Seeking Shalom

Shalom is the Hebrew for peace.  It’s Arabic cousin is Salaam.  The shared Semitic roots of these words only illuminate the tragedy of familial conflict.  This, however, is a sad and not infrequent human experience.

Shalom, however, has taken on a more subtle and powerful meaning for me as I continue my metaphyscial journey.  What do any of us seek during this lifetime? What catch phrase or expression best encapsulates our goals?  Perhaps ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ is a reasonable expression of this desire.  Others may find that money, power, health, longevity, joy–just knowing that our baby will not starve the next day–is enough.

Philosophers, psychologists, psychiatrists, movie characters, spiritual leaders have offered these insights and more. The Dalia Lama writes of ‘happiness’, Freud sought to liberate our unconscious conflicts and fears, Neitzche believed that ‘power’ was all, Frankl, man’s search for ‘meaning’.  The movie’s Gordon Gecko found ‘greed’ man’s greatest motivation.

But I find that what most of us are seeking is Shalom, a peaceful state of consciousness.   Often amidst a swirling malestrom of discontent and angst it appears, miraculously. It is an island of hope.  It is a gift of grace.

Shalom has acknowledged all suffering, tragedy, worry– and still, for a quantum instant, basks in the warm rays of a brilliant red/gold setting sun. It is not neutral, however.  It is the smile on the lips of resting Buddha–or the Mona Lisa.  It is the sudden, unbidden jolt of love for another. For that moment, time is an illusion. The Universe acknowledges us.  We are not insignificant.  Our journey is not without meaning.

Shalom is equanimity, the balancing point along a specturm of constant flux.  It is the boundary between Yin and Yang, always in dynamic equilibrium with its opposite.  Yet quantum theory states that reality is composed of finite moments.  Even the feeling of flow is an illusion. Reality is like a movie.  Each quantum moment is like an individual frame.  Each is discrete and timeless.

Shalom is ultimately what heals us–it makes us whole in body, mind and spirit. Yet it is only given to us in brief tastes. It tells us that our life is about learning and growing and neither can be accomplished easily.  This place we inhabit is not for the easily discouraged or weak-willed. But we should not forget that Shalom does exist–we have all been there.

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