Pax: Peace by Any Other Name
On a recent trip to see my daughter, I had to catch a flight home to attend some meetings. I did not mind. I like my daughter and I like the organizations that hold meetings that I have to attend. Both those commitments---daughter and meetings---are signs that I still have a life. I still have a role to play in the lives of people and organizations. I am glad about that.
Sometimes, I conclude, the saddest part about being human is when one no longer has any role to play in the world. Now I do not think our entire identity is wrapped up in our roles. Even if I were not a father, I would still exist. Some version of “me” would be alive on this earth. But it would not be the same “me” that is dad to two girls. My role with them defines, in part, who I am. My role defines my reality.
I am confident being spiritual is having significant, meaningful roles in this world. There probably are a variety of roles that make up spirituality. Certainly, there is the role of believer. I do believe in God. But that could be just an idea. There is no role in simple belief like that. If I believe in God, that should implicate a role to be played. In my tradition the role often is called “discipleship.” Discipleship is the way I live out my belief. Discipleship is the role lived out in the real world.
I know spirituality can become pretty “heady.” Sometimes it is made up of many ideas and notions, but little reality undergirds these ideas and notions. There is no emergent role that gets lived out. That’s why my definition of spirituality calls it a lived experience. For me spirituality has to be more than a set of ideas.
Indeed, this is a long way from my flight home with which I opened this reflection. But it is connected. I had traveled from my daughter’s apartment to the airport. I am one who does not like to get somewhere at the last minute and breathlessly wonder if I have made it. My preference is to get somewhere and have some time to sit. So I sat.
I watched some people go by. Of course, in an airport everyone is going by! No one lives in an airport! We are all transitory. If you think about that, life is a bit like an airport. We are all passing through. We have come from some place and we are going to a different place. We pass each other in those long corridors. Some people are heavily laden with baggage---just like life. Others travel light---reminds me of the monks. Most of the time I think I travel through airports and life with too much baggage!
So I sat. For some reason my eye wandered across the corridor and spotted a little establishment on the corner. I giggled when I read the name of the business. In bold letters I read PAX Bar & Eatery. It was just like that; Pax was in much bigger letters than the other two words. I giggled. If I said it out loud, I would enunciate Pax with a strong voice and trail off with Bar & Eatery.
I would love to meet the owner or the person that came up with the name. I know Latin, so I know Pax means “peace.” I am sure whoever named the place also knew what she or he was doing. How clever to build a place of “peace” right in the middle of the flux of the airport. And I liked that peace was associated with food and drink. How biblical and spiritual.
My imagination began to spring into action. I imagined that all who enter PAX put aside all anger and animosity. It would be against the rules to carry grudges into the “peace” place. And by the way, if we go into this bastion of pacifism, we would do well to check our egos at the door and give up our demanding selfish ways. We could prepare to love our neighbors as ourselves.
And this is why I love it that PAX is right there in the ebb and flow of the airport---the world. One does not know the neighbor there in the “peace” place. But whoever goes in there, goes in as a neighbor and takes on the obligation of treating everyone else as neighbor.
I never moved from my seat. I simply took out my cell phone and clicked a picture. I wanted to make sure I did not forget the name. I wanted to know there really is a place of PAX---a place of peace. There is…I saw it. And I can show you the picture.
But if we get the picture, we don’t need to go to that airport. If we can begin to take on a spiritual role in our lives, we begin to build “peace places” wherever we are. That is one of my new goals. I want to create that kind of specific place and space wherever I am and wherever I go. I want to be open for business. I want to invite people into my place and bring some peace and joy to earth---exactly what Jesus and other religious giants did.