My nephew asked me this morning, “Uncle have you been raising the sacred peace-pipe lately?” My reply was, “Nephew when we walk the Good Red Road of peace, we become the sacred medicine pipe.”
Peace is a Way of Being
Peace is not only an external force in nature and relationships. Peace is an internal state of being. We two legged have a unique place in mother nature. We are one of the rare creatures who can choose the Wolf of Light or can give into the Wolf of Darkness. Both paths are open to us at all times of day and night.
Learning to walk the “good red road” is taught to children from an early age. In every culture it is slightly unique. In First Nations ways, we teach awareness of interconnection. We teach perception of empathy and being at-one with other beings. We teach responsibility to others and to creation. We teach service and humility, in actions, deeds, and ways of expressing respect and care. When a child is growing up they see adults praying, doing ceremony, and in prayer or meditation. They learn by seeing and by participating.
In Buddhist cultures, and many Hindu cultures, children learn in similar ways by seeing and participating. Buddhists practice forms of mindfulness. These ways of practical mind-awareness become part of everyday life, ceremonies, and cultural ways. These are passed down to the next generations.
In western cultures the full integrity of such traditions became fractured during the industrial revolution when families were cut off from children by heavy-laden work in factories and forced labour. Children were also forced into labour. In times of war and hardship, the stress and anxiety in the air disrupts natural lifestyles and survival mode kicks in, children internalise other kinds of patterns. The ways and states of mind that come along with the Wolf of Darkness may become more prominent in day to day life.
Peace is a Choice and an Imperative
Peace in today’s world is not just naturalised in everyday life. Peace is woven into the fabric of social customs, structures, laws, legislations, treaties, and into national and international standards. Peace is also based on a firm set of hard won and we hope mutual objective and shared realities.
We are seeing right now how the Russian leadership reality stands quite apart from the Ukrainian leadership reality. The fractured and polarised narratives of each state drive people’s actions. Leaders are making choices that impact hundred of thousands, millions of people. The death toll and sheer human suffering from these choices is horrifying.
The Putin narrative is built up over many generations and leads to the man Putin who takes up an Imperial banner to reunite his homeland. He does not see that he is invading, rather he is reuniting and cleansing the wayward Ukrainian territory toward a purified Imperial vision of Russia. In his history, Putin sees Ukraine as a central jewel in the Imperial Crown of Russia. He also sees other smaller states as part of this Imperial Divine Right. He will not stop until his Empire manifests his vision and the Domain is secured, regardless the cost.
Putin and his cohort have not accepted the disbanding of the USSR vision, he and they have only rebranded that vision. The Imperial vision is embodied in Putin at the moment. But the vision has become tainted, filled with the shadowland fears, domination, and mental instability that comes along with the Wolf of Darkness. He has also not been honest with his people, as there are very clear signs of pushing a very narrow view of the narrative and a harsh media crack down that prevents freedom of speech and debate, primary to control the narrative that has become a macro-social obsession. The real and present dangers of such movements is how they lead to mass delusional thinking, such that the path to healing for the Russian majority who presently believe Putin’s narrative will be highly resistant to change and the process of waking up from the Imperial dream that Putin has carefully tailored will be extremely difficult.
The Zelensky narrative is also built up over many generations and leads to the man Zelensky who takes up the contemporary democratic banner to defend his homeland. He is Jewish, and labelling him a Nazi is completely absurd. His country has been a free state and are on the path to becoming a full European nation and perhaps part of the NATO alliance, though the latter seems a more distant hope at the moment. He and his people have not accepted the invasion of Putin’s armies and are resisting and will continue to resist domination and oppression by what they see as an external force, an aggressor, who has entered their sovereign territory, killing and destroying their way of life and committing genocide.
The Danger of False Assumptions
In psychotherapy, we have an ironic and strictly incorrect saying that often chills me to the bone. The saying goes, “The difference between an objective belief and a delusional belief is how many people share the belief with you.” This statement is false, and in our profession we play with these meanings intentionally for therapeutic reasons.
They key take away is that both objective and delusional beliefs are individual and can be shared by others. Delusional beliefs can be reinforced when shared, and they can lead to very dangerous outcomes. The same is actually true of objective beliefs, which can be taken to the extreme as well.
Wisdom and good judgement, and the classical virtues, are not at all dependent on beliefs. Humanity is growing beyond the black and white, polarised thinking, that leads to taking beliefs to their extreme whether they are objective or delusional.
Sadly, politics today is not growing up fast enough. We need a political will power that goes beyond polarised beliefs and that stands on a higher ground of ethics, morality, and transcendent logic that can see the bigger picture values that mean the most in the long run. Today, politics is allowing and even condoning the invasion of Ukraine while speaking untruthfully words against this invasion – because words are not enough they must be followed by resolute actions that match the demands of the objective reality. Denial of this reality is also part of the lack of objectivity happening now among national and EU leadership.
Harsh Choices, War or Peace, At What Cost?
In Russia the belief in the Imperial and unified homeland dream along with its valiant fight against the forces of the west have apparently become a mythos that in the current regime is polarised and entrenched in a macro-paranoia-based system. What could be a lovely metaphor of Imperial Russia that leads to balanced practice of virtues and a sense of hope, has become a nightmare of shadows. Feeding the Dark Wolf does this over time.
In Ukraine the belief in democracy appears to be an objectively verifiable belief, but is not readily shared by even western countries – even though they say they want to stand with Ukraine. Their actions show that their beliefs are also tainted by delusions of dependence on Russian oil and gas. They hold NATO and the rest of the globe hostage while they choose to allow a dictator to invade and commit genocide. Is this a valid objective belief, or another example of feeding the Wolf of Darkness?
In all these cases, you see it does not matter how many people share your beliefs. It is not about beliefs actually. It is about actions. It is about the core values inherent in actions that transcend beliefs.
Peace at A Cost
Peace, actually, very often comes at a very high price. On the daily basis, we know this is woven into personal disciplines and practices of virtues, mindfulness, attitudes of kindness, and the practice of spirituality. These demand choices that prevent other less optimal lifestyles. Sometimes these choices are difficult, but they lead to positive sustainable ways of living.
Peace at the macro level of societies also comes a very high cost. Civic participation is a very demanding reality. Dialogue, debate, and compromise are woven into social realities. The First Nation Peace Pipe tradition is actually a social dialogical process that is very demanding on participants. The process comes with mutually shared expectations for concrete actions that transcend beliefs. Inherent in every negotiation around the Peace Pipe is the acceptance that all parties are likely to agree to compromise.
But this path to peace is not possible where sides continue to polarise and where one side refuses to deconstruct their narrative of dominance. Colonial history is ripe with this story. The tragic reality is hard to even imagine, and devastating to contemplate. The current reality between Ukraine and Russia is a colonial trauma-narrative being repeated on everyday television. The ripple impacts of this around the globe are being felt everyday and will have enduring consequences on mental health, vicarious trauma, and in social unrest and civic disputes. The feeding of the Dark Wolf is an ever present danger for humanity. We are at a crossroad, where our species is being tested to grow up and beyond these self-defensive mechanisms of prejudice.