The history of war in both the ancient and modern world makes one wonder if war is an irresistible compulsion for man. Perhaps the pull toward violence or at least occasional bloodletting is a deep need in the human psyche, an evolutionary adaptation we struggle to understand. What is this love of war, of violence, of bloodshed? Is it ever possible to, as a species, love peace more than war?
To answer this we need only look at the lives of people who dedicated themselves to loving peace. The names we remember and celebrate in history–Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ, Lao Tzu, and many others–were all men of peace. We mostly do not know and certainly do not celebrate the names of the warriors of those times. In more recent history, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Dalai Lama are spoken of with the reverence reserved for people whose presence on this troubled earth soothes the spirit. We celebrate their existence because there is an awareness in most of that recognizes goodness, kindness, and fair play when we see it. In other words, those people who have most inspired us have always offered messages of love and nonviolence. This speaks to an inherent wisdom that does exist in our hearts, despite our behavior.
We sometimes make the conceptual mistake of thinking that people whose message was love and peace belonged on the whole to former times. We think of those people as legends in a historical context that happened long ago, or we assume that they were from traditional cultures whose values accommodated such quaint views. But what if those lives were not so much an example of where we have historically been but of where we need to go? Not alpha but omega points. Not how we once were but how we might become? What if humankind is being forced to evolve to these kinds of understandings, or die?
Fortunately, we have many examples in our own time of people to whom we can look for inspiration. The few who were profiled in this book speak for the many. Their words, though recorded more than fifteen years ago, are both timely and timeless. They ask us to be willing to live, as did Gandhi and all who have been inspired by his life, with a dedication to truth, love, service, and nonviolence. They remind us that although we sometimes have to make sacrifices for these values, compromising them is a far worse fate. They also, by their very existence, let us know that we are not alone.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I know somehow that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.” It is now time for us to shine–now more than ever.