late in evening the sky bruised
ringed them ugly and full
the sea moiled, black with heaving
feverish and wild
the rimless sky flickered with lightning
thunder padded and prowled
the wind woke, came like a beast
pawing this way and that
and the boat plunged and heaved
they held on in the scream of the sea
praying that as Christ had once calmed them
the waters might hear him again
then one of them looked and saw
in the midst of the worst of the night
a star chinking like gold
he pointed, they followed his arm
the storm did not lessen the least
but their faith was made of new fire
they fought like men unafraid
and the morning was born at last
This is an extract from Kenneth Steven’s wonderful sequence of poems, entitled A Song among the Stones, which tells the dangerous journey of four Celtic monks on their way from Iona to Iceland.
Peaceableness toward enemies is an idea that will, of course, continue to be denounced as impractical. It has been too little tried by individuals, much less by nations. It will not readily or easily serve those who are greedy for power. It cannot be effectively used for bad ends. It could not be used as the basis of an empire. It does not afford opportunities for profit. It involves danger to practitioners. It requires sacrifice. And yet it seems to me that it is practical, for it offers the only escape from the logic of retribution.
… The logic of retribution implies no end and no hope. If I kill my enemy, and his brother kills me, and my brother kills his brother, and so on and on, we may all have strong motives and even good reasons; the world may be better off without all of us. And yet this is a form of behavior that we have wisely outlawed. We have outlawed it, that is, in private life. In our national life, it remains the established and honored procedure.
… Peaceableness is not … passive. It is the ability to act to resolve conflict without violence. If it is not a practical and a practicable method, it is nothing. … In the face of conflict, the peaceable person may find several solutions, the violent person only one.
Wendell Berry, ‘Peaceableness toward Enemies’, in Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community