Posted by: Viola | July 19, 2014

Peace is an act of imagination

Peace is an Act of Imagination: An Artist’s Manifesto

By Viola Allo

I can see that peace is something impossible for humanity. I can see that this impossibility is within me and without. It’s everywhere and in everyone. It is in every place. No matter where we turn, we encounter the impossibility of peace. We encounter conflict. We experience violence. Sometimes we perpetuate it. Sometimes we are victims. Sometimes we try to do something about it. Oftentimes, we fail. Most of the time, we retreat, we withdraw, we protect and defend ourselves and say: to hell with the rest, I don’t care.

And it is easy to not care, to focus on our own small worlds, and this is a good thing because we can make a difference in our small worlds in a way that we never could on a global scale. The problem with this is when violence comes to our own small worlds, violence from far away spills into and overwhelms our own sense of peace and safety. We are fine until we get on a plane and that plane gets blown out of the sky. What injustice! What horror! And nothing can fix this because those lives are gone. The pain of it! The agony!

How to grab the world and shake it and make people see that this is a nightmare and we need to wake up! How to convince people that all the fighting is pointless, that it is not right for two groups of people to fire missiles at each other and that it is not right for anyone to fire missiles into the air! How to bring the world to an awareness that as long as people are being killed, no one is right! No one can win!

How impossible it feels to stop the killing going on all over the world! Just this week, in a town near here, a woman went to the bank with her daughter and never came home. A daughter had to witness her mother being held hostage by robbers, then being driven off in a car with the robbers, a car that police fired at because the robbers were firing at the police, robbers with all kinds of firearms, including a machine gun, and with extra rounds of ammunition strapped to their bodies.

It feels so unreal but it is real. A woman went to the bank to get some cash and that was the end of her life. A family is now in mourning, a wife and mother lost. And many families are mourning so many lost on that Malaysian Airlines flight shot down in Ukraine. And let’s not even talk of the lives being lost daily in Palestine and across the globe, to violence of one form or another. The children who stand little chance of truly knowing safety and peace.

As an artist, a writer, a poet, a yogi, I realize that when things are impossible for me to achieve, when everything feels dire and hopeless, I turn to my creative work. Through my imagination, I can envision a world where peace reigns. I may never live to see it or even hear of it, but I can envision it. I want to be able to create these visions, even if only artistic–views of a planet where beauty and safety and joy abound, not just for me but for everyone.

In a poem, I can go beyond whatever limits me. In real life, I may struggle to be still or experience peace within me. I may struggle in my relationships, unable to connect with those I love or unable to sustain my friendships. I may struggle with expressing love and gratitude and even the joy I desire so much. I may struggle with stress, with anxiety, with depression, with disappointments, with failures, with health and financial difficulties, with daily frustrations over a world that doesn’t seem to notice me or people who look like me.

But in poetry, in the making of art, I can restore balance to my being and my world. I can explore love and express it. I can share joy and describe it. I can transcend frustration and failure and fear. Especially fear. I can be bold. I can reach for what feels impossible. And I can even grab it with both hands and hold it close to my heart. All things are possible in art. Peace is possible through art.

What I wish for the world, in my heart, is lots of art. I wish for the world that everyone will have the chance to make art, from the littlest child who begins to speak and draw and build castles in the sand. To the oldest human being who wants to rest and retire in peace and paint a picture or build a garden or a toy house or photo album or tell a sweet bedtime story for a grandchild. May all find art. May all who fight and are filled with anger, find art. May they channel their spirits into creative work. Daily. Hourly. Constantly until peace is felt in their hearts. Until joy and freedom blend and abound.

With enough imagination, with enough people imagining a different world, I think that peace is possible, not a thing of impossibility. No, it is very possible. Peace. But it needs needs us. Peace needs us. It needs us to begin imagining it. Envisioning it. If peace is possible in our minds, then perhaps someday it will be very possible in our world.

If we can hold peace in our minds, then perhaps we can be better placed to manifest it in the world around us. And if nothing else, we can stop fighting, stop killing. And start building more beautiful pieces of art, the world over–I so appreciate artists, art workers of the past, present, and future. We need more art! And isn’t this planet worthy of that? Aren’t we worthy of that? The earth itself is quite a thing of beauty. Some kind of incredible cosmic masterpiece. And aren’t we humans works of art, too? Why don’t we choose to shine, then, in the brightest and best of ways? Why don’t we?


The practice of peace and reconciliation is one of the most vital and artistic of human actions.  ~ Thich Nhat Hanh



  1. […] perhaps where art falls short of the mark. Of being true to life. I plead with the gods of art that peace is something much, much more imaginable. Than pain. I want to believe that, in small some way, my thinking about peace and writing about […]

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