This is a quiet moment after a day when I have felt like my brain was going to explode. It is after midnight, my partner is asleep upstairs, I’m at my desk, and Muddy is on my lap purring and requiring me not to stop petting her. Poor thing was in a fight with something earlier. I would say she won. Not a scratch on her, just the satisfied licking of paws, her claws spread to their full length. It’s kind of like watching a warrior clean blood off a blade. Muddy is one BAMF. A bamf who just wants me to scratch her ears for her. I am grateful for this moment of quiet. I needed it.
Peace Is Earned
I’ve been thinking recently about the nature of personal peace. What is it? What do we really mean when we say that we just want some peace? How do we get ir? How do we keep it?
I have always liked the versicles in church that involve peace. One of my favorites is, “The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” Even as I write it, I can hear the voice of my father speaking it in my ears, see his hand raised to bless the congregation at church, and I almost feel like I’m a kid again in church. No matter what church I am, I still respond to the mass like he’s saying it. I can recite the mass using his cadence and tone. After 20 years of listening to him say the mass, it is second nature to me and almost indistinguishable from his voice. His voice saying those words gives me peace.
The peace of God. That is the peace I strive for in my daily life. Think of God as the perfect example in everything. Does God let anything ruffle his feathers? Nope. His peace is eternal. No one can interrupt it or corrupt it. His peace cannot be changed into chaos. It is truly of such a permanent nature that we cannot comprehend it. In my own life, I have tried to strive to be… unflappable. I don’t surprise easily. I don’t outwardly seem to be flustered. Much of that may be a ruse to fool other people, but it is also a personal goal of mine to always convey at least an outward aura of peace and collectedness. My hope in doing so is not just to give some peace to others, but to give it to myself.
I am hardly ever peaceful. My brain is teeming with ideas and thoughts and insights at all times of my wakeful day. Even in sleep, I dream constantly. It’s like being in a school cafeteria at lunch time, except it’s always there for me. The noise, the movement, the energy – like millions of bees in a hive all living inside my head. And then there is life itself, which increasingly encroaches on my peace. At the end of the day, any time that I get to actually try and be at peace in both body and mind is a gift, a rare gift.
Still, you have to go through those days and all those thoughts to eventually get to any peace at all. It is a struggle, I know. But necessary no matter what. Without the struggle, peace would be far less valuable. Peace has to be earned to be truly appreciated.
The man who baptised my little brother was Father Reed. Then he was made a Canon of the church and became Canon Reed. He was very old and fragile, nearly blind, but always so happy. And just a little bit mischievous. When someone would ask him how he was doing today he would reply, “I’m whelmed.” If you didn’t know Canon Reed, you would ask, “Whelmed?” “You can be overwhelmed or underwhelmed, but I’m neither, so I figure I’m just whelmed.” That was dear old Father Reed. Content with the life God had given him and making jokes about it. You can see why after he was made a canon we would call him “Boom Boom.” He was just that kind of guy.
When was the last time you felt “whelmed?” Like you could handle everything you had to do in a day? I can’t remember the last time I felt that way. I would guess that I’m not the only person to feel that way. Life is so serious, so important, so big – I can’t imagine how anyone all by themselves could be able to handle the pressure.
I suppose that is why God thought it necessary to create a partner do Adam in the Garden. It wasn’t so they could create more humans to be overwhelmed with life. It was because “it is not good for man to be alone.” He has to have help.
Many Christians will say at this point that God is all the help you need. I don’t think even God thinks that is completely true. Sure, it’s supposed to be that way. But God also created other people for a reason. We’re supposed to be around to help each other. The Golden Rule is about just that. “Do unto others what you would have them do to you.” Life is about other people. And God has made it that way.
We’re all in this together. To go it alone is to be incomplete. I have tried for a very long time to stand alone, to not need anyone else, to be a monolith. I can’t do it. If my wife has taught me one thing, it is that being alone is not a way to live. Being with her has made me a better person. I’m not dependent on her, but I do depend on her. And I hope more than anything that she depends on me and that I deserve that. It is a privilege to be earned.
But living with people isn’t easy. I’m not easy to live with and sometimes she isn’t either. Sometimes living together and depending on each other isn’t a peaceful experience. There’s chaos everywhere – not just in the words that fly back and forth, but in the dishes left undone, the laundry left out, and the things not put away. Peace doesn’t happen naturally. It has to be made. And we have to make it ourselves.
I want to make peace together. I want to be your partner. Yes, you reading this. I want to be partners with you. Not romantically (sorry, I’m totally in love with her and I’m sure you’re nice, but she is amazing and I can’t give her up), but in the ways that all of humanity is partners with each other. This blog is one way. It’s one half of a conversation you and I are having. We may not always agree, but we can both be heard (comment!). But I also want to partner with you in other ways. I want to be conscious of each other and try to remember that no matter what we do, our choices affect others.
We’re all in this together trying to find a bit of peace for ourselves. We have to earn our peace, I know. But hopefully we can make the work a little easier on each other in the process. And in the meantime, remember to enjoy the small bits of peace we have. Like when the cat starts snoring on your lap. That’s a good bit of peace right there.