Maintaining hope

Deepak Chopra, in Peace Is the Way, is incredibly optimistic. He believes that, first and foremost, the way of peace begins with each individual becoming a peacemaker:

All you are asked to do is to go within and dedicate yourself to peace… The single best reason to become a peacemaker is that every other approach has failed. No one knows what the critical mass must be before peace becomes the foundation of a new order; your duty and mine is to bring about change by personal transformation.

His words carry the conviction that a worldwide transformation to peace will come about (and can only come about) through a critical mass of people who each individually decide to follow the way of peace. This attitude is very convincing and very hopeful, and I believe in it. Most of the time. Sometimes, however, it is so hard to remain hopeful in the face of all the negative, violent things that you read about every day. For example, in the January issue of Ms. Magazine, there was an excerpt from the book My Life as a Traitor, by Zarah Ghahramani. The excerpt was about her experience being tortured, and it was awful to read. She describes ultimately giving the torturer what he wants and how she feels that she is betraying herself:

These are the tears you weep when you discover that your fear of peace is stronger than your convictions. These are the tears you cry when you hate yourself. Dear God, I’d always believed that I’d be so much stronger, that I’d resist and resist until death if need be. But it’s not true. It’s not true. I am not the person I hoped I would be.

Reading things like this dearly tests my hope. How can I maintain belief that peace is possible when there are people in the world who can treat other human beings with such cruelty? And when that cruelty breaks the one being tortured? I do not have a answer to this question. In this case, I think reading the entire book may be more hopeful than reading just this one excerpt. Zarah did eventually escape, after all. Regardless of whether this book is hopeful or not, though, I think it is important that these sorts of exposures exist. One way to maintain hope in the face of reading such awful things is to believe that other people who read it will experience sympathy and compassion for Zarah, understanding in a deep emotional level how terrible her treatment was. If people can have such feelings and allow themselves to be aware of them and listen to them, then there is hope. Ultimately, this does come back to Chopra’s words, and to the need for each person to choose the way of peace. I can hope that reading about the experiences of a young woman who was tortured may be the trigger that motivates some people to become peacemakers.

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