be a peace walker)

I look around in our world and what do I see?  Violence all over.

  • Common sense becoming more and more uncommon.
  • Moderation becoming a rarity.
  • Extremism is no longer extreme, it is the common thing. (Which does not mean that we know about our extremism. Unconscious extremism; a strange beast. )

People are radicalized, but what does that mean?

Radical comes from the word “radix”, which means root. But it does not mean going to the root of things, walking round the proverbial elephant and noting different sides of it, considering different aspects of the question.

Radical now means being more or less VIOLENT.

Good people, can we (as we like to sing) give peace a chance? I see so few people REALLY caring about peace. Nobody says a bad word about it, but it is the walk, not the talk that counts. Especially for peace walkers.

Two central aspects of peace, as I now see it, is “Ahimsa” and honesty.

Ahimsa means “harmlessness”. It is for me not the same as non-violence, which is more known.

Non-violence is a choice not to use violence (but you can still feel rage and anger inside). Ahimsa I see as the non-ability to be violent. The war weeds are more or less cleared away.

Obviously only a few of us have reached that level, but I also think that that should be the goal and aim of peace workers/ walkers.

So why bring honesty into the picture?

Because lying and dishonesty is a kind of minor war.  Not black but grey violence, not large-scale but small-scale battle, not outer but internal disharmony. And from these seeds bloom the flowers of bloody wars.

I hear many people demanding truth, fighting for truth. But I see no Honesty Movement (although we do have Radical honesty).

Truth sounds like the grandest thing on Earth, but I think it is not good enough. Why? Because your truth and mine differ, and somehow we have this idea that there should only be one truth. So which one is it, yours or mine? Let’s fight it out!!

And so, once again, we turn into the Street of Violence.

Many people hate, torture, oppress  and kill in the name of Truth. Truth does not automatically create peace, on the contrary it creates black and white polarization, tension, conflict, antagonism and agony. Harmless it is NOT.

Honesty is something else. Honesty is the mirror. Honesty means being able to say: “You are no saint, but neither am I.” Honesty is the impulse leading us to try to be better than what we criticize.

The Bible talks about “he who is without guilt…” It is honesty that tells us that we cannot cast the first stone. We are not good enough for that.

“Truth” tells us to blame, accuse, point fingers, cast stones and drop bombs. So Old Testament, don’t you think? If we were really good, really harmless, we wouldn’t want to stone anybody.

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Polarization, an enemy of peace

When  thinking about peace and war, the impulse towards one or the other, the direction we choose to walk in, I have arrived at this strong suspicion:

Polarization is one of the main obstacles to peace.

Polarization = stressing differences, almost nurturing differences so that tension builds up and we can fight (one of Homo sapiens’ favorite, if not admitted, activities).

The expression “unity in diversity” points to two aspect of the question.

Diversity affirms variation, difference, individuality, being who YOU are, not just being a clone or imitation of somebody else.

Unity concerns the possibility and impulse towards, yes, unity. Listening to each other, trying to understand each other and moving in the same positive direction in spite of our differences, even with the help of our different perspectives.

Both factors can lead to or away from harmony.

Too much diversity makes us dense egotists who does not understand that there is enjoyment, fun and gain in doing things together. (This realization is very much present in music making. Play and sing more together!)

To much unity can turn into boring, tyrannical, Big Brother conformism, making people small, identical cogs in a big smog-producing industrial machine. It can also turn us into all too predictable middle of the road kind of people who cannot handle differences in thought, feeling or skin color (in spite of mouthing “vive la difference” and similar phrases).

Luckily there is a middle ground which is not “middle of the road” but a golden mean: Unity in diversity.
We need to see these two unbalanced impulses realistically. The third, attraction to the golden mean, is probably the weakest of them all. That is what peace walkers need to water.

We enjoy conflicts too much. We might not call them conflicts but it is the emotional energy that counts. 

Look at what media are feeding us with, and how we gulp it down. Scandals, sensations, crises, debates (comes from the word for strike or hit), sports (a win-lose domain), politics, wars.

If Man is a musical instrument (and he is) media are playing Allegro Barbaro on him. The music that comes from our soundboard when watching somber, dark, violent and quarreling news, is somber, dark, violent and quarreling.

We cannot only blame media. If nobody watched all this, it would not be broadcast.  We actually enjoy  almost being glued to the violence spewing tube.

When we recognize and admit our enjoyment of conflict and polarization we also see that it goes against our impulse for peace, that harmonization and polarization  are two very different things.

But conflict is not all.

We also enjoy the other extreme, conformism, too much. We derive much satisfaction from articulating what in our circle is considered “right” opinions, “right” thinking. A million flies can’t be wrong, neither can twenty friends.

These twenty friends, however, may not really be in tune with each other. Maybe they just enjoy the cozy feeling of being in a group, the warm sensation of not being alone in their opinion.

This kind of self-deception can be marginal and of no importance. It can also be  very serious and create a kind of sticky mental atmosphere where any kind of divergence or difference is viewed as a mistake, even treachery.

Safety in numbers. All together now!

Conveniently enough we often move between these extremes, sometimes enjoying the martial energy of violent conflict, sometimes the warm, cuddly reassurance of thinking alike. 

But as the proverb say: Extremes are neighbors. The real opposite here is balance.

In that direction, as far as I can see, lies harmony. That is, peace.

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Peace walk with me

Moving from peace talk to peace walk

Self-delusion exists in all spheres of life.  Of course. Why  should a certain life domain be protected from this virus?

It also exists in the peace domain. If you ask people “Are you for peace or war?” probably no one, not even military people, would answer “war”. But words and talk is cheap. Walk is more costly.

Differentiating between talk and walk is made  difficult by the very vagueness of the word peace. What exactly do we mean by it?

Some say a definition  is not needed, everybody already knows what peace is.

Maybe… Until they are asked to define it. Then things get more difficult, more floating…

But if we don’t really know what we mean by peace, don’t know what it is, only what it isn’t  — peace is very often defined negatively:  absence of outright war, hunger, injustice, poverty, etc. — then differentiating between peace talk  and walk is not going to be easy.

The whole field is mentally messy, vague and unclear.

Contrast this with the clarity not only desired but demanded in matters of war. Soldiers are rigorously trained; exact planning, strategies, protocols and objectives are de rigeur. You cannot  wage war with a hippie go lucky attitude, unless you are one of Kelly’s  heroes.

“Hey, let’s shoot a bit. Who knows, we might get lucky and hit some enemies. If not, I suggest a joint and a glass of wine!”

Let me try to be as orderly as the military folks are. What do I mean by peace walk?

Most importantly I mean bringing ourselves into the picture. Know thyself, thy peace side and war side.

One can “work for peace” while turning a blind eye to some aspects of oneself. Like our lively enjoyment of football, pro wrestling, heated political debates on TV, partaking in demonstrations with lots of aggression and angry shouting.

Amazons for peace?

I am not expecting anybody to be a saint. I am certainly not one. And shouting has its place.

No, I am talking about self-reflection.

“Charity begins at home”, so people say. That’s good advice for peace as well. But let’s not forget the second part of the saying, often forgotten or not known: Charity begins at home, but  should not end there.

So, peace work/walk should begin at home, but not end there.

To really “peace walk” we should start with ourselves, but definitely not stop there. Joining inner and outer results in better peace than if we work for global peace while watering our own war seeds.

That’s like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde both trying to control the steering wheel.

Introspection can also show us that:

The model of war — close to the model of sports (there will be one winner and one or several losers) — is so common and widespread in our world that it easily becomes invisible. We breathe it like air.

Mass media is built on this model. What is constantly highlighted, also in social media, is what is sensational, odd, strange, conflicting, violent, hurtful. War has a seat of honor in the news, peace might (on a good day) enter through the kitchen door….

It takes effort and sharp thinking to separate ourselves from the win-lose norm of society. Just as air in our urban areas is impure and smoggy, so is the emotional and mental atmosphere of our media-ridden world.

— So what is a real peace walker then?

A person who is not free of war-like impulses, but who is aware of and seriously tries not water hos own war seeds, to hold these weeds in check.

This makes the peace walker more tolerant and wise than a mere peace talker. He knows that when he is pointing a finger at someone three fingers are pointing at him. So he understands that, yes, there is blame on both sides. It is not the fault of ONE if TWO are  quarreling and fighting.

This way the much needed impulse of self-betterment — trying to be better than what we criticize — enters the picture.

We move beyond the blaming attitude: “Why are you so stupid and violent!?” when we see the  violence in ourselves. Understanding that we are sitting in the same planetary boat the word “brotherly” becomes more than just euphonious sounding prattle.

Talk turns into walk.

Aim high!

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If you don’t want weeds, don’t water the (war) seeds

It can be daunting perhaps to follow my reasoning and my “peace map” building. But from a birds eye’s view there are simple things we can do. We can ask ourselves

“Water or not water?”

I am talking about the war seeds, the impulses that draw and attract us to conflict, confrontation and quarrel.

In heavier forms against direct violence, and war.

A simple but not easy (and very important) choice:  Shall  I water my war seeds, or not?

Introspection is part of the process. Trying to see clearly what is happening, where I put my energy.

If I imagine myself to be a peace-worker while furiously shouting angry slogans at peace demonstrations, something is amiss. I might work for peace (Venus), but my way of doing it is violent and Martian.

The means will color the goal, which will not be peaceful anymore.  A paradoxical, dissonant note is in the picture.

So don’t hate hate. That’s like trying to put out a forest fire with fire. The fire will just spread.

And don’t water the war seeds. That’s like watering and saying nice words to weeds.

Try to keep your garden clean and realize that YOU are probably the most important tree in your garden.

Dichotomies — the good, bad and the ugly

Touching, concerned  and always caring Facebook asks me:  How can we spy on you today?  I mean…What’s on your mind?

Dichotomies on my mind. Lots of them.

The basic idea of dichotomy:

To go left or right, that is the question.

Now we need to realize that there are good and bad dichotomies, positive and destructive, harmonizing and polarizing.

Some of the most popular ones — because they further well-known and much practiced agonistic energies, make it easier for us to quarrel (still one of mankind’s favorite sports) — are rich-poor, male-female.

These are polarizing dichotomies, creating tension and dissent.

With them we move further away from each other, stand in far off corners, view The Other through  military field glasses. Then we discharge our verbal missiles, tirades, accusations and complaints. This happens not least on social media where the temperature is always high, untempered by the presence of real bodies which usually add an element of decency and consideration.

In short, such dichotomies give us ammo so that we can continue ranting, shouting, accusing.

Rich-poor is complicated and one can, and should, argue that it is not wrong to reason in those terms. I agree.

Male-female is different and much more complicated.

Some suggest, with a big dose of populism, that “male” implies “rich” and “female” implies “poor”.  That depends on who is talking. Place a loud-voiced, high-heeled feminist beside some poor bastard from Gambia and take a good look at the picture. Two different kinds of poverty.

Now I am myself starting to heat up and become polarized. That’s exactly what we don’t want, so let me just say that there are much better dichotomies than male-female .. if we want to move forward towards benign harmony rather than malignant (but FUN!) discord.

And that’s a rather big IF.

Let us turn eastward.

While we in the West talk about gender and men vs. women our oriental sisters and brothers talk about Yin and Yang. It’s a different planet of thought! Just look at the Yin Yang symbol.

To begin with, it is round. Not a square or rectangle.

It has two halves, kind of,  but they are curvy and flowing, not boxy. They look like playful fishes chasing each other. No straight lines anywhere.

What is more, they contain their opposites.; the white “fish” has a black part and the black a white. So even thought it looks black and white there is also grey here.

These aspects already defuse polarization and black/white thinking. They say in effect: “You contain your opposite and shadow”.

To glance for a moment into the political domain, I find it interesting, and significant, to see how much RAGE Donald Trump has aroused by saying something very basic like “there is blame on both sides”.

Why is this not popular? For many reasons, but one root reason I believe is our lack of Yin-Yang thinking plus our love of black-white thinking. We just don’t well understand what is round, and love what is square too much.

In this transformation of Yin and Yang have already turned more “Western”, more stiff, immobile, with more sharp, hurting corners.

The next step is the home base, our bad old, all to familiar camp fire.
THIS is our most used dichotomy. No roundness, no shared opposites, no fishes,  no forgiving! Just two enemies facing each other in black and white.

Going back to the round Yin and Yang we can also imagine it as a coiffure.

What is also interesting is that Yin and Yang turn into each other. Yin starts small, in a careful way, then grows bigger and bigger until it turns into its opposite.

Well, not opposite. This is another great thing. Yin and Yang don’t oppose, they complement.

Does my right hand oppose my left? No…

Is my opposable thumb the enemy of my other four fingers? No…

Those are really stupid questions. But they are only stupid because in some areas we understand the flow of Yin and Yang and how they help each other. In other areas, we don’t.

And don’t even WANT to.

If we are honest, we have to admit that a part of us ENJOYS polarization – Enmity – Opposition – Strife – Battle – Quarreling – Debating.

Polarizing is FUN! That’s the war-cry of this part of us.

Another part wants peace, harmony and co-operation. But that part has to live together with the fight-enjoying, belligerent part.

This is not so strange, and even not so bad. What is regrettable is that the parts don’t know each other. It’s like Yang not knowing that it has a Yin spot, and vice versa.

WHITE, let’s say “the good guys” (supposedly totally without blame) don’t know their black side, and usually BLACK (the “crooks”) never hear about their white side.

[A very interesting reflection about the black called “psychopathy” is found in THIS VIDEO.]

There is a wonderfully saying that I loved long before I understood it. Its very sound, so musical, charmed me.

“There but for the grace of God go I.”

It’s a fascinating, mysterious sentence, and now I have also learned what it means.

Look at that poor bastard there in the street. It could have been me, if I didn’t had been more lucky in life. His fate could have been mine..

No, life and success and happiness is not just about luck. It also takes intelligence and wisdom.

But realizing that we who see ourselves as “white” (on the inside, not talking about skin color here) also have “black” in us, that we are actually, colorwise, GREY,  and that life is more like fishes waxing and waning than a rectangle, and finally that we probably enjoy violence and opposition more than we think — ALSO takes intelligence and feeling.

So let us use our intelligence for differentiating between benign, harmonious dichotomies and belligerent, polarizing ones.

Even if, or precisely BECAUSE the latter often are more exciting and enjoyable.

Harmonize or polarize?

How to spell Peace – part I

Of course everybody can spell “peace”. Five letters, 2xe, 1xp, 1xa, 1xc.

But that is just the word “peace”. I mean the reality PEACE, not the word.

Seems to me that most of us can spell both the word war and war itself.

War to me is a spectrum. Just as WARM can be anything from say 20 degrees to 60 degrees Celcius and more,  WAR has also gradations.

There is a very neutral state between peace and war, both peace and war, neither peace and war.

But as things heat up (listen to the language) neutral moves into more hot, and hotter still. Finally it is red hot and we burn our fingers.

I call the three gradations of war “Agon” (neutral), “Antiagon” or “Antagonism” (warm) and “Agony” (hot). (Agon is Greek for battle, contest.)

The last stage Agony is practically “war in bloom”, what we usually think of as war:  people battling each other, bombs, shooting, missiles, torture, blood, killing.

When I say that everybody knows how to spell war I don’t mean that everybody is a soldier, shooting and killing others. I mean that the milder states of the war-complex, mainly “Antagonism”, is something we all know and practice (in different forms and at different levels).

What then is “Antagonism”? By that word I mean a energetic, most often emotional, relation between parties – people or groups – where we for a time become contestants, opponents, even mildly enemies.

This happens in many ways  and in many forms. However, all of them have a certain recognizable taste to them.

Again there is a scale. Antagonism can be two friends joking in a teasing way, pinching each other figuratively. The antagonistic energy can be there for seconds or minutes.

Or we have the domestic quarrel — small or large– going on all the time in the world. Maybe a big hurdle or just a question of who forgot to turn off the stove.

Or the debate (even feud) between two scientists, or really anybody — standing on different sides of a question. Each one defends his side, his point of view, and often becomes even more a believer in his faith because disputed by the other party.

Antagonism can be subtle, almost loving, more marked, a disturbing irritation (as when somebody we like says something unkind to or about us (“How could he say that…??”) and, moving to Agony, actually violent.

Very few of us are total strangers to antagonism. A number of us are also familiar with Agony, the more gruesome stages of the energy.

That is why I say that we can all spell “W-A-R”.

What would it then mean to spell peace?

To a large degree, to be able to neutralize and stay away from war in its many forms and disguises. To really recognize Antagonism and put out its fire. Or lets say — before you think that I am talking about denying conflict – to tire of and leave behind pyromanic tendencies.

To stoke on the fire of Antagonism, to water the war seeds, different ways of saying the same thing: We are moving away from harmony, towards conflict

From Harmonize to Polarize.

(As to “rights” and why that word drags down peace work, see this article.)

I don’t mean that conflicts should be denied or given euphemistic names.  I just think we should upgrade our questions, from “Who is right?” and “Can I not demand my own rights!!” to “How can I be better than what I criticize?”

Conflicts look very different seen from the vantage point of these different questions. Wanting to be right is a very different impulse than wanting to be better.  (Better than who? Yourself yesterday.)

If there is very short advice leading peacewards this might be it:


This could be one letter of peace. Now we are starting to spell the reality, not just the word.

If trying to improve ourselves is a step towards peace, slogans like “hate hate!” typify the opposite direction, making us MORE like what we criticize.

Here is an insidious, thus dangerous war seed — namely the impulse to see ourselves as entities already being right, having nothing to LEARN and everything to TEACH.

The premise is that in some mysterious way we have gotten (cheaply) tickets to the section of life’s theater called The Right Side. Those we disagree with, criticize, attack and wage war against are sitting not on the Left Side but on the WRONG SIDE.

A current example of this is people who are shocked, indignant and furious because Donald Trump has made a statement about “blame on both sides”. Something one would have thought to be a truism. Not so, it seems.

Enough! That was today’s spelling lesson.

–To sum up: As long as we take it totally for granted that we understand peace — without actually looking at the function and dynamics of harmonious and polarizing tendencies  — we will just repeat ourselves, going through the same old (more or less antagonistic) movements as before.

The spelling of war we well (TOO WELL) understand. With the spelling of peace we are beginners.

A musical map of peace, part 7

Time to wrap things up. No need to go into all kinds of details, there will be time for chiseling and polishing later.

Summing it up:

  1. There are two “halves” to the map, a left side and a right side. Two keywords for Left and Right: Conflict and Concord.
  2. In the outer corners, war in bloom and peace in bloom.
  3. The left side is much more known, explored and experienced than the right. We know a lot about war, competition and conflict but what does “peace in bloom” mean…?
  4. In the center, a neutral pair of “twins”: Agon/ and Concert.
  5. From this center we move into antagonism and violence towards the left, into consonance, music and friendly concord towards the right.
  6. The right half needs much study and thought. In music we are just as familiar with consonance as with dissonance: in general everyday life consonance and harmony are not well understood.
  7. In a way, war is also not well understood, if you allow for intermediate stages like “crypto-war” and “war-seeds”. (All of this is about the left side.)
  8. We are used to define peace with strong elements of war present. (Power of balance = weapon based peace.) Let us now define it with elements of music.

These are the parts of the map:

CENTER: Agon/Concert

LEFT SIDE: War in bloom – Agony – Antagonism-

RIGHT SIDE: Musica subliminalis (mirroring, bonding, entrainment)- Musica instrumentalis (music making)- Musica humana (harmonious living in everyday life)- Peace in bloom

As you can see the left side is immediately understandable even by a small child, while the right side needs much explanation and clarification.

My understanding is that we know so much more about “left” than “right” = are better at quarreling than listening, competing than cooperating, disagreeing than finding common harmony, hanging out in the War room than in the Peace room.

Phew, I now the declare the map finished, at least ready enough to be used.

What follows from now on will be clarifications in practical contexts. The adventure continues in the same galaxy, but in a more musical key hopefully…

Why Venus?

People ask me about this project: What’s with Venus…?

They look a bit suspiciously at me, as if I wasn’t reliable, just making up fantasies about peace. Or maybe they think it’s some kind of science-fiction fairy-tale.

Others ask:  “Are you a real Venusian?” (No comment.)

So I guess I should address these doubts and this suspicion. Why DID I bring Venus into the picture, what’s Venus got to do with peace?

First question first.

I brought Venus, or rather Venusian qualities and concepts (harmony, beauty, love, music, balance, art, etc.) into the picture because, as I see it, peace is a rather empty word. It is like an almost empty handbag. It looks great and wonderful from the outside, but there’s not much in it.

Many people say that peace is / should be more than absence of war — i.e. something negative — but I lack a clear picture of WHAT MORE.

What more should peace mean, what should we fill our handbag with?

My suggestion: Venusian qualities. Partly because they are the counterweight to war (Mars is the bringer of war, Venus of peace), and partly because the Venusian qualities are not just lofty (as many ideas of peace are) but also enjoyable.

I see it as very important that peace should be both active and enjoyable if it is to compete with  the warlike energies in our world.

War is certainly active, well-financed, well organised, done with (sometimes devilish) intelligence.

Enjoyable it isn’t, in the sense that nobody wants to be shot at or bombed. However, if we look at the bigger picture, all the different activities pertaining to war and violence (movies, books, plays. computer games, constant mass media coverage of conflicts, killings, etc.) receive much more attention and interest than activities of peace.

I sometimes write on When you launch a text there you add keywords and can see how many people have subscribed to that subject.

Peace: 4k.
War: 7k

Or let’s search Google.

Peace, around 907 000 000 hits.
War , around 2 140 000 000 hits. 

So war wins! Definitely our interest if not our hearts.  (And what gets our interest gets our energies.)

You might call this anecdotal; I see it as a clear sign of where our attention and energy go.

Peace as an absence  — in spite of the well meaning intention that peace should be more than something negative,  peace is still often defined as “Freedom from disturbance, cessation of war or violence” — just isn’t very interesting. War, in spite of its horrible aspects, catches our hearts and minds much more easily.

Second question: What’s Venus got to do with peace?

Far too little! That’s why I am launching this project, to bring them nearer to each other…
So that they can fecundate and pollinate each other. Often. Sure, we can have peace festivals and events of different kinds, but peace needs to be part of everyday life, not just a holiday or feast day.

Bringing Venus into the picture is also a way to try to balance the global tendency of solving problems with violence.

“If we have enough weapons on both sides nobody will dare to shoot first…”

This is called “balance of power”, but has very little to do with Venusian balance.

This weapon-based, almost war-based thinking is very primitive. The impulse is still to kill, dominate, oppress, but we stop ourselves… by rearmament! It is as if Dr Jekyll tried to be a moral and honest man by turning more TOWARDS, not away from, Mr Hyde.

I hope you can see the paradox in this kind of weapon-based peace. My suggestion is: let’s upgrade to something better, something truly peaceful.

If we want peace Venus is our planet. Not Mars.

Building a peace map