The Opposite of War and
the Secret of Creativity
By Meryl Ann Butler
What is the opposite of war?
If you ask 100 people what the opposite of war is, almost all will reply "peace." Then, if you ask them to describe peace, you'll get at least 99 answers explaining what peace is not.
It's not violence. It's not terrorism.
And it's definitely not war.
Even the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines peace in terms of what it is not: "freedom from war, or a stopping of war."
But these do not describe what peace is.
The inadequacies of our cultural descriptions of peace make it appear insubstantial and listless. Nevertheless, everyone seems to agree that peace would be good for us. But like Brussels sprouts or going to the dentist, it certainly doesn't seem very attractive.
D.H. Lawrence voiced our apprehensions about peace, "But then peace, peace! I am so mistrustful of it: so much afraid that it means a sort of weakness, and giving in."
And that is exactly what gives warmongers their stronghold. The exciting adventure of war seems far more thrilling than a frail and wimpy peace. And indeed, perilous experiences—such as those encountered in war—can offer many more opportunities to meet the Divine, face-to-face, than an uneventful existence. As often happens, there are jewels hidden in the dung.
Still, I think we can do better.
The first step is to move away from an anti-war consciousness in which we fight against that which is unwanted. And the next step is to move forward in crafting a strong image of what is desired.
How many times have peace activists protested war without replacing the image of war with an equally strong depiction of the attributes of peace? In the absence of this vision, peace activists actually contribute more substance to what they are protesting. This is why Mother Teresa said, "I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there."
This dichotomy is reflected in our own government. Revolutionary patriots, including George Washington, inventor Benjamin Banneker, and Benjamin Rush (Declaration of Independence signer and one of the bankrollers of the Revolutionary War) called for a cabinet level Secretary of Peace, but this position was never created. However, we have had a Department of War since 1789 (renamed the Department of Defense in 1949). Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) spearheaded several bills for a Department of Peace, including H.R. 808 in 2007, and in 2013 Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) revitalized that quest. But we have no Department of Peace yet.
Imagine the kind of world we would be living in if a Department of Peace had cabinet-level authority and a budget that equaled that of the Department of Defense! Perhaps the impetus for that reality must rise up from “we, the people.”
In order to have peace, live in peace, and thrive in peace, our collective image of a dynamic and exciting peace must be developed so that it becomes more substantial and more attractive than a vision of war. And to do that, we must identify what a thriving peaceful world looks like. As Cayce said, “Mind is the builder”!
The essence of war is destruction. Therefore, its opposite is not peace, but creativity, which offers thrilling and deeply soulful nourishment to our bodies, minds, and spirits.
Peace is simply the byproduct of a dynamically creative society. It’s not the goal. So if we’ve set our sights on peace, we’ve set them too low.
A truly peace-full civilization is characterized by a dynamic dance of both practical and artistic creativity that nourishes the soul and elevates the spirit, sending a ripple effect of wellbeing throughout humanity.
While creativity includes the obvious variety of artistic expressions, such as painting, writing, music and theater, it includes more humble activities, too.
Most everyone has experienced a connection with at least one of the arts that made the heart leap and the spirit sing, perhaps by viewing a painting, hearing a song, or attending a theater production. This is the kind of art that triggers an endorphin dance that thrills our souls and helps connect us with the best that we can be!
Edgar Cayce said that the process of creativity and psychic development are two aspects of the same thing. And it makes sense that as someone expresses or appreciates creativity, they become more attuned to the creativity of the divine. After all, what is the God of Genesis, if not a creative artist?
But creativity is not limited to the formal expression of visual or performing arts. It also includes activities that we are engaged in when there is joy in our hearts—from the selection of ingredients to mix together for soup to the planting of a garden. Many of our daily activities can be a product of inspired imagination and purposeful creativity. And getting three kids to their separate after-school activities simultaneously can require as much problem-solving creativity as painting the Mona Lisa!
Peace is the inherent result of an enthusiastic and creative society, and naturally accompanies any golden age of artistic expression and joyful creativity. Who can imagine people who are deliciously engaged in daily, blissful, creative expression, ever wanting to tear themselves away to step toward war?
Passion and exhilaration are the pumps that keep the essences of life circulating, and the human animal is engineered to gravitate toward whatever will enhance the fullness of the life experience. So as we create a consensual vision of a dynamic and fulfilling peaceful society that is more exhilarating than war, we also invent a new kind of world, a world where people will begin to salute the world’s artists and thank them for their service to society.
And the more attuned to the creative divine we become, the further we find ourselves from an attunement with war.
So, plant peonies, bake brownies, paint pictures, sing songs, and pen poetry. Make a quilt—they aren't called "comforters" for nothing! Join in the interwoven heartbeat of a community drum circle. Dance like nobody's watching. Take a class in a creative pursuit that you have dreamed of exploring—like scrapbooking, acting, or pottery. And the ripple effects of your own creative joy will surround the planet!
Or find another creator's artistic expression that brings you happiness, and have fun appreciating it at a museum, a playhouse, craft fair, or in the words of a book. Einstein noted that it was impossible to simultaneously prevent and prepare for war. And that is because we can only dance in one place on the creation/destruction continuum at any given moment.
Every single choice we make that supports creativity and the arts takes us one step further from war and destruction, and that much closer to birthing a peaceful world that bursts with creativity and joyful wellbeing!
All illustrations are the copyrighted work of the author, Meryl Ann Butler. http://www.merylannbutler.com. An earlier version of this article was published on Opednews.com as “New Years' Musings on the Opposite of War: It's Not What You Think!”
Meryl Ann Butler is an award-winning artist, author, editor, labyrinth builder, speaker, and Renaissance woman who has offered presentations at A.R.E. since 1986. Her artwork hangs in hundreds of collections around the world, including those of Caroline Myss, Dr. C. Norman Shealy, Dr. Patch Adams, and the late Nelson Mandela. She is managing editor and arts/images editor of OpEdNews.com, which is ranked in the world’s “Top 100 Blogs” by Technorati, and where her contributions have received over 900,000 views.
Join Meryl Ann at the Annual A.R.E. New Year’s Conference, Dec. 29-31, 2014, The Creative Edge: A Hands-on Retreat for Inspiring and Unleashing Your Dynamic, Intuitive Self!, where she will be facilitating an exciting workshop entitled, “Creativity and Joyful Expressions of Spirit: Integrative Intuition.” Other expert guides in the conference include Henry Reed, Robin Wimbiscus, Judith Stevens, Kirk Nelson, Elizabeth Waitekus, and more; so ring in the New Year with like-minded friends old and new at this traditional gathering which includes a festive party with music, dancing, and refreshments and a peaceful midnight meditation.