On a recent driving adventure, I came upon a perplexing and amusing bumper sticker. It read, "Peace through Victory". I saw the sticker and thought, "What the hell does that mean? Isn't that a complete contradiction?" I appreciate the goal of peace but I'm not sure victory has anything to do with it. Maybe I'm missing something. Please enlighten me if you know more about this expression. It did get me thinking though and here's what I came up with...
In her book "When Things Fall Apart," Pema Chodron poses an excellent question. "Every day we could think about the aggression in the world, in the United States, the Middle East, Africa, everywhere. All over the world, everybody always strikes out at the enemy, and the pain escalates forever. Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves, 'Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?' Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can ask ourselves 'Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?'" I would like to think that I choose peace, but I know that's not always what happens. When I choose to strike out, my goal is to win, my goal is "victory". Needing to win feels like the opposite of peace. Winning an argument is not an ease-ful situation and the outcome is not likely to be contentment on both sides. A fellow yoga teacher said something hilarious the other day that perfectly addresses this conundrum (peace or victory). She was talking about fighting with her husband and how he always tries to make her laugh while they're fighting to ease the situation. She said that instead of appreciating this, she thinks (and she's laughing while saying this because she knows it's crazy) "I'd rather be RIGHT than laugh and love you." I have that same feeling sometimes. I just want to be right. But that doesn't really get me anywhere, anywhere peaceful that is. It's more about serving my ego. And when a whole country wants to be right, it's a gigantic ego that is being served. An ego is afraid of being annihilated, but it is the death of the ego (the idea or image of who we are, the cloak or layer that conceals our hearts) that ultimately frees us and allows us to practice peace.
So back to the bumper sticker, instead of "Peace through Victory", I think it's more like "Peace OR Victory". Every moment that I am faced with a choice of winning/being right or responding compassionately in a way that will cultivate peace, I will try to choose the peace thing. It's not gonna be easy; it will require a lot of awareness and patience, but ultimately, the world will be a better place for it.