TO come to peace as a human being is not a simple task. We
aren't simple. Our hearts and minds are pathologically complex and pull us in many directions all at the same time. To be human is to be a bundle of contradictions, seldom certain of what our hearts and minds really want.
This makes it difficult for us to live simple, peaceful, and restful lives. To be at rest is to be at peace, but peace is more than the simple absence of war.
Peace is a positive quality, the positive ordering of various elements into a harmony, a symphony.
Thus, for example, if someone sits down at a piano and strikes various keys at random, the result is discord, an abrasive sound, something far from peaceful. If, though, the various notes played are bound into a certain harmony. you have a melody, a peaceful sound.
Most melodies, however, are far from simple, they've man) notes. Hence if someone plays a certain musical score and omits certain notes, again you have discord, no melody. Peace depends upon ordering the notes correctly and upon having all the notes there.
Given this idea of peace, we see that the task of coming to peace as human beings is one of bringing into harmony all the various notes, elements, we experience inside of us. This is far more difficult than it sounds and is a task that we rarely do well. Why?
Because most often we try to make the melody without all the notes. Rarely do we accept all that is inside of us, rarely do we accept fully how complex life really is, and rarely do we resist the temptation, coming to us from our own temperament, to not reduce and render too simple our own hearts and minds.
By temperament, we are much simpler than we are in actuality. Each of us has certain propensities — to be liberal or conservative, upbeat or morose, individualistic or communitarian, intellectual or emotional, earthy or spiritual, given to feasting or fasting, prone to naive trust or more naturally given to cynicism and doubt.
By nature, we tend to one or the other and thus, perennially, our temptation is to reduce the complexity of our hearts and minds and of life itself to what we are most at home with inside of ourselves. If we are liberal by temperament, we tend to reduce the bad to the good, the head to the heart, the soul to the body, the fast to the feast, law to conscience. the individual to the social, the next world to this world, and Good Friday to Easter Sunday.
If we are conservative by temperament, we tend, conversely, to reduce the good to the bad, the heart to the head, the body to the soul, the feast to the fast, conscience to law,. the social to the individual, life after birth to life after death, a joyful resurrected life to a "mourning and weeping in this valley of tears".
Accordingly, if we are liberal or conservative by nature we judge the validity of all conventional wisdom, ideology, theology, spirituality, and catechetics according to whether or not it emphasises strongly what is most evident in our particular temperament.
The price of this is lack of peace. Our hearts and minds have many more rooms than does our temperament. In reality, we are always both: good and bad, head and heart, body and soul, creatures of fasting and feasting, subject to both law and conscience, social and individual, destined for life after birth as well as life after death, living in joy and pain, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, all at the same time.
To come to peace we must bring all of these into harmony, we must make these various elements within us be friends with each other. Not to do so, to reduce in any way any of these elements, is to create a heart and a mind, and a life, which is ultimately too small for us to live in.
Fr Rolheiser teaches at Newman Theological College, Alberta Canada.