“Fair peace becomes men; ferocious anger belongs to beasts” — Ovid, Roman poet, 43 BC-17 AD
Recently, I took my kayak whale hunting. I know I’ve written about my motorcycle experiences pretty regularly. The ocean is a blank canvas for my internal dialogue, in much the same way as cruising on a perfect day.
I look out at the horizon and imagine the ocean precipitously falling over the edge of the Earth in some cataclysmic waterfall. It is not possible for water to go around a curve, is it? The Earth must be flat. I feel good about arranging a roller derby match between the Earth Curve Flatliners and the Climate Change Deniers.
Wait a minute; I want to write about peace, a word that might as well be removed from Webster’s Dictionary. When I was out on my kayak looking for Moby Dick, the whole package of meanings for peace swam into my brain and I have no idea why. Bringing up the idea of world peace felt like a terrible joke, but it came in hard nevertheless.
During the sixties, which I was fortunate enough to experience and inhale, the mantra of peace didn’t feel ridiculous. Many people of all ages actually believed it was possible. Today, we have replaced that ideal with forcing a victor and a victim(s) as the only way to resolve all conflict, creating only losers, regardless of outcome.
For some reason, the words, Pax Romana came to mind seconds after peace floated to the surface of my ocean canvas. I don’t know about you, but sometimes words I have never used slip into my vocabulary. It reminds me of suddenly singing the lyrics to a forgotten song. When I got home, I did what anyone else would do, I Googled it.
Caesar Augustus was Rome’s first Emperor, ruling from 27 BC-14 AD. He opened the doors to the Temple of Janus in 29 BC, which signaled the beginning of 200 years of peace. Two thousand years ago, the ruler of the most powerful empire at the time, figured out attempting to eliminate conflict was the highest priority. Please, I am not a scholar and I am absolutely certain that it was unbelievably imperfect in its implementation over two centuries, but that is not my point. When the calendar flipped from BC to AD, peace had already become an integral part of the lexicon and a legendary culture embraced it.
Today, the peace symbol feels like it belongs to another time, a relic from our not so distant past. Wars are carried on while we go about our everyday business. When the draft was eliminated, many of us suddenly cared a hell of a lot less who we were fighting or why. It turned out to be a very effective way of eliminating the kind of consciousness that can change history, a fortuitous disconnect for the powerful, who wage our wars and benefit from them. I think it has made a difference in the national dialogue since its demise in 1973.