Hopeful pearls for peace

Dec 29, 2023

In these sad, anxious times, pearls of hope are rare and truly valuable. Thankfully, here are a couple to contemplate…

In 1988 a group of Israeli and Palestinian women got together and did something extravagantly unlikely: they founded a peace movement. Women In Black. Regularly standing together in sombre clothes, their silent vigil sent out a gentle, friendly message of hope across the world.

‘We are silent because mere words cannot express the tragedy that wars and hatred bring. Our silence is visible. We invite women to stand with us.

‘We wear black as a symbol of sorrow for all victims of war, for the destruction of people, nature, and the fabric of life.’

The Women In Black network soon spread to many countries. More than twenty years ago its message reached Armidale, my hometown on the Northern Tablelands of NSW. Ever since then, on the last Saturday of each month, outside the old Courthouse in the centre of town a group of women have stood in silent WIB vigil. For peace.

Gratefully we tune in to those Palestinian and Israeli women who are calmly refusing to sneer or snarl at one another. Or, of course, to even think of squinting down a gun barrel …

It was involvement in Women in Black that first alerted me to my second pearl: Jewish Voice for Peace. Though not Jewish myself, years of supporting them have meant I’m privileged to be considered a member. JVP has always been passionate in demanding ‘solidarity with the Palestinian freedom struggle, guided by a vision of justice, equality, and dignity for all people’.

“We fight for the liberation of all people. We believe that through organizing, we can and will dismantle the institutions and structures that sustain injustice and grow something new, joyful, beautiful, and life-sustaining in their place.

We picture the return of Palestinian refugees, reuniting with their families and communities. We picture Palestinians — from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea — living with their inalienable rights respected, building schools and hospitals and planting olive groves with the resources they need.

We imagine Jewish Israelis joining Palestinians to build a just society, rooted in equality rather than supremacy, dignity rather than domination, democracy rather than dispossession — a society where every life is precious.”

Who could honestly object to mild, gentle groups of WIB standing together in a vigil for peace? Or Jewish voices raised in a plea for harmony, brotherhood and sisterhood?

Sadly, it’s obvious that neither longed-for goal has yet been achieved…

So now for a far more unusual step towards the growth of a third pearl. You might well roll your eyes sceptically to hear it. (They do say some scratchy irritation in a shell is helpful for triggering the genesis of new pearls!)

On 29 December 2023, from 80 countries all around the world, 10,000 practitioners of Transcendental Meditation’s advanced techniques will descend on Hyderabad in India. Outside the city a vast tent encampment awaits them. The aim is simple, utterly natural––but, you might think, wildly over-the-top radical.

World peace. To coax, for two short weeks, a real, statistically measurable change in human behaviour––hopefully worldwide. Over the years statistics from smaller groups of TM meditators have appeared in numerous peer-reviewed publications. Fewer bombings, murders, robberies, accidents… More genuine, identifiable statistics showing the benefits to society of large group meditations.

Because by diving deep into our own consciousness, scientific evidence shows we are in fact diving into the deepest levels of the material world: there, silently, to act. Max Planck, the Nobel laureate regarded as the “father of quantum physics”, said ‘I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative of consciousness.’ And Arthur Eddington, who provided experimental evidence of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, said ‘The stuff of the world is mind-stuff.’

So calling all statisticians! The graver, more serious the better. Even sceptical, dyed-in-the-wool cynics are welcome!

Your scepticism might even act as the irritant foreign substance, the grain of sand in the oyster shell, that triggers the growth of a pearl. Then, hopefully, a soothing flood of them…

We’ll soon see! Let the evidence be judged!

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