My 6-year-old has discovered the gift of reading. The other day as we were wandering up an alley on our way to a little park in our neighborhood, I was idly listening as she was reading the signs on fences, garages and painted on the cement. “No nuck-es” she said. I looked down at the fading yellow paint on the ground and said aloud, “No nukes.” The follow-up question of course was, “Mama, what’s a nuke?”
As a child of the cold war era when discussion of nuclear weapons, Star Wars, arms treaties and the Soviet Union were regular parts of our civic discourse, it took me a moment to register what a different era this is for my kids.
While I was explaining nuclear weapons to my daughter, I found myself feeling a little nostalgic for the time where we had one predominant opposing State and talked about how mutually assured destruction would keep us or any opposing force from pulling the trigger on a nuclear strike. In my perception, it was simpler than our current state of affairs where the news cycle focuses on any vector of potential terrorist threat and the internal strife in the US of mass shootings, political divides, and racial injustice.
All this rumination, clearly affected by a good deal of idealizing the past, made me think about my personal sense of peace. The thing we can most directly control is our own experience of peace. Whether we personally will add to the aggression of the world or the kindness of the world. Whether or not it is visible, the ripple effect starts with how we act in our neighborhoods, grocery stores and business dealings.
One of my favorite meditations is the Buddhist Tonglen practice where you breathe in suffering and you breathe out peace. If I’m feeling disconnected from others, I can breathe in my own fracturedness and imagine how many, many others are feeling the same. And when I breathe out, it is a soothing wind for all of our spirits. Whether or not it works directly to improve the sense for any other living being, I can’t measure. But I know from experience that it works to improve my sense of peace and connectedness.
After I explained to my daughter what nukes were, she went marching around our neighborhood yelling, “No nuclear weapons.” Which made me smile because I don’t think there is anyone in this neighborhood disagrees. But I’m proud she’s willing to do something to contribute to peace.
Nothing in this post will keep someone from deploying a weapon, nuclear or otherwise. But I can try to make sure my kids can find peace in themselves, no matter what era they grow up in.
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(featured image from Pexels)