I love the trend of Little Free Libraries, the anonymous bookstands that pop up in neighborhoods. You never know what you will find there. I always check them out and usually come home with something unexpected.
My latest find was John Knowles’ A Separate Peace (Bantam Books, 1959). When I started the book, I wasn’t sure I would be able to relate to the characters. It’s about an East Coast academy for boys from wealthy families. It turned out, however, to be a layered depiction of the consequences of carrying a chip on your shoulder. People with something to prove end up getting entangled with the very thing they are trying to push away. The story subtly takes this theme through the characters’ internal struggles and expands it into relationships of all kinds––personal, social, community, national and even international. (It’s set at the beginning of WWII). A ‘separate peace’ is the calm of a life without those struggles.
We all have these kinds of challenges. They’re generated by the me-first part of our personality that craves attention and acceptance. We’ve all been harmed over our lifetime. Like trees in the forest we suffer drought, disease, storms. It can’t be helped. Life is happening. What can be helped is how those things affect us. Over time, we do our best with what we’ve got. We continue on, maybe even with a little more character and compassion than another tree that wasn’t damaged in the storm.
I can help myself in the creation of peace––for myself and others––by seeing those assaults as something that is an expression of the larger culture, not so personally directed at me. For example: as a female I have suffered a lot of sexist oppression in my life, including sexual assaults. I’m doing my best to heal those traumas, and I purposefully work to help other women not have those experiences, but I also see that most of it occurred because people don’t know how to behave any differently. I don’t have to forgive the behavior, but it really helps to be able to forgive the person, the society, the generation I was born into. It helps me not be a victim. If I can’t do that, I will just be creating battle scenes all around me. I will expend my life force fighting against things, instead of for things, instead of healing.
I didn’t see this earlier in my life. I do now. I’m ready for peace.