Peace beyond

Sprouts find their way through the bullet holes in an old refrigerator in North Georgia.
Sprouts find their way through the bullet holes in an old refrigerator in North Georgia.

As you read this I’ll be heading up above Yosemite hiking into John Muir’s cathedral. Kevin Barnett invited me to bring my pack along with him and some friends into places where there are more bears than people and way more granite than concrete. John Muir considered this his greatest cathedral. I need one of those.

These have been astonishing and shocking days of violence from every unpronounceable part of the world and some down the street. Strong people choke and look away. But dare we look away? For to do so would also miss the astonishment of the nurses staying with the ebola patients. I honor the doctors, of course, but can hardly imagine the commitment of the janitors and housekeepers there even more dramatically at risk, living out the radical dignity of the sanitation workers Dr. King honored with his own life in Memphis. Who are the humans standing in the violent gap in the Ukraine? If you look at where ISIS is most triumphant, you will also find quiet decisions of integrity and witness not unlike Anne Frank. So it is wherever life is mocked. There exactly is where to look for the quiet witness of those who do not look away.

This plant--a beautiful weed--does not understand proper behavior around rocks. It just finds a way.
This plant–a beautiful weed–does not understand proper behavior around rocks. It just finds a way.

There is no understanding of peace and the things that make for peace if  you only mean a list of things to do and not do, a list of things for which there is evidence and logic. I always thought—because I always thought a lot—that peace would pass understanding. But peace does not transmit it in the sense it makes it explainable. Peace does not contain or hold understanding. It literally passes—goes beyond and draws us beyond—understanding. The failures of courage that express themselves in silence or violence are understandable. The peace that goes beyond silence, that does not look away from–but also does not return—violence passes beyond understanding.

I am beginning to grasp that the path to release and peace and power is precisely giving up the hubris of instrumental understanding in favor of grace, kindness, forgiveness and trust that good will come for all out of integrity and truth. That’s what I’m praying for, not answers.

I am not going to miss CNN and the 24-hour web news flood for the next few days. But in walking where Muir saw so clearly into the hopeful heart of wonder, I do move with a spirit as open as any knee-crawling saint/sinner pilgrim ever walked the El Camino.


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Professor, Faith and the Health of the Public, Wake Forest University School of Divinity. NC Certified Beekeeper Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. God and the People: Prayers for a Newer New Awakening. Secretary Stakeholder Health. Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative

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