Searching for peace

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Big Daddy (Burl Ives) in a sad voice says to his son, Brick, played by Paul Newman, “Son, you know you got a real liquor problem?

To which Brick replies:  “Yes, I know.

“It's like a switch, clickin' off in my head. Turns the hot light off and the cool one on and all of a sudden, there's peace.”

The billions spent on alcohol every year indicate most people, whether they know it or admit it, are looking for peace. We want to feel good about ourselves, to accept who we are and what we have.

That peace would be easier to find if we’d accept we can’t satiate our hungry minds that say we will be happy, healthy, and content in the future when we have more stuff, win the lottery, can go on more exotic vacations.

We keep striving for more even when we know it can’t deliver contentment, otherwise we’d have been satisfied when we achieved our (former) heart’s desires, when we married the one of our dreams, had kids, grand kids, paid off the mortgage, bought a bigger house, got a plasma TV for the bathroom.

Louise Hay, whose book You Can Heal Your Life has sold more than 35 million copies, was asked what it means to straighten out your mind.

“To be at peace in your own mind, to get the garbage out, to get those negative thoughts out that are constantly nagging at you and to have different ways of looking at life — not necessarily the way your parents taught you.”

We don’t find peace when we lock onto the thought that things should only happen in a particular way and if they don’t, we’re angry, resentful and make life miserable for everyone, particularly ourselves.

Peace is elusive when we’re plotting and scheming, trying to get even or straighten out the world and shape it in our image.

Most of us deify logic and analysis and in our frantic bid to understand, to feel in control, reduce life to its parts instead of seeing the whole, the big picture. We think we’ll be safe if we understand why things happen, but it only offers a worm’s eye view of reality. 

(Logic and analysis are, of course, wonderful tools when used appropriately.)

We want to freeze reality; when we find something that makes us happy and comfortable, we don’t want it to change.

We want our kids to become doctors and not plumbers; we want our parents to go into the old folks home we picked because it makes our life easier; we don’t want the housing market to implode just as we put our home up for sale.

Zen master Shunryu Suzuki wrote that we have “to find composure in the face of the fact that everything changes.”

To have a peaceful mind is being a quantum wave instead of a particle. According to the Many World Interpretation of quantum physics, a wave is everywhere at once, smeared out across creation and identified with nothing, but when the mind locks on a thought and identifies with it, the wave collapses and becomes our reality.

(The theory also says that every possible permutation of every decision we make is also “out there” and that’s true of all seven billion of us. That gives a whole new depth and width to our understanding of infinity.)

We find that ever elusive peace when we can accept with equanimity that we can’t freeze frame life, but accept that everything we know is a blip in eternity and will soon be gone — friends, family, dog, pet rock.

We can find peace in our own private Gethsemane moments when we admit that we would prefer events — a fire, a firing, an accident, a divorce, a death — to be different, but can summon the courage and faith to say, not my will, but thine.

Peace and joy come when we accept that everything changes and we can surrender to that which is beyond our control and can sing Que Sera, Sera with Doris Day, or Let It Be with the Beatles.

Of course, the black irony is that we usually do eventually accept, but only as we age, after putting a lot of wear and tear, a lot of stress on ourselves and everyone around us.

We always have the choice, but not often the wisdom, to forgo the mental masochism and go straight to the peace. The pain will be there, but the suffering isn’t.

Life is pain, but suffering is a choice.

We’ve all known peace — even without the help of wine or beer — but we’re so conditioned to acting like angry chipmunks that even when we’re in the zone, the world tugs at us, urging us to do anything except sit there.

Those mental patterns that say the devil finds work for idle hands make us insecure and uneasy about looking into the innermost part of ourselves.

When we can turn off the world like we do our chirping cell phone, we find peace, and when we’re ready, we can turn the world back on, just like the cell. The world is still the same, but if we do it often enough and long enough, we’re not.

We have to let go of who we are before we can become who we will be; we have to give up what we know to discover what we don’t; we have to stop regurgitating knowledge to acquire wisdom.

Real courage is not defying the odds, not running with the bulls, not jumping out of airplanes, but in not demanding that infinity yield to our demands.

“When the heart grieves over what it has lost,” goes a Sufi epigram, “the spirit rejoices over what it has left.”


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About the Author

Ross Freake, a former managing editor of The Daily Courier, has worked at 11 newspapers from St. John's to Kamloops. He is the author of three books and the editor and ghost writer of many others.

He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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