ARTICLE:Peace On Earth: Cairns of Hope
Published on Thursday, December 23, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
Peace On Earth: Cairns of Hope
by Karen Horst Cobb
Peace on earth. The empty words bounce off department store walls and dribble from mailboxes translating themselves in the lexicon of consumer language as - let’s go shopping. Now more than ever “Peace on earth” ought to be our collective prayer. It is a prayer which crosses all religious, ethnic and social boundaries. Who among us does not desire peace? This seems a rhetorical question but sadly there are those who fear peace and desire war. In the United States we have seen that mammon and the sword are the capital being spent to buy an empire. This is a small powerful minority but, around the globe there is a mighty majority who call for peace. Power and greed fuel war and consumerism distracts from the simple message of “peace on earth .“ How can we humbly unite and stand in solidarity?
Some of us connect on the internet through various forums as the world wide web links us and allows us to understand how similar we are. All of us value our families, our traditions, our landscapes, and our understanding of the Creator. Mothers stay up at night nursing their ailing children, fathers are concerned for the safety of their families, children are learning to walk and talk and become members of their communities. We laugh, we cry, we pray, we dance, we bury our dead and we seek peace on earth. So how can we come together across the globe to publicly proclaim our desire for peace? We need a way to identify ourselves to one another, a way that transcends our differences , a movement that does not rely on media or politics and can not be bought or manipulated. A movement of simple people with a common goal of living daily in support of peace.
Historically symbols have been used to transcend language and culture and to communicate volumes with one simple icon. There is the crescent, the cross, the vine, and various animal images each representing a reality. There are the modern universal symbols we find at airports and other public facilities . We have icons which show our support for a myriad causes. We have yellow ribbons, pink ribbons, rainbows, lapel pins and an endless list of other shorthand ways of identifying ourselves and our allegiances. What people of peace lack is an icon of identity. The best we have is the symbol of the dove and the olive branch but because it has been in the popular culture for so long and has religious significance its use may be problematic. Global citizens of peace need a fresh symbol. I propose we adopt a universal symbol which will transcend our various flags and religious symbols which have been used to separate us from one another. The simple cairn is an icon I am proposing. A way marker on the path of peace.
A cairn is constructed by stacking one rock upon another to mark a path which has become lost due to lack of traffic. Although cairns appear on every continent I am most familiar with the Gaelic form . I have often hiked high in the mountains and have come to a place where the path is unclear since it is traveled so seldom or where there is such aggressive vegetation that it has become overgrown. I glance ahead a little in one direction and see a cairn constructed by a fellow traveler on this path and know my next steps will lead me to the overlook where I can see where I have been and where I am going. The infrequency with which humanity travels the path of peace has caused this path to be obscured from view. We have become reliant on language and sadly language is limiting and can be divisive . Truth communicated through an icon can transcend these misunderstandings. It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words and that it’s meaning is more clear. This is the communication we need as a diverse community of people of peace. The prophets have served as living cairns to us all and we likewise can be living cairns to one another. We can symbolize this commitment to the path of peace by constructing cairns near our homes.
Waymarkers are present in societies around the globe from the native peoples of Northern Canada, the high Himalayas. and in the Middle East. They are referred to in ancient texts and we continue to marvel at the Stonehenge mysteries. The stone marker is a symbol written on our hearts and deep within the collective consciousness. Rocks are plentiful in almost all locations and remind us of the ancient dust from which we came. The humble cairn can be a marker, an identifier, a reassurance along the path of peace. We, carbon based forms, are entrusted with the care and nurturance of the beautiful creation.
So may I humbly purpose that we profess our prayer for peace and our commitment to making it a reality by building cairns by our mailboxes, our walkways, or our front doors and that these cairns come to be the universal symbols of havens of peace along life’s path. As we travel we can find one another and share the vision of a kingdom which transcends our religious and political boundaries. In our own communities these cairns can help us identify and unite with those who are working for peace and as we travel we can find our common family. Perhaps one day the internet will not be available to us and each of us have only a few addresses and telephone numbers by which we can connect but rocks will always be plentiful and cairns simple to construct. They can serve as silent witnesses at sites throughout the world where war is waged, planned for, or celebrated. As the army of peace, we can make our universal mark on the earth and construct humble markers on the humble path. There is no need for expensive monuments or edifices as the simple continues to confound the wise.
This is just a simple proposal but it may help us to become a community. May the hollow consumer driven sound of “peace on earth” be transformed this season to a reverberating echo around the globe as we transcend theologies, doctrines, national identities and proclaim our commitment to peace in our homes, our communities our nations and our universe- Peace on earth witnessed by cairns of hope.
Karen Horst Cobb is a writer and artist and has contributed to Common Dreams with her articles No longer a Christian (Parts I and II.) This article is a continuation of part II in answer to the question, where do we go from here? She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org