Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Peace Pilgrim Project, Part 1

Peace Pilgrim in Hawaii                       
This is the the way of peace--
overcome evil with good, and 
falsehood with truth, and
hatred with love.
                -The Peace Pilgrim

A few years ago, shortly after I began this blog, I wrote a post about The Peace Pilgrim. To provide some background for those not familiar with this remarkable woman, here's a few paragraphs from that post:

After 15 years of preparation, this woman began her first cross country pilgrimage in 1953 from Pasadena, California. So devoted was she to the cause of peace that she rejected her legal name and took the name Peace Pilgrim.  The compilers of the book honoring her describe her pilgrimages:

"Peace Pilgrim walked alone and penniless and with no organizational backing. She walked 'as a prayer' and as a chance to inspire others to pray and work for peace. She wore navy blue shirt and slacks, and a short tunic with pockets all around the bottom in which she carried her only worldly possessions: a comb, a folding toothbrush, a ballpoint pen, copies of her message and her current correspondence."

And she kept it up.  This was no one-time, publicity seeking event.  By 1964, she had completed 25,000 miles on foot for peace.  She vowed "to remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace," and she was faithful to her promise.  Before her death, in 1981, she would walk in all 50 states and complete seven cross-country pilgrimages.

In my original post, I expressed my surprise that I had never heard the story of this woman and her unique peace testimony. What I've learned since then is that very few people have. I've asked a number of my faculty colleagues at George Fox University if they have heard of her. Ironically, since George Fox is a Quaker university with its own Center for Peace and Justice, my inquiries have elicited mostly blank stares or quizzical looks. On a visit to Wheaton College this summer, I asked the same question to two English professors, neither of whom had ever heard of Peace Pilgrim.

I've had a growing conviction over the past three years that the story of Peace Pilgrim needs to be told--for several good reasons.

First, our world needs to hear a message of peace. In the 1970s Peace Pilgrim believed we had entered a crisis period in human history "walking the brink between a nuclear war of annihilation and a golden age of peace." Some 30 years later, how much has changed? We hear threats of nuclear war from Iran, the United States is still at war, and one of our presidential candidates wants to increase military spending.

Second, I sense that many today are looking for inner peace. Peace Pilgrim's message was not simply about the absence of war. She believed her pilgrimage covered the entire peace picture: peace among nations, peace among groups, peace within our environment, peace among individuals, and inner peace, which she talked about most often because that is where peace begins.

Finally, I need desperately to hear Peace Pilgrim's message about the simplification of life. One of the convictions that led Peace Pilgrim to her pilgrimage was the belief that she could no longer accept more than she needed while others in the world had less than they needed. As a result, she found great freedom in simplicity of living.

My intent over several blog posts is to provide a summary of some key elements of Peace Pilgrim's life and teaching. I hope that these posts will eventually grow into a nonfiction book. At the least, I hope they grow into the 25-page paper I need to submit for Westmont College's conference on War and Peace as Liberal Arts. I invite you on this pilgrimage with me and my teacher, Peace Pilgrim. I hope that you will be convicted, encouraged, and inspired as much as I've been by the teachings and life of this wise woman.

Next time:  The Four Preparations