Peace which the World Cannot Give?

Can we find peace in this world despite what the Book of Common Prayer says?  The beautiful words of Evening Prayer have a Collect for Peace:

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed; Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee, we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

I look to the beauty of evensong as a guide to the way I would like to lead my life and while I prefer to seek my answers in science and meditation, and despite a profound belief in atheism, I can not help but come back to the profound beauty of the religion of my childhood when I am in a contemplative mood.

It is possible to find profound peace in this world in the moment although soon enough the stark realities come crowding back in.  Illness, poverty, violence to name but a few evils we face as a species.

Aesthetically you will find moments of true peace in the contemplation of beauty but to extend and merge that into your life over time seems to require rather greater effort.

I have always found the metaphor of the garden helpful: “we must cultivate our garden” as Voltaire said.  In a literal sense great peace can be found in nature and work on the land, hence our obsession with Gardens of Eden: the walled garden, the monastic herb garden, the enclosed and safe and natural.

But we can not rely on a divinity for happiness.  Physics and and its emergent disciplines are what we must rely on, together with education and an awareness of the necessity to move from brutal competition to co-operation and equality.

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