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Peace be with you.

Everybody has his or her own definition of peace. I asked my friends what they think peace is. Naturally, they all gave me different answers; one friend said it is one thing you can't find in this world.

Mitch told me peace is listening to the music of Simply Red. She also said it is the absence of stress.

Another friend elaborated on that concept; we'll go to that later on.

And still another friend's definition of peace is resting on God's perfect will.

These definitions are good in their way; although each has a different idea of peace, they point towards the general direction of what peace ought to be. But they aren't the definitions I am looking for, because they do not tell us what peace is, nor do they least tell us at what the word peace means. Let's examine these definitions.

The first one asserts that there is no peace in the world, and that assertion is difficult to dispute. The twenty-first century, which promised to be one of peace, began with two of the quickest, most explosive wars in history. It was around the beginning of this year that the US waged war on Afghanistan and then, Iraq. Within a month the regime under Saddam Hussein toppled and crumbled.

Now we hear of the Muslim extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah in the news, the latest threat to Philippine security that is now rumored to be linked with the New People's Army. It really does seem like there is no room for peace in this world. Nevertheless, this definition does not answer the issue about the nature or essence of peace; it only makes a statement about it. We are still faced with our question.

Our second and fourth definitions are similar to each other; they give us guides to achieving peace. Peace is what people want. Many make it their highest goal or sole purpose; for them, it is a rare and precious commodity worth exchanging wealth or social standing or even human contact for.

Buddhism teaches how to achieve nirvana, the state of peace and happiness that one reaches when one releases oneself from reincarnation's cycle of birth, life, pain, suffering, death, rebirth.

To achieve nirvana, one must be free from worldly concerns--material goods being one of them--and avoid the two extremes of uncontrolled human desires and ascetic self-denial.

Of course, most of us hold on to different beliefs, but we all like to have our own little private space where we can be left to ourselves, undisturbed, and we have our own ways to find it. The flaw of our two definitions, though, is that they equate peace with the process of finding it. Is the road to peace the same as peace itself? There is a difference between the means and the end.

So we come to our 3rd definition, the absence of mental and spiritual burdens that plague us in our lives.

In dictionaries there is peace when something is missing. Where there is no war, there is peace. Where there is no strife, there is peace. Where there is no noise, no guilt, no disturbance, there is peace. This definition can be pushed to extremes. We can say that the absence of knowledge is peace (ignorance is bliss), or the absence of life is peace (RIP for the dearly departed!).

One of my friends went further with this line of thinking and added that peace is relief from troubles, dissensions, stress and what have you. Therefore, once we remove these from us, we will have peace. On the other hand, keeping peace would be harder to do, because once we have peace, eventually there would be some issue or another that would come into conflict with the interests of some people. Dealing with these issues would mean compromise if peace is to be kept. Conflict spawns more conflict, compromise runs into more compromise, and the balance of peace grows more and more precarious. Soon turmoil would break out like a rash. Relief has ended. It's back to the grind.

What makes peace feel so good? There is the story of the man who keeps banging his head on the wall. When asked why he does that, he answered, "Because it feels so good to stop!" It may sound like a good explanation, but it's not really enough to say that peace is just relief from or the absence of the negative aspects of life. That only leaves us with a vacuum to which any emotion or sensation can be attributed. For example, the silence of a library or a monastery is different from that of a police interrogation room, or a morgue. And the quietness of a battlefield still feels eerie, no matter who won.

None of us has known perfect peace, or perhaps will in this lifetime, but we can still qualify it and say what it is and what it is not. Let me put forward a few ideas of what peace is not:

1. Peace is not a feeling. If it were, then the dead would have no need of it. It is a state, a condition agreed upon by at least two different parties or natures.

2. Peace is not a vacuum. Otherwise, why do we say that a place is 'peaceful,' or that someone is 'full of peace?' It replaces something, and adds something more.

3. Peace is not an attribute. Peacefulness is an attribute. There is a distinction between peace and peacefulness. It is not an adjective; rather, it is a noun. It is not used to describe; it is what it is.

4. Peace is not unattainable. It is not a lost cause to look for it; neither are the people who negotiate for terms of peace wishing for the moon and stars.

We can't search for something if we don't know what it is. I haven't given a full, exact definition of peace, but by describing it I hope I can find a better understanding of it.

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Title Annotation:paths to peace
Author:Corpuz, Sam, Jr.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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