Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Power of Peace, Holding the Light

Last night, after seeing a movie, I went to Mont-Royal metro to meet with a friend for a drink. When I got onto the Orange line at Berri, there was some drama unfolding. A young guy (ball cap) and an older drunk man were hurling threats and insults at each other from across the metro car. Finally, Ball Cap had had enough and put his headphones on, drowning out the older man who was still yelling. When I got out at Mont-Royal, so did they, but another young man joined in (hoodie). The two young men crowded the older man against the wall, threatening to beat his ass, while the older man stood his ground and postured against them. When I came up to them, I could smell the alcohol coming off the older man. I got between them and told the young guys to back off, telling the older man that they weren't worth his rage. Ball Cap said he wasn't going to jail for this fool and tried to storm off. Unbelievably, Hoodie ran after him and tried to goad him into fighting the old man. When that didn't work, he ran back to the older man to insult him and tried to goad him into attacking Ball Cap. By now, we're on the escalator going up and I'm standing between the older man, Hoodie (still goading), and Ball Cap who was still yelling threats back, but still trying to put some distance between him and the older man. He reached out and snatched the old man's toque and threw it down the stairs, presumably as a distraction so that he could put more distance between them. Hoodie was telling me to mind my own business, that the older man had insulted him, and somebody needed to pay. "C'mon man, leave the old guy alone. He's old enough to be your grandfather and I guarantee you he's seen more horrible things in the last 10 years than you have seen in your lifetime!" This seemed to soften Hoodie somewhat, especially the "grandfather" bit. He pushed past us both, muttering "You're lucky that this guy [me] was here, or we would have beat your old man ass." Once we got out, the young men were gone and the old man was still raging. I tried to calm him down, but he stormed back into the metro (which I assumed was to get his hat). Once the adrenaline wore off, I ducked into alleyway and had a bit of a cry. This altercation was incredibly scary and I was convinced the entire time that fists or knives were going to come out and I'd be caught in the middle. But I could not walk away. I'm telling you all this to highlight the idea that most conflicts can be de-escalated through talk rather than more violence. With the power of words, you can appeal to people's humanity and reason to get them to back off rather than give in to ego and violence. The way of the warrior is not to pick up the sword first: it is to find solutions to conflicts in any way possible to avoid violence. Once the warrior needs to pick up the sword, he has failed in his duty and is now left with his last resort. There is power in words, there is strength in peace, and there is magic in kindness and compassion. We are coming into the darkest part of the year, so share your light with those who fear the darkness around them, but especially the darkness within them.

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