by Donna Henes
You know, there really is still a chance
for peace — and that chance will definitely increase
if we each do our piece. It is ultimately up to us, each
one of us, all of us, individually and together, to
create the kind of world in which we want to live —
starting right here, right now. Within the context of
our immediate lives, within the concentric circles of
our ordinary interactions.
I once gave a presentation in Washington, D.C. about
creating peace in our world and in our lives. During the
question and answer period, a woman commented that she
wished that she could drop her job and just devote
herself to working for peace." "What do you
do?" I asked her. "I’m a therapist,"
"Do the thing you believe in. Do the best you
can in the place where you are and be kind.
Myself, I have been on a Walk Your Talk Pilgrimage
since the threat of this terrible war became real. One by
one, I engage the people whose paths I cross: friends,
the UPS man, the guard at the bank, the waitress at the
coffee shop, the washing machine repairman. We engage in
these amazingly intimate, inspiring, sweetly profound
and empowering conversations that inevitably end in a
hug or an extra-firm handshake.
It is the individual human face in these terrible and
divisive times that I choose to focus on. I do not want
to lose track of the myriad emotional and spiritual
interconnections that people are capable of making —
with each other, with their own best selves and with the
greater universal good of all. This is, after all, how
peace is made.
This is actually my second pilgrimage for peace. I
did the same thing 18 months ago after 9-11. I took to
the streets to make face-to-face contact with people —
first, to see if I could be of any help, then to hear
what they had to say, and finally, to inject my own views
on the possibility for peace in a world gone mad.
On the one-week anniversary of the conflagration, I
went to visit the 2nd Fire Precinct in my neighborhood
to pay my respects for the 11 mortalities that they had
suffered. The neighboring community had blanketed the
sidewalk up and down the street with offerings of
flowers, candles, cakes, tears and messages — one
written on World Trade Center stationery and sent as a
thank you for saving his life on that fateful day of
I shook the hands of one traumatized but sturdy young
fire fighter and thanked him. I engaged his misting eyes
with my own and told him that I prayed that their
dedication and sacrifice would be the foundation of a
new way to live together in peace as a world community.
He locked my eyes and squeezed my hand and bit his
quivering lip. He had seen quite enough of war, thank
you very much.
Honoring the brave firefighters (and those
working alongside them) means dampening
the fires they were fighting, not adding fuel.
—Zot Lynn Szurgot
Living in New York City makes these interpersonal
pro-peace encounters somewhat easier, I think. Unlike
most people in this country, we have seen and felt first
hand the disastrous effects of terror and violence.
Though we did manage to live through it, its terrible
consequences — physical, emotional, social and
financial have remained. We have tasted war and it is
still bitter on our tongues. We have seen the putrid
smoke of hatred and destruction and most of us never
want to see it again. Nor do we wish to inflict it upon
At the bank I greeted the lobby guard as usual. I
asked him if he was ok. "Not really," he told
me as his eyes filled with tears. His stepfather had
been in the World Trade Center on that frightful day. He
escaped, but was shaken to the core. The guard (who I
talk to practically every day and whose name I am
ashamed to admit I do not know) said that he felt that
his step dad would never be the same, like some Vietnam
Vets whom he has known who will never be the same.
Then he confessed to me something remarkable.
Actually, it was the most profound thing that I have
heard anyone anywhere say on the subject of peace.
"I hate my uncle" he told me. "And I have
hated my uncle for so long that now I hate anyone who
looks like my uncle. ‘Why for you got to go look like
my uncle?" he quoted himself in his West Indian
lilt. "Now I have to hate you." He looked me
right in the eyes and said that he realizes now how
wrong that is. That he can no longer hate all uncle
look-alikes. That he is now even working on trying not
to hate his uncle.
Instead of loving what you think is peace,
love other men and women and love God
above all else. Instead of hating all the people
you think are warmongers, hate the appetites
and disorders in your own soul which are the
causes of war.
I recently received a call from a friend who was
feeling particularly despondent. Though she had attended
peace rallies, written letters, signed petitions, she
was frustrated at not having done enough to stop the
war. "What more can I do?" she lamented.
"I wish there was something that I could do."
Like so many others right now, she was desperate to move
out of this place of feeling helpless.
"You could call Linda," I suggested,
knowing that she had had a recent painful falling out
with a good friend of hers. She confessed that she had
known deep down all along that in light of everything
that has been happening in the world, that she should,
she wanted to call. But she couldn’t.
"Just do it, honey. Make peace." And she did!
And they did.
It is good and fine to oppose a horrific war, to
meditate upon the glory of Peace on Earth and to pray
for it’s fulfillment, to march for miles to promote
our convictions, to light millions of candles to ignite
the purity of our intentions for peace. But in the end,
we have to actually do something for peace. We
have to be peaceful ourselves.
The place to improve the world is first in
one's own heart and head and hands, and
then work outward from there.
—Robert M. Pirsig
One by one and all together we must learn and
practice the ways of peace, cooperation, compassion,
forgiveness and understanding. We must put our spirit
into action and, be the peace we seek — in our
hearts, in our homes, in our relationships and in our
communities. In the words of Gandhi, "You must be
the change you wish to see in the world." Surely,
this is the humble but firm foundation for Peace on
Earth. We are the world, after all.
The way I see it, we are at a cross roads in our
evolution. Either we will figure out how we can all live
together on one planet without violence. Or we won’t.
We expect nonviolence it in our families and at our
jobs. We demand non-aggressive, tolerant behavior of our
kids at school.
We are modern dinosaurs and it is up to us whether
this meteor storm that swirls around us creating
devastation in its path will drive us to extinction. As
Alice Walker says, "War is a backward step for
humanity." Glen, the copier machine mechanic
remarked, "this war is like a wake-up call."
Well it is actually more like an air raid siren going
off in the middle of the night. Emergency! 911.
It is no longer a choice between
violence and nonviolence in this world;
it’s nonviolence and nonexistence.
—Martin Luther King
I have just been reading Chang and Eng by
Darin Strauss about the original Siamese Twins who were,
in fact, from Siam. Here were two men, fraternal twins,
a double-boy, physically dissimilar and with radically
different and antagonistic personalities who lived for
64 years connected to each other at the chest by a 5
inch long band of muscle and cartilage which housed
their single stomach.
They married two sisters and had 21 biracial children
between them — this, in the constrained society of the
Victorian American South. These twins managed to make an
awkward, untenable, sometimes unbearable situation work
because they had to. They couldn’t walk away or hurt
the other without suffering that same harm themselves.
They learned how to live together because they had no
Can we do less? If we don’t do it who will? And if
not now, when? The times could not be more crucial. We
must make ourselves accountable.
Today more than ever before, life must be
characterized by a sending of universal
responsibility, not only nation to nation
and human to human, but also human to
other forms of life.
— Dalai Lama
Responsibility is at the very center of spirituality.
It is the rock-hard indestructible inner core, the
backbone, the molten heart of the matter of spirit. I am
not referring to responsibility in the deadly, leaden
terms of duty or burden or millstone of guilt, blame,
fear, shoulds and should nots. This unfortunate reading
of responsibility invites evasion and childish
A friend who owns a book store has a sign posted in
the shop john that says something like, "If you
finish the roll of toilet paper, please replace it with
a new roll from the shelf below." He tells me that
no one ever finishes the complete roll of tissue. They
always leave one sheet, one measly square on the
cardboard roll. That way, of course, they are not
responsible for changing it.
To be spiritual is to be response-able. To be able to
encounter each situation, event and emotion with openness
and gratitude and to respond to the needs of others and
our selves with care and consideration. Born of
awareness and attention, response-ability means choosing
to be fully conscious and present in life and to
participate purposefully, consciously and
conscientiously in its unfoldment.
Having a spiritual perspective reminds us that
everything is connected and everything matters. We
understand that what harms you, harms me. What threatens
the planet, weakens me. What goes around, comes around.
We accept the effect and consequences wrought by our
thoughts and actions, our non-thoughts and non-actions.
So let’s walk our talk and create peace in our own
lives, in our own country and in the world. Not out of a
misplaced sense of duty, but because it is a joy and an
honor to do so. Because we could do no less.
If there is character in the individual,
There will be harmony in the home;
If there is harmony in the home,
There will be honor among the people,
If there is honor among the people,
There will be justice in the community;
If there is justice in the community,
There will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
Then there will be peace in the world!
© Copyright 2003
Donna Henes. All Rights
Donna Henes, Urban Shaman, is the editor and publisher of the highly
acclaimed quarterly, Always In Season: Living In Sync with the Cycles. She is
also the author of Moon Watcher's Companion, Celestially Auspicious
Occasions: Seasons, Cycles and Celebrations and Dressing Our Wounds In Warm
Clothes, as well as the CD, Reverence To Her: Mythology, The Matriarchy & Me.
In 1982, she composed the first (and to this date, the only) satellite peace
message in space: "chants for peace * chance for peace."
Mama Donna, as she is affectionately known, has offered lectures, workshops,
circles, and celebrations worldwide for 30 years. She is the director of Mama
Donna's Tea Garden & Healing Haven, a ceremonial center, ritual consultancy
and spirit shop in Exotic Brooklyn, New York.
For further information, a list of services and publications, a calendar of
upcoming events and a complimentary issue of Always in Season: Living in Sync
with the Cycles. contact:
MAMA DONNA'S TEA GARDEN AND HEALING HAVEN
PO Box 380403
Exotic Brooklyn, NY 11238-0403
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