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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Sermon



I begin this sermon without particular aim, which may not sound sensible. However, experience teaches, it is prudent not to make overmuch sense because it annoys people. What experience?

In 1969, I was sharing a house near the college, on Deeble Street, with three other students. I woke late on a Sunday morning to rock music blasting from the communal stereo in the dining room. I looked about for my clothes until finding I was wearing them and shuffled out to investigate. The French doors giving onto the patio had been thrust open. Coffee and conversation was underway. My housemates were having a lively discussion about the future of the peace movement --which vitally concerned us all.

I shut off the stereo. There was immediate and general protest.

To which I replied: "Ten feet off our door is a Deeble. Ten feet off that, yet another Deeble and so on. This is an old and closely clustered street. No one who inflicts a disturbance that loud upon neighbors has any idea of what peace is, or the least interest in it."

I was roundly declared a self-righteous et cetera --which, of course, I was. I anwered with a quote from Bertrand Russell, a hero who --at the time-- still had a year's work ahead: " ' All movements go too far.' " -- then poured myself some coffee and repaired to my room.

By habit, I flipped on the light switch as I walked in, then remembered. When I had just turned four years old, my eight-year-old brother, Frankie, and I shared a room. One night, I was flipping the light switch on, off, on and off and he asked what I was doing. I replied, "When I shut off the lights, nobody else can see either, right?"

"Right."

"So, when I close my eyes and can't see, is it dark for everybody else too?"

"Yeah."

"Really?"

"Sure! Try it. Close your eyes."

"Ok, can't see. Can you?"

"Nope. Open your eyes so we can look at stuff."

Likewise, the peace movement sent me off to my own apartment where I could ponder such enigmatic questions that kept me awake when I should have been working. They are questions of another century but I am still plugging away at them. Indeed, in individual adjustment and raising new generations to a good idea, all movements go too far.
Good thing too. Go in peace.



24 comments:

  1. Your post aroused an old Cat Stevens lyric, that is now fully on in my head.
    "…been crying lately, thinking about the world as it is. Why must we go on hating, why can't we live in bliss? Cause out on the edge of darkness there rides a peace train. Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again."

    I was an innocent then. Still, what a great it would be.

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    1. Great lyrics. Great question. The Peace Train also provides a tour of the enigmas.

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  2. Some peace is more equal (and desirable) than other peace. And peace from noise is a much underrated joy.

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    1. Auditory assault from unnecessary noise is probably the most common violence we endure. Happily, I've gone rather deaf.

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  3. I fear you are correct in your observation that to make overmuch sense does indeed annoy people. The Peace Movement that you refer to is not something that impinged on my life in the UK. During my working life there were times when I found myself on the wrong end of trade union demonstrations. From those direct experiences, and from my observations before and since, I learned too much of the negative side of demonstrations and legitimate actions. I discovered a great deal about cynicism, hypocrisy, misguidance and ignorance, the wrong kind of self-interest, inappropriate use of power, and violence.

    I do mull over, still, the legitimate rights and wrongs of causes and what might be done to correct some very obvious injustices. But the one thing that always seems to surface is the apparent willingness of certain groups to indulge in violence for the sheer hell of it. I can find no answers. I suspect there are none, and that changes will occur as they will. Even then, I wonder how deep the changes run, and how much we are simply storing up trouble by papering over the cracks. Society itself also has its tectonic fault lines.

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    1. Sometimes the best we can do is paper over the cracks, until enough people are impelled to make positive personal adjustments. It can take generations for society to get rid of a bad idea. I have participated in civil disobedience but never violent demonstration, which is self-defeating.

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  4. To impose peace may take a little violence...certainly a lot of noise. It seems no one, not even the peaceful among us, likes to be told what to do.

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    1. As a pacifist, I agree grudgingly but agree none-the-less. But there must, in addition to loud civil disobedience, be an ethical plan to restore and maintain peace.

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  5. Or as John Lennon said, "Imagine all the people living life in peace".

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    1. If we can reclaim government by discussion instead of government by obstruction, I think Lennon's dream has a fair chance.

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  6. Thanks to headphones, which have improved greatly since the 60s, we can now all have our own separate peace...

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    1. Noise-canceling headphones, like those from Radio Shack and Bose, are truly a boon. It feels like a little vacation from the clamor.

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  7. The pendulum always swings to the outside. I'm hoping it gets back toward the center damn skippity, or we're in for crazy interesting times.

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    1. Oh, Austan, I can rely upon you to show where resistance is needed --and with a delightful turn of phrase too!

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  8. Be the change you want to see in the world- I am fairly sure that was Ghandi's quote- it works for me. It involves no violence to any of the senses. If I were inclined to inflict my views on others I have some good martial arts training but the more I learn about the damage that's available the less I want to use it. If that's how the pendulum theory works it works good.

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    1. I must consider the job of a pendulum in a clock. Its motion governs the escapement cog in a single timepiece, which in turn must be adjusted and coordinated with all clocks everywhere or its purpose is defeated generally. Your point is valid. Government by intimidation and belligerence is the product of maladjustment and cultural involution.

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  9. I sure remember "Peace Train" and Cat Stevens (but, heck, I'm not old....). Brilliantly conceived post, as usual, Geo. I'm trying to catch up on reading blogs - - but it's not easy typing my comments on this annoying laptop.
    it's good to be back in Blogland.

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    1. Kind Jon, Thank you. Of course you're not old but that doesn't keep me from wishing you a happy birthday on your new mountain. We Decemberites find each other across the darndest distances. Welcome back.

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  10. You painted the picture quite succinctly with the line about looking for your clothes until you realized you were wearing them. Reminds me a bit of my college roommate...

    In 1969, my husband was serving as a grunt in Vietnam, so my perspective on those times may be a little different than yours, except for the most important part... PEACE. How we longed for peace then; how we long for peace now. "When will they ever learn...?"

    Marry Christmas to you and your loverly family, dude.

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    1. My heroes were in and out of the service back then, as they still are. But as to clothes, during my working years I learned to whistle a certain way in the morning and my clothes would crawl out of drawers and closet and climb onto my body. Dudes can do that. Happiness and peace to you and yours this season too!

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  11. Hi Geo - peace ... we could all live in peace and harmony: what bliss that would be. I love my 'brain space' as I call it .. just switching off from the world around me ... and also stepping out and 'smelling the roses'

    So much we could do ... have a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas week .. Hilary

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    1. Hi Hilary, Yes, "brain space" --that's where peace begins. Best wishes of the season to you too!

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