Peace is one of those big words. Especially as the choppy surface of the little pond that is Kingston, Jamaica, has barely calmed. It can be easily ruffled, again, and perhaps it will. And we have a Peace Management Initiative. Can we really manage peace, one wonders.
I was inspired to write this by an email I received from Professor Anne C. Bailey, creator of a Peace Farm and Park in St. Mary, Jamaica. If you want to contact her, you can find the Peace Farm on Facebook; or you can look for her in Jack’s River, Oracabessa. I have also added a couple of links on this page. It is an organic farm and an eco-tourism resort. Its logo is a doctor bird with an olive branch in its curving beak – a sort of local version of the peace symbol.
Peace means something different to everyone. To Anne, it is the deep quiet of simple, rural Jamaica. Nothing pretentious, just a space to contemplate and breath, listen to the wind in the trees. Day-dreaming is a peaceful occupation, and much under-rated.
Peace that comes from within is something we all struggle to find. Is that what some of us seek in organized religion, in yoga lessons, in transcendental meditation? Something like a glimpse into a shaded oasis of silence and rest; a deep limpid pool that we may find hidden away in the confused,dark tangled undergrowth of our lives.
But I ask this question in all seriousness: when we have attained peace, what do we do with it? Is peace an end in itself? Or is it easier for us just to put it on a shelf and admire it – revere it even, for its own sake – and hand out a Peace Prize once a year? Is it rather like romantic love – once you have found it, what next? Does it continue as an integral part of our existence; or after a while, do we put it in a frame and hang it on the wall instead?
This may be a cynical view. The Petchary loves peace as much as the next person. However, we need to distil this big word, to remove it from the abstract. Perhaps, as much as anything, it means the absence of some things – for some people, no more angry street fights, roadside bombs, burning barricades, sudden gunfire at night.
Or just the absence of noise. Silence has a lot to do with it.
But perhaps now we can hope for peace, even in Kingston. Or, at least, for normality as we know it…loud-music cars passing by, boys pushing handcarts, girls going for a night out, men sipping their “whites” (white rum) in poorly-lit bars, weed-whackers squealing on uptown lawns.
That’s what we on this island call peace.
And I am returning to the Irish poet W.B. Yeats, who wrote of his own personal peace in solitude:
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree/And a small cabin built there, of clay and wattles made/Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee/And live alone in the bee-loud glade./And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow/Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings/There midnight’s all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow/And evening full of the linnet’s wings. I will arise and go now, for always night and day/I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore/While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray/I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
And, I know it’s a cliche, but John Lennon did say he wanted us to…