The Aesthetic Life

On Peace

Posted in Uncategorized by jonflynn on November 9, 2009

Ataraxia, serenity, nirvana, eudaimonia – all of these are goals of philosophies that we have gone over in class. While the paths to these are somewhat different, what they all have in common is that they all are a variation on the idea of internal peace. Internal peace means we have quelled our doubts, let our fears pass over us, gotten rid of anger, envy, and attachment. This is certainly a pleasant state to be in. But is it good and right?
First, is internal peace good? Like I said, it is certainly pleasant. But the people we think of as pinnacles of humanity often have troubled internal lives. The stereotypical musicians, poets, and artists are often racked with both internal and external insecurity. The best activists have a thorn in their mind that drives them to forsake normal lives for the chance to make a difference. The pride and drive required to do difficult things, from being a surgeon to working on string theory, is almost antithetical to internal peace. The feeling of always wanting to be better drives some people to superhuman feats, and it is these people who carve new social orders, derive new theories, and craft new technologies that drive humanity as a whole forward. Is all the pain and frustration they suffer worth the ability to leave a mark on the world? I don’t know. There are some counter examples, and some interesting qualifications on internal peace that some people make to maintain a productive but peaceful life, but there still seems to be a dichotomy here.
Second, is internal peace right? We as humans, with few exceptions, have an empathic bond with other humans. Most would agree that it bothers them to see another suffer, and beyond that, it ought to bother them. As long as genocide slavery, wars, famine, etc. exist in this world of plenty, is it right to be at peace simply because those that suffer it are far from us? This is a hard question to answer. Again, some practitioners of peace take interesting steps to maintain both peace and productivity, but it requires fracturing the mind into separate feeling and perceiving pieces – something that requires intense discipline, and might be a type of self deception. Of course, righteous anger has quite possibly been the most destructive force in history and every side claims it. Self deception might be a better alternative.
This is not to say that peace is bad – I’m at peace in almost all my life, but the grass occasionally looks greener on the other side.

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