It is written, “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares.”
Ever since man began to beat each other’s brains out with clubs and rocks, the universal cry has been, “Please no more wars.”
A fervent prayer, an improbable dream.
There is a perversity in man that makes it easier for him to put up his fists to fight, than to sit at a negotiating table to talk, to unsheathe the sword of battle, than pick up the pen of peace.
The pathway toward war can be likened to the onset of a forest fire. On the surface all looks peaceful and undisturbed. Grasses are gently swaying in the breeze, creatures large and small, are roaming about in the quest for food, birds playfully flit from tree to tree.
But blew, under the layer of fallen leaves and debris, there is a roiling, an agitation, a jostling, like dry sticks rubbing against each other. Something is in the way of something else.
Eventually, the friction creates a heating up, a smoldering starts, a spiral of warning smoke rises. It makes its way into the open.
As this point, it is easily extinguishable, but with no willing hands to apply the soothing waters, it bursts into flame. Sparks and embers fly, igniting wherever and whatever they land upon. Soon there is a conflagration, a whole forest afire.
When it is over, all lies quiet again. The forest reseeds and rebuilds itself. In time, a wisp of smoke curls upwards…
Man is born of nature. She is at once gentle and violent, a builder, a destroyer, a giver, and a grasper. Can man be any more or less?
Nature, once in action, cannot stop on a dime. She cannot, of her own volition, stop a volcano in mid-eruption, or turn a howling tornado into a gentle zephyr, or a rushing torrent into a babbling brook. Nor can she call a meeting of her forces to discuss, debate or compromise.
But man can. He has the power to think for himself, to reason, analyze, discuss, compromise, back down or change course. He has the power to communicate his ideas and thoughts to influence others. He can stop on a dime when necessary. He can start or stop a conflict.
No more war, an improbable dream? Perhaps, yet we must hold on tight to that dream, to that prayer, to the hope, for without the dream, the prayer, the hope, without the willingness to work steadily toward peace all over the world, we will be accepting the inevitability of war after war after war.
“Tis far nobler to till the soil with a ploughshare than to scar it with the sword”
For several years, I’ve been sharing on rajalary the invocations my grandmother wrote for the synagogue she attended. Often, I don’t publish an invocation for weeks (or months). Then I’ll get a subtle “hint” that it was time to look at the next innovation.
Such is the case for “Ploughshares: Invocation #52.”
When I typed the first sentence, I exclaimed out loud, “Wow!”
“Wow” because for the past few months, a member of a local church has been visiting me, expounding on how by accepting Christ I will be saved, and reborn into paradise where I’ll remain the same age, and live forever.
She roped me into her messianic babble by sharing Isaiah 2:4, “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
She explains the “signs” are everywhere this is happening, and I should prepare for the coming of the savior so that I’ll be “saved” and be able to live in paradise, just like Adam and Eve before a crafty snake coaxed Eve into munching on the forbidden fruit.
As a side note, details are sketchy on the forbidden fruit, which could include a grape, pomegranate, carob, etrog or citron, pear, quince, fig, tamarind pod, or even a mushroom.
She explained nations will stop fighting, and there are signs the savoir is coming so it’s important to get ready. From a Jewish point-of-view, she wanted to know what will happen when I die. Will I go to heaven?
“Hummmm, I don’t know. Judaism teaches the need to be the best person possible while you’re alive, and on Yom Kippur to fast and atone for all you’ve done wrong throughout the year.”
I could hear her thinking, “She’s going straight to hell.”
And I’m not sure she could see in my face the amusement and disbelief when I inquired how the earth won’t become overpopulated if those who are saved – and living in paradise – don’t age or die. She said God can stop people from reproducing, just like he had the scientific genius to created everything on earth from a mathematically complex seashell to the exact rotation and slant of the earth in relationship to sun and moon.
And no doubt, she believes sad planet earth, which has been stripped of resources, badly polluted, and radically change (for the worse) by man, can magically be transformed into a paradise with the snap of God’s fingers.
My grandmother wrote, “There is a perversity in man that makes it easier for him to put up his fists to fight, than to sit at a negotiating table to talk, to unsheathe the sword of battle, than pick up the pen of peace.”
There’s also a hesitancy for man to not skirt reality and responsibility. To believe hocus pocus that everything will magically get better if they have faith. However, as people are learning from the horrific hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Texas, and Louisiana; earthquakes in Mexico; famine in parts of Africa; and other natural disasters, faith, prayers, and thoughts aren’t solutions. Just absolution of accountability.
A better, more noble world starts with people stripping away pretenses, and tackling the tough task of ensuring people have access to clean water and air, nutritious food, basic healthcare, quality K-12 schooling, affordable higher education, safe housing, jobs that provide enough income to rise out of poverty, and freedom from tyranny. Countries that afford their citizens these basic qualities-of-life are less likely to have social upheavals, and more prone to sit at negotiating tables.
Thank you to Randy Tarampi and Sebastian Spindler and their amazing photos on Unsplash.