In our search for peace, we tend to consider peace an unreachable ideal. It becomes some fluffy concept that ‘descends’ on us rather than something we must actively strive to acquire. Perhaps as this story suggests, peace is possible when we are able to sit comfortably, allow the storms of discord and difference to swirl around us, and listen for what is required of us.
On this theme, I am repeating a story I blogged about earlier which portrays ‘the real meaning of peace’ (mainly because I need so much reminding!)
Let’s strive towards peace in our thoughts and actions.
Long ago there was an emperor who was experiencing conflict everywhere he turned. There were infractions with neighbouring realms; petty battles amongst the people of his cities, towns and villages; disputes in the meetings of his own privy councillors; arguments between members of his family, and if truth be known, he and the empress had the odd skirmish from time to time. Even within himself, there seemed to be frequent clashes between his head and his heart that seemed almost impossible to resolve. So, the emperor sent out a decree to all the artists of the kingdom. He asked them to paint a picture that would demonstrate the real meaning of peace. He would hang it in his throne room as a daily reminder. The artists set out across the realm with their brushes, inks, and parchment. They painted scenes of lakes, of rivers and of mountains; pictures filled with magnificent beauty and extraordinary serenity. Then they returned, bringing scrolls by the hundreds to exhibit in the great hall of the emperor’s castle. When all the works were hung upon the walls, the emperor entered to select the one which showed the real meaning of peace. He walked amongst these hundreds of exquisitely depicted and lovingly created scenes. He took his time to appreciate every one. After many hours, he finally narrowed his choice to just three paintings. The first showed a mountain lake, a little like a tarn in Tasmania, with not a ripple on the surface which reflected just one fluffy cloud. Another depicted a river where a pair of swans swam gently on the surface of still water. Reeds grew along the banks and trees arched across the water. The thirdbird waiting-out-the-storm painting showed something quite different. The sky in this painting was dark with billowing clouds. A sinew of lightning flashed across heavy skies. In the centre of the painting, the clouds swirled about a rocky precipice lashed by rain. Part way down that cliff, there was a small rocky shelf. On the shelf there was just one tree, twisted by wind, its roots clinging to the rocks. Yet on one branch of the tree, there was a nest and on the nest rested a bird. The emperor, hand on chin, inspected each of the paintings carefully. He lingered first in front of the mountain lake, then before the river. Eventually he turned to the third painting and he stood for a long time looking just a little bewildered as he stroked his beard. Finally, the emperor nodded. He pointed to the scroll depicting the nest amidst the stormy scene. ‘This painting,’ he announced, ‘represents the real meaning of peace.’