We’ve all watched movies set in Medieval-ish times, haven’t we? You know, the ones where they make swords look super cool, men and women are in glistening armors, precious elements like gold and silver polished and shining so bright your eyes feel like they’re about to go blind from all that sparkle…and how can we forget the horses? Such movies are never complete without them mares and stallions, warring hoofs hitting the ground like our favorite DJ’s beat collection with soundtracks that make you want to time travel.
Now, while we’re not here to discuss a Box office of the best movies of our time, (shout out to GOT lovers! Yes, I just had to go there) when I think of such eras there’s so much more to the plot and twists and turns. The ancient worlds were embodied by the very broad concept of what peace meant to each society, whether it meant forming alliances through marriages to maintain the peace of kingdoms; to conquests especially designed to declare who had better ‘leadership’ skills, it graduated sometimes to treaties and agreements with people shaking hands in a room full of witnesses or sharing a hide’s skin of some sacred booze; or perhaps, cultures who simply wanted to be one and at peace with nature. Whichever style or form it took, man has always found a way to make peace and war, the strangest union yet seen.
Ancient Egypt called peace ḥtp.w (nope, it’s not a typo error) and this word pronounced hotep means “peace, contentment, to be gracious” amongst others. Latins call it pax, describing “peace, compact, agreement, treaty of peace, absence of hostility, harmony.” The Hebrew word shalom which, according to Jewish theology, comes from a Hebrew verb denoting ‘to be complete, whole”. Salaam among multiple definitions in Arabic including justice, good health, safety, well-being, prosperity, equity, security, good fortune, and friendliness, as well as simply the greetings, “hello” and “goodbye”; in a nutshell means “peace”. We can’t forget the Hawaiians’ aloha which means much more than a greeting or a farewell, this word carries with it the very essence of tranquillity and peace.
What’s with all this etymology? Well, the word peace seems to have lost a great deal of its meaning and intention and the very concept of peace often times eludes us in our generation and time. Peace may mean different things to many of us based on our cultures, traditions, belief systems, religions, genders, political parties, fraternities or sororities, economical positions and standing etc. And while that may be okay, we believe it is important to set the record straight or least, to try.
Peace is but a silhouette of the world’s worst sketch if it is not rooted in love, it’s simply a shadow of what’s meant to be real if we constantly have our own different definitions that ultimately don’t look out for Earth, for humanity, the disadvantaged; for justice, dialogue and diplomacy instead of the sword (aka conflicts and crises); for the protection of human lives and basic human rights. Peace is not peace if the people that are meant to be protected by a system aren’t, if your color matters more than mine, or we can’t have equal opportunities because I’m from a war-torn zone or a third world country (whoever dished out those names?) Peace is not peace if we continue to give it labels and notions to essentially suit our own selfish interests.
So, as we celebrate International Day of Peace today, please let’s remember to celebrate our uniqueness not ‘differences’. Let’s celebrate more than just a day, let’s celebrate being human. Because being human truly means reconciliation, justice, equality, agreement, reflecting and sometimes some good old-fashioned silence. In one word: PEACE.