Recently I wrote a short biography to accompany a guest post of mine on another blog. After establishing my history as a military veteran, political science major, and erstwhile opinion columnist, I wrote this: “Today he runs from politics and conflict, and leans in to things of peace and beauty.”
It’s a true statement but I stumble over it when I read it now. With everyone and everything seemingly at war with everyone else these days (or at least in conflict), is my stance appropriate? Am I displaying gross privilege in thinking I can avoid the conflict of the day and live in peace?
Perhaps these days are no different from past decades or centuries. Perhaps with social media and instant “news” we’re simply hyper aware of the yelling, the finger-pointing, the need to fight this thing or that thing, the calls to boycott this thing or that thing, the battle cries to fight this faction or that faction. It’s seemingly everywhere, every day, every hour, whether at the local level or higher, whether left or right, male or female, black or white, gun or no gun, … And the current thing to be fighting against changes by the minute.
By nature I’m one to avoid conflict. But I know in reality one has to navigate conflict in daily living, from work settings to family to other things. I understand I can’t avoid all conflict. However, the idea that we have to be constantly fighting everything is wearying and, I sometimes think, unproductive because the volume never lowers.
I’ve seen many posts or interviews where people chastise those who don’t fight, fight, fight. I get it…each issue is important to certain groups. Sometimes the calls to fight insinuate that those who don’t or won’t fight a particular issue live in privilege or denial or think these things don’t affect them. I get that too but, in my case, I’ve had former colleagues and friends killed in mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and war. I’ve also had friends working toward peace in this world lose their lives to armed violence. I understand the reality of our clear and present dangers. I suspect everyone has or knows someone who’s been affected by the physical, mental, and spiritual tragedies of our day. My desire to avoid conflict and live with peace and beauty does not mean I turn a blind eye to the reality of our tumultuous times. Rather, I wonder if we can exist for long as individuals or a society at such a fever pitch? Collectively it seems we’re so riled up all the time that there’s no time to breathe, lower our pulse, and listen to each other. It seems it will all explode soon or very soon.
I don’t have the answers. The issues are real. I can’t fight everything. I don’t want to fight everything because most issues are nuanced, even if collectively we see each issue with only binary answers.
At the beginning of this year I wrote my first guiding principle for the year as: Be quiet. It’s not an easy task and one I fail at constantly. But I renew my commitment daily to being quiet, to listening instead of always reacting, whether it be on a small scale at work or home, or a large scale when reacting to news of each day in my town, state, country, and world. Listening is my only hope to navigate the fever pitch of the day and hopefully hearing or learning new things. It’s what I mean when I say, “Today he runs from politics and conflict, and leans in to things of peace and beauty.”