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Is Peace What We All Want?

Often, we seek non-relationship, the desire to sever connections by a violent annihilation of those we call “enemy.” Can peace ever be reached this way?

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A recent New York Times review of The Good Spy told the story of Robert Ames, a CIA operative who died 30 years ago. Much of Ames’ career was spent in the Middle East, including Lebanon, where “he grew close to Ali Hassan Salameh . . . , a member of the inner circle around Yassir Arafat. Ames treated him as a friend and source rather than as an ‘agent’ or paid spy.” Salameh was killed by Israeli intelligence because of his involvement with the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The author of The Good Spy argues that the relationship between Ames and Salameh provided a back channel for negotiations between the U.S. and the PLO.

What might have been the outcome of a continued relationship between the two men? The successful Camp David Accords concluded in 1978 and the momentum toward peace was in the air. But, just one year later, a promising relationship died with the killing of Salameh and so did a possible turn toward understanding.

In So Far From Home, Margaret Wheatley, expert on organizational systems theory, categorically states:

“Of course we’re entangled. In this universe, relationships are all there is, . . . . At the quantum level, an elementary particle isn’t visible until it collides with another particle, energy meeting energy. In biology, the concept of a solitary individual doesn’t exist—some other discipline made that up. New biology studies the natural world for its ecosystems of inter-onnectedness, for relationships. . . . Nothing living lives alone. We are all bundles of potentiality that manifest only in relationship. . . We can’t be creative or discover new capacities unless we are in a relationship with something outside our self—another person, an idea, a place or situation. We are not self-made individuals. We are creations of entanglement, becoming and changing through relationships.”

I forget how old I was when I learned of the prototypical relationship, that of the Trinity in which the love between the Father and the Son creates the person of the Holy Spirit. This basis of all connection ought to be the holy energy that animates the Church. Certainly, in the person of Pope Francis, it does. But during the time of the recent investigation of religious women, was the concept of relationship ever considered by the important members of the hierarchy who initiated it? Were the persons involved connected in holy mutuality or were “sides” created—one side to give orders, the other to obey without question?

I think of relationships often when I listen to a politician, especially of the John McCain type, who advocates more “boots on the ground” in the Middle East. Actually, what I think of at those times is non-relationship, the desire to sever connections by a violent annihilation of those we call “enemy.” To make this enemy into non-being. Can peace ever be reached this way? Peace is what the evolutionary universe wants. But is peace what we all want? This is not ever to deny that war and violence are characteristics of our time. And the temptation is always there to deal with the dark side in a direct and destructive way.

But that doesn’t make it the human way. The human way is to become, in Margaret Wheatley’s term, warriors of the spirit, allowing our relationships to be permeated with compassion and insight.

She states that in the midst of all the struggles of our 21st century, “there is joy because we humans are meant to be together, we are together, we were never separated. . . . In the worst times of loss and grief, when everything has been swept away, we’re still here. We have not lost our compassion or intelligence. We’re still together, just humans, being.”

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Written by Sister Marianne Watts

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