What is Peace?

Martin Luther King Jr. says we must plan for peace as much as we have planned for war. In Planning for Peace, I consider how far we are, at the intersection of 2023 and 2024, from being planned for peace. By highlighting war and violence, I do little to understand and explain how MLK’s proclamation, that we “must use our minds as rigorously to plan for peace as we have used them to plan for war,” can be realized.

I wanted to first recognize obstacles along the path of peace before progressing on it. Just as I scan for hazards before driving out of a parking spot, I need to be mindful of the physical environments and mental atmospheres in which I am thinking, feeling, and acting towards peace. Now, with striving awareness of my context, I’ll work to understand and explain how the content of MLK’s demand can be met.

MLK said we must use our minds to plan for peace. Our minds - not our hands, elbows, knees or feet. Our minds - not even our hearts! The mind is the organ to guide us in our hike towards peace. Still, the heart matters. Thinking (with our minds) and feeling (with our hearts) for ourselves, and for others, are both needed to experience peace. 

I think our minds matter most in the project for peace because if we know peace is what we are feeling, then we will be more likely to embrace and sustain it. So, let’s start the study: 

What is peace? How can peace be understood and experienced?

Peace, especially world peace, feels impossible to achieve if it’s thought about as a utopian status quo of love and non-violence; idyllic and improbable to bring about in our ever-crowding planet. So, what does peace look like in our own individual lives? In our daily habits of mind, body, and heart?

Earth’s peace scholars help widen and deepen our understanding of peace. They offer visions of and vocabulary for peace that lets peace, at least personal peace, feel more relatable and practical. This is important because, as they argue, world peace is only possible if each of us as individuals practices and maintains inner peace.

To better understand and communicate what peace is, from personal denotations to political connotations, I have created a peace pyramid. After viewing this pyramid, I hope peace feels a little more compelling and closer than you thought. Peace is accessible and it is awesome. Peace can be experienced as an emotion, an action, a state of mind, and so much more. The more we know peace, the more we can feel it. 

Future blogs will focus on each part of the pyramid. Like Drake, we are going to start from the bottom and work our way to the top. To prime your thoughts and feelings towards peace, here are some quotes to accompany each piece of the pyramid.

"Compassion is the foundation of peace, both in the world and in our hearts." - Thich Nhat Hanh

“Kindness strikes a resonance with the depths of your own heart; it also suggests that your vulnerability, though somehow exposed, is not taken advantage of; rather, it has become an occasion for dignity and empathy.” - John O’Donohue

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a permanent attitude.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it." - Mahatma Gandhi

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” - Jimi Hendrix

“Only through compassion and inner peace, can one spread peace in the world. Inner peace leads to a peaceful individual and then this peaceful individual can build a peaceful family, then a peaceful community, then a peaceful world.” - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

"Compassion leads to inner peace, which in turn fosters world peace." - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama