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Faith Matters: Maya Porter says peace is personal choice

How we feel is all we have January 8, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

Quakers not only oppose war, we actively promote peace, on all levels -- globally, nationally and personally. The opposition to war is based on George Fox's letter to England's King Charles II in which Fox pledged not to take up arms against the king. In that letter, Fox said he would never use "outward weapons" in "outward wars."

What peculiar terms! Aren't all weapons and wars "outward"?

For Quakers, his words are not so peculiar. No, there are inward weapons, and Fox did not promise not to use the inward weapons at Friends' disposal. And use those weapons they did! For example, silent resistance is a powerful inward weapon: simply quietly refusing to obey. Quakers went about their lives refusing to follow the conventions demanded by the culture of the day, and eventually the culture came around to many of their beliefs. It took centuries, but then Quakers have never been in a hurry.

Today's Quakers actively resist the policies of never-ending war that our government supports and funds, by protesting and lobbying and even withholding taxes to avoid supporting bloody conflicts. However, the effect of my participation in any of these activities is indirect, marginal at best. I can actually have a direct effect only on the personal level. My own peacefulness is within my control -- inner peace is an individual choice.

In the 1980s, I was deeply involved in the movement to stop the nuclear arms race. I was on the national board of directors of two peace organizations and was often dismayed at the arguing and conflict that took place at board meetings. Some of those board members were so angry! We struggled even to agree on a decision-making process.

I think that was righteous anger, aimed at a government that exploited and harmed vulnerable people. But even that anger is not inevitable; by staying connected to our ground, it's possible to maintain equanimity in the presence of conflict. There are many grounds, and many ways to stay connected, such as a walk in nature, worshiping with others, praying or meditating. For me, it's constantly reminding myself of the basic goodness of life -- and that God doesn't flinch.

Maintaining inner peace is an effective "inward weapon" in all kinds of wars. In fact, it's the only one that really works, because everything we do flows from it. My every action is colored by my inner state: calmness or turmoil, fear or faith, sadness or joy. Like a tree whose roots extend underground as far out as its branches reach in the air, so when our grounding is as far as our reach, we can stay balanced, no matter what life throws at us.

None of us can create a world of peace alone, but we can create it in our own spheres, in our own souls. My own inner world is what I choose it to be. Each of us can radiate peace out to the world, one person at a time.

Maya Porter is a member of the Fayetteville Friends Meeting (Quaker). Her book "Recognized in Flight: A Memoir" is available on Amazon. Email her at mayaporter479@gmail.com.

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