Issue nº 55

21 June 2003, Jordan, the Dead Sea  |  On the art of the sword

21 June 2003, Jordan, the Dead Sea

On 21 June I was in Jordan, more precisely at the Dead Sea, invited by the Queen to write a text that was to be part of the opening ceremony of a meeting of the WEF. As soon as the event came to an end, I attended a dinner at which I found myself in an extraordinary situation.

Sitting at the table right across from me were the King and Queen of Jordan, Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Representative of the Arab League, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, the President of the German Republic, the President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, and other prominent names involved in the processes of war and peace that we are witnessing. Although the temperature was close to 40o C, a soft breeze blew over the desert, a pianist played sonatas, the sky was cloudless, and torches spread throughout the gardens lit up the whole place. On the other side of the Dead Sea we could make out Israel and the lights of Jerusalem shining on the horizon. In other words, everything seemed to be in harmony and peace - and then all of a sudden I realized that, far from being an aberration of reality, that very moment was really and truly a dream for us all. Although my pessimism had grown a lot over the last few months, if people can still manage to sit around and hold a conversation, then nothing is lost.

Later on, Queen Rannia remarked that the venue of the meeting had been chosen for its symbolic character: the Dead Sea is the deepest place on the surface of the Earth (401 metres below sea level). To go any deeper, we have to dive - but in this specific case the salinity of the water forces the body to return to the surface. And thus it is with the long and painful process of peace in the Middle East: one can go no deeper than the present stage. If I had turned on the television that evening, I would have learned of the death of a Jewish settler and a young Palestinian. But there I was, at that dinner, with the odd feeling that the calm of the evening could spread over the whole region, that people would start talking to one another like they were talking at that moment, that Utopia is possible, and that men can go no deeper.

If one day you have the chance to go to the Middle East, do not miss visiting Jordan (a marvelous and warm country), then go to the Dead Sea and look at Israel on the other river bank: there and then you will understand that peace is necessary and possible. Below is part of the text that I wrote and read at that event, accompanied by the splendid improvisations of Jewish violinist Ivry Gitlis:

Peace does not mean the opposite of War.
We can have peace in our hearts even in the midst of the most ferocious battles because we are fighting for our dreams. When our friends have all lost hope, the peace of the Good Fight helps us to carry on.
A mother who can feed her child holds peace in her eyes, even though her hands are shaking when diplomacy has failed, bombs are falling all around, soldiers are dying.
An archer pulling his bow holds peace in his mind, even when all his muscles strain from the body's effort.

So, for the warriors of the light, peace is not the opposite of war - because they are capable of:

A] Distinguishing what is passing from what is lasting. They can fight for their dreams and for their survival, but they respect the ties that have developed over time, through cultures and religions;
B] Knowing that their adversaries are not necessarily their enemies;
C] Realizing that their actions will affect five future generations, and that their sons and grandsons will benefit or suffer from the consequences;
D] Remembering what the I Ching says: perseverance is favorable. But let not perseverance be confused with insistence - the battles that last longer than necessary end up destroying the enthusiasm that is needed for reconstruction.

For the warrior of the light there are no abstractions; each opportunity to change oneself is an opportunity to change the world.
For the warrior of the light there is no pessimism either. He will row against the current if necessary; for when he is old and tired he will be able to tell his grandchildren that he came to this world in order to understand his neighbour better, and not to condemn his brother.

Issue nº55