Note: I am cross-posting this at my other blog, Books and Other Miscellany.
I just finished Peace is the Way: Bringing war and Violence to an End, by Deepak Chopra, and wow, what a book. One of my first thoughts was, I wish I owned this book. I feel as if I may have read it too fast, and that it would be well worth re-reading parts of it. It is an incredibly inspiring and thought-provoking book. Chopra’s basic premise is that peace begins with individuals going through personal transformation to become peacemakers. As he says, “the prevailing idea is that war begins in each human heart and can only end there.” He believes that if enough individuals become peacemakers, then war can and will end:
The approach of personal transformation is the idea of the future for ending war. It depends on the only advantage that people of peace have over warmakers: sheer numbers. If enough people in the world transformed themselves into peacemakers, war could end. The leading idea here is critical mass. It took a critical mass of human beings to embrace electricity and adopt every major religion. When the time is right and enough people participate, critical mass can change the world.
Much of the book is therefore about how this personal transformation to being a peacemaker can come about. He probes deep into the many sides of war and violence. He addresses, among other things, the us versus them mentality, the myth of security, the belief that God is on our side, and the problem of toxic nationalism. Much of what he says I felt I already agreed with or had thought about, but he phrases things well and explores concepts as far as you can go with them. I saw many things in new ways or made new connections between concepts. One point that particularly sticks with me is, I think, at the heart of things: that violence grows out fear. This point came up in several different places and I think is absolutely crucial to understanding peace and violence and how to become a peacemaker. One aspect of the personal transformation necessary is therefore to confront and accept one’s own fear, rather than allowing it to remain buried, in the hopes that it will go away by itself. This concept does not apply only to individuals; countries at war also are fearful, but not willing to accept and admit to that fear, or to recognize that their “enemy” is also fearful.
Chopra talks quite a bit about spirituality, and in fact says (not quite in these words) that the way of peace is a spiritual way at its heart. This was a bit challenging to my scientific, analytical mind, but I was able to feel comfortable with his mentions of spirituality because he does not dictate what this spirituality looks like. I felt free to interpret the meaning of the word “spiritual” in a way that is consistent with the way I understand the world around me. I wanted to mention this because if you decide to read Peace is the Way but do not think of yourself as a “spiritual” person, I do not want you to be turned off by his discussions that touch on spirituality. There is a lot to get out of this book no matter whether you are religious or not.
One of the best things about this book is that it is a unique and refreshing perspective, and one that you can act upon immediately, by yourself, as an individual human being. I am starting now on being a peacemaker, and as part of that I started this blog. As Chopra says, “the single best reason to become a peacemaker is that every other approach has failed.”
Chopra’s optimism and hope is persuasive and contagious, and I cannot more highly recommend that you read Peace is the Way for yourself, as I have only touched on his many important points in this post.