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Philosophy Now’s new columnist Peg Tittle has doubts about the benefits of Inner Peace.
The problem with inner peace is that it’s really just resignation. It’s giving up. It’s refusing to accept responsibility for one’s actions by refusing to accept that one can act. It’s the epitome of passivity.
A piece appeared in a recent issue of Conscience Canada (June 1996, no.66 p.11) which was in turn taken from The Friend (December 9, 1994), listing the “symptoms of inner peace” – the following are extracted items.
A tendency to think and act spontaneously (#1). That is, without careful deliberation, without thorough consideration. So when one thinks at all, one’s thoughts will necessarily be superficial and shallow. Actually, perhaps one won’t think at all; after all, to act spontaneously is to do so without thinking. So how, exactly, does one ‘think spontaneously’? The rest of the item provides no help:… rather than on fears based on past experience. Past experience is what guides us (at least those of us who are rational): the last time we put our hand on a hot stove, it hurt – so the bright ones among us stopped doing that. Granted, if we use only the fears of our past experience, we are being a bit lopsided, but that doesn’t seem to be the point being made here.
Loss of interest in judging other people (#3). So that’s how an actor got to be president of the most powerful country on earth! Could account for a lot of battered wives too. D’ya suppose they’re feeling innerly peaceful? (I’ll be they have frequent attacks of smiling – #9.)
Loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others (#4). This pretty much goes hand in hand with the previous one: if you’re not going to judge, there’s no point in interpreting. Though for the life of me, I can’t see how failing to interpret the actions of someone who is loading and aiming a gun at my friend will lead to my inner peace.
An increased tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen (#10). This one says it all. A complete abdication of responsibility. Que sera sera. If someone blows up the world, well hey, stuff happens.
There you have it. Inner peace, aka Resignation. If you don’t care about X or Y, not having X or seeing Y hurt won’t bother you. And an unbothered person is a peaceful person. Don’t worry, be happy.
But a peaceful person is an uncaring person: it’s the absence of inner peace, the presence of frustration, anger and disappointment that is a measure of one’s caring. The more one cares about X or Y, the more one will be agitated, not at peace, if one doesn’t have X or sees Y hurt.
The only thing that makes sense of all this inner peace crap is the belief that someone else, perhaps someone more qualified, is being thoughtful, judgmental and active. Hm. Could it be God? Well, yes it could. That’s why we don’t have to worry about anything: God will take care of it, what will be will be by God’s will.
The problem with this is that there are no gods.
So the route to inner peace is the route to death. Not thinking , not interpreting, not judging, not acting – sounds a lot like the comatose, who without someone else to be responsible for them, would die. (And when’s the last time you saw God change a catheter?)
© Peg Tittle 1998
Peg Tittle lives with a dog in a cabin on a lake in a forest. Both believe cold pizza to be the breakfast of champions.