“Peace has to be created, in order to be maintained. It is the product of Faith, Strength, Energy, Will, Sympathy, Justice, Imagination, and the triumph of principle. It will never be achieved by passivity and quietism.” Dorothy Thompson

“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict — alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.” Dorothy Thompson

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” Martin Luther King, jr

“Bad s**t makes good fertilizer.” By yours truly!

“Often on the battlefields, at the very moment when the armies approach each other with swords raised and lances thrust forwards, these bards will advance into the midst of their adversaries and tame them, as though having cast a spell over wild beasts.” Diodorous Siculus

Imagine a war between two noble Celtic tribes, standing on opposite sides of a valley shouting and raging at each other, waving big shiny implements in the air and wearing outlandish body paint and little else. From a nearby woodland, in the valley, steps a group of unarmed people dressed in white robes and carrying strong staffs. They are Druids, come to bring peace to the warring tribes.  The most senior amongst them ceremoniously raises her arms, with staff in hand, and proclaims at the top of her lungs “Oi, you lot PACK IT IN! Right, I want your bosses to get down here right now! I don’t care if this takes the rest of the century, we’re going to sort this out once and for all, got it?! We’ve got serious talking to do that’ll make your sword wielding antics look like an after-dinner toothpick wielding session!”

There is a difference between conflict and violence; violence is incompatible with peace, conflict is not. Violence is useless and destructive, conflict is potentially creative. Violence is smashing two heads together like pumpkins, conflict is more like two stones being struck together to make a spark; in a word, friction.

Conflict (friction) is energy. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, we can only redirect it. Conflict is an everyday and unavoidable part of our lives, therefore we cannot avoid it. If we do avoid or ignore that energy and don’t express it, it will invert itself, build up and explode, probably hurting someone that doesn’t deserve it (been there, done that). Or sometimes it implodes, which is where people hurt themselves (almost been there too).

So there’s no way around it, unresolved conflict becomes violence, externally or internally.  You can sugar coat it and avoid conflict in the name of “peace and serenity,” which only helps to reinforce (even create!) the problem of violence, not resolve it. But if any conflict in life is treated as spark-producing friction, then that “spark” can be used to start creative “fires” that can Inspire, Heal and Transform.

This concept of Inspiration, Healing and Transformation I derived from the roles of the Celtic fire goddess Brigit; as a patroness of poets her fire inspires, as a patroness of healers her fire heats the cauldron that brews the herbs that heal, and as a patroness of blacksmiths her fire melts the raw material that is transformed. Conflict, I believe, can be directed to light fires that Inspire, Heal and Transform, and many peacemakers (Druids and non-Druids alike) would do well to remember that peace is not the “absence of conflict” but an active endeavor, requiring effort.

We should strive not to respond to conflict with violence, but also we should not ignore or deny any conflict its necessary expression. As a Druid-in-training my work is to learn how to face and creatively deal with conflict, not in bullet riddled warzones, but in the personal relationships of everyday life.

 It’s hard work. It’s difficult to maintain. But ultimately, it’s rewarding.

Peace! (but let’s work on it)

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