Our fear response to a threat is to use force. The predominant cultural paradigm is to ‘bring out the big guns’ to destroy the enemy, whether that enemy is ISIS or cancer. To quote a simple and profound truth of the Quakers and others in the peace traditions: “War is not the answer.” War is not the answer to ISIS and violent extremism. War is not the answer to the scourge of cancer.
In competing to win over voters frightened by the threat of terror, most U.S. Presidential candidates up the ante on offering violent responses. Promises of violent retaliation may garner votes in an electorate driven by fear, but are not a pathway to peace. It is doubtful that carpet-bombing other countries where ISIS fighters may be congregating will ever eliminate extremist ideologies. Bringing out ‘the big guns’ in this proclaimed war on terror simply creates breeding grounds for new generations of terrorists.
The ‘big gun’ approach is also the preferred weapon in the treatment of cancer in the Western world. The predominant paradigm has been to throw the maximum-tolerated-dose (MTD) of chemotherapy drugs at identified cancers. If it does not kill you, it may cure you.
Emerging studies support that that use of maximum force against cancers may not be the most effective paradigm. Researchers at the Lee Moffitt Cancer Center are using “low-dose chemotherapy to apply brakes to a tumor’s resistance mechanism, rather than trying to destroy the tumor with a much higher dose” This new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine calls into question the predominant paradigm in cancer treatment. It tends to validate what many of us—both patients and practitioners–have long found to be true—that “less is sometimes more” in the treatment of cancer. It is to bring forward this emerging alternative paradigm that I first built a website almost two years ago to share information on metronomic chemotherapy.
The newly emerging and promising approach to cancer treatment is more adaptive, integrative and holistic. Might we find a similar paradigm for responding to the violence of ISIS with something other than more violence? Rather than being conformed to the war metaphors of this world, might we be transformed by a new paradigm of grace and peace?
Might we foster redemption rather than retribution? This is not a new idea. It is deeply seated in the wisdom of spiritual teachings that proclaim that ‘evil’ is overcome “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.” When the distortions of fundamentalist extremism are lifted, each of the major spiritual traditions of the world teach us that the power of love is greater than the power of hate.
We may find some short-term sense of security in dropping bombs on terrorist enclaves half way around the world to defeat terrorism once and for all. We may find hope that pouring the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of chemotherapy drugs into our bodies will be able to bring about ‘complete remission.’
Living into an ecology of grace and peace instead of out of a paradigm of war and retribution necessitates our asking hard soul-searching questions. How did we get to where we are? What are the root causes of the malaises we face? How have we participated in creating the forces that seem to threaten our comfortable status quo? How do we change the conditions that give rise to both extremist groups like ISIS and the terror of a cancer diagnosis? How do we repair the broken relationships in our lives?
The paradigms that are life-giving, rather than furthering of violence and destruction, call us to answer evil with good. Putting our trust in the ‘big guns’ has brought us neither security or health. Imagine putting the same energy–that we have directed toward our latest declared war –into supporting that which is life-giving and relationship restoring. With great imagination and care, might we begin to construct new and peace-promoting ways of being in relationship with both our own bodies and our neighbors?
Peace making must happen at a family, community and a global level. But, peacemaking must begin at a cellular level. In the words of a song that have touched so many: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” This song first sung by a group of young people on spiritual retreat, seeking to create an environment that would foster world peace, has become a hymn that has inspired millions around the world.
Healing of relationships happens on the inside and the outside. My journey of healing from cancer has catalyzed my passion for being an agent of peacemaking in the world. To live into Relational Presence requires the healing of our relationships, the repairing of our bodies and our spirits.
The journey of peacemaking traverses the cells of our bodies and the borders between countries. Together, may we find our way back home to this deep peace which passes all understanding. This is indeed, the ‘peace that was meant to be.’ Can we remember together that peace? Can we, together, live into that peace?
I invite you to share the story of your own journey toward inner and outer peace.