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Making Peace: Telling Truth

From 1959, as a graduate student teaching my first classes, until 2002, when I taught my last classes at Earlham, my day job has been as a teacher of literature and writing. For 50 years, since I became a Quaker at the same time I was finding my vocation, the study of literature has enriched my political and social witness, and my work for civil liberties, civil rights, international understanding, peace, and justice has deepened my reading of literature. So I am going to begin with a poem by Denise Levertov called “Making Peace”:

A voice from the dark called out,
“The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.”
But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.
A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.
A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its affirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses …
A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.

You can see why this poem sustains so many peace activists. That voice from the dark speaks for us: “The poets must give us imagination of peace.… Peace, not only the absence of war.” Those of us who have spent much of our lives resisting war have also longed to go beyond that to be a part of a genuine peace movement. Denise Levertov reminds us that peace is not something that is found but something that is made, constructed out of complex and often unyielding materials. And, because she is a poet as well as a peace activist, she makes a rich connection between those two aspects of her inner life. Peace is like a poem. It does not exist until it is made. Each of them is imagined in the act of making it, “in the words of its making,” she says. And both peace and poetry are made of words, sentences, metaphors, the formal unity of grammar and syntax. Each has cadences, silences, presence, is an energy field, pulse, vibration of light, facets of the forming crystal.

You may feel there is too much poetic license in all those assertions—beautiful and intense, but perhaps too metaphorical to be practical in doing the work of peacemaking. But I want to invite you to imagine some of the connections between these ways of making two precious human artifacts—a poem and peace. Each is produced by hard work and trial and error. Each seeks the right order, a pattern, that enlarges us and connects us with others. At its best, making peace or making any art (though here poetry stands in for all of them) is soul‐satisfying work that continually enhances our humanity.

I began by saying I thought there is a crucial connection between peacemaking and truth‐telling, and I will try to puzzle out, very tentatively, what I think it means to tell the truth. The late philosopher Bernard Williams’s book Truth and Truthfulness has been of great help to me. He begins by identifying “two currents of ideas … very prominent in modern thought and culture.” First, “an intense commitment to truthfulness,” and second, as a “reflex against deceptiveness, … a pervasive suspicion about truth itself, whether there is such a thing.” Bernard Williams argues that truth serves an evolutionary function in helping humans to live cooperatively. Humans have to be able to depend on the accurate communication of a great deal of information that would be too hard or dangerous for us to discover for ourselves. For example: “The fire will burn you.” “This water is safe to drink.” “Eating that will make you sick.” He argues that “assertions perform one of their most basic functions, to convey information to a hearer who is going to have to rely on it, in circumstances of trust, and someone who is conscientiously acting in circumstances of trust will not only say what he believes, but will take the trouble to do the best he can to make sure that what he believes is true.”

Truthfulness, the determination to act conscientiously in circumstances of trust, rests on what Bernard Williams calls “two virtues of truth”—accuracy and sincerity. Language must be used to communicate correct information, but prior to that, language itself must be learned. “Children learn languages in many ways and in many different kinds of situations,” he writes, “but one essential way is that they hear sentences being used in situations in which those sentences are plainly true.” For example, “This is Mamma,” or “Daddy will be home soon.” Some of us may recall how the Dick and Jane books taught reading with such down‐to‐earth facts as, “This is Spot. See Spot run,” with illustrations to confirm the factual accuracy of each sentence.

Of course, we must understand that what any one of us perceives to be the truth is refracted by our experience, our perspective, and by what we have been taught to see. The poet and lifelong peace activist William Stafford says: “Some people are blinded by their experience. Soldiers know how important war is. Owners of slaves learn every day how inferior subject peoples are.”

We also know that truth is pluralistic in how it functions in different kinds of discourse. Some statements have what we might call a local truth. It is 7:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, August 1, 2003, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It is an hour earlier in Richmond, Indiana, on Eastern Standard Time, which many of our farmers call “God’s Time.” In Japan it is tomorrow, in the Gregorian calendar, but not according to the traditional Japanese method of dating according to an emperor’s reign, nor according to the Jewish or Chinese calendars. The facts, in this case, are not contradictory but depend entirely on where we are, our cultural perspectives, and the agreed‐on, constructed conventions of watches and calendars.

But the truth is also pluralistic to the degree that we are talking about feelings or our responses to experience. I have spent a career trying to help people read for what the novelist Tim O’Brien calls “story‐truth” as distinct from “happening‐truth.” And I offer Denise Levertov’s poem as an expression of feeling‐truth, metaphoric truth, a truth largely dependent on our being willing to grant that similitudes give us something upon which we can build our beliefs and actions. Here I want to make a claim that is implicit in all the connections between peace and poetry that Denise Levertov is making: each is a work of truth‐telling. The integrity and power of each rests on truth and truthfulness. That means seeking out the truth, pledging ourselves to speak the truth and to live by the truth.

At first that may not appear to be a very big revelation. After all, we Quakers claim the original copyright on the phrase “Speak Truth to Power.” But, of course, matters are more complicated than that. The definitions of all the most important words we have created to describe our most desired, sought‐after social and political values—all the capital‐letter words: Peace, Justice, Truth, Love; the words for values for which many have willingly died, and willingly killed—the meanings of all those words are always under contention. An emperor said that the Roman legions created a desert and called it peace. Socrates’s most dangerous adversary in Plato’s Republic says that justice is whatever the strong say it is. And Pontius Pilate sends Jesus to his death with the flippant question, “What is truth?”

Ever since the American Friends Service Committee booklet Speak Truth to Power appeared in 1955, that phrase has been a favorite rallying cry, slogan, even a cliché for a lot of people. It fairly bristles with capital letters: Truth, Power, and behind them a whole bouquet of other capital‐letter values such as Justice, Equality, Reconciliation, and Love. But Truth with a capital T has fallen on hard times, not only because the most authoritarian and oppressive governments and movements in the world claim its warrant to justify how they use power, but also because the very concept of truth—however you print the word—is under assault on behalf of communities that have been without voice and without power.

I want to stress this point. On behalf of the previously voiceless and oppressed, such as women, Third World communities, communities of color, and ethnic and sexual minorities, there has arisen a powerful, skeptical critique. Often politically radical, this critique questions traditional authoritarian, religious, and political systems and the European ideology of rationalism, empiricism, and science called the Enlightenment. This critique challenges the assumption that there is anything we can appropriately call even the most modest lowercase “truth.” Instead, we are being asked to regard all truth‐claims merely as expressions of ideology, which the British literary critic Terry Eagleton, in Literary Theory: An Introduction, defines as “the ways in which what we say and believe connects with the power‐structure and power‐relations of the society we live in, … more particularly those modes of feeling, valuing, perceiving, and believing which have some kind of relation to the maintenance and reproduction of social power.”

The French philosopher Pascal Engel says that the American philosopher Richard Rorty calls truth just a “ ‘compliment’ we pay our assertions, a little ‘rhetorical pat’ on their backs.” He claims that Richard Rorty believes such skeptical views about truth “are apt to promote the values of democracy and social solidarity better than foundationalist moves in moral and political theory that emphasize the values of justice and truth.”

Todd Gitlin, one of the founders of Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s, reports a woman graduate student in sociology recently telling him, “There are no truths, only truth‐effects.” If I understand her, she is asserting that all that really matters is power, that power hides itself behind ideology in order to pass itself off as truth, and to impose what it calls truth on others. Either truth is what those in power say it is and are prepared to back up with force, or there is only rhetorical power, the power to convince or deceive others by manipulation of words, data, and information, so they accept your ideology and make it an absolute in their own lives. If that is so, we can’t speak truth to power because all truth‐claims are merely expressions of the will to power. But if we can only introduce the voices of the silenced and oppressed into our discourse by denying that our purpose is to get at the truth, what have we accomplished? If truth is merely a sweet name for the will to power, the powerful have no reason to listen.

ere is the great conflict immediately before us: Peacemaking depends absolutely on a commitment to truth‐telling, but we know that what constitutes truth is always under contention because our truth‐claims are always connected to how power will be used. Those who win the wars write not only the histories but the dictionaries. They control the master narratives that will express or embody the received truth.

Take one obvious example: In the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, are Gaza and the West Bank “the disputed territories” or “the occupied territories”? Ought we use their present‐day place names, or Biblical names like Samaria and Judea? Grant the validity of one name, and you appear to grant the political, social, and military legitimacy entangled in that name. Use one set of terms instead of another, and you will be criticized for lacking objectivity. “Be objective; tell the objective truth,” we are told, but that translates to: “Accept that my words are the true ones for the political situation and therefore mine is the true solution.” What words can the peacemaker use in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that might help bring about an end to violence and steps toward reconciliation? If we speak only of Gaza and the West Bank, will the Palestinians and Israelis believe we are maintaining the objectivity of a mediator or the evasiveness of someone who will not grant their respective truth‐claims? In such a case, how does the peacemaker speak truthfully, with integrity?

For another example, consider the following three sentences:

  1. Every human life is sacred.
  2. Human life begins at the moment of conception.
  3. Every fetus is a human being from the moment of conception.

The first sentence, every human life is sacred, expresses a profound conviction, to which all of us may give assent. The second is an assertion of fact, a truth‐claim. It seems logical. When else would we say life actually begins? But it is also packed with political implication, and some of us may agree while others find ourselves holding back, saying, “Yes, but …”, or proposing an alternative moment at which to start counting human life—viability outside the mother’s body, for example. Either we are on our guard against the power implications implicit in the truth‐claim, or we are urgently pressing the truth‐claim about what seems to be a simple fact, but which becomes a matter of how we “construct” the truth to point us toward one or another political stance. The third sentence is a conclusion, a truth‐claim derived from the first two sentences, and if it is a truth it implies a very specific exercise of power.

You will recognize that the three sentences are the moral and intellectual foundation for the right‐to‐life movement, and from those three truth-claims—which, I want to remind you, were indisputable truths in this culture through a large part of my adult years—have followed fierce political battles, stringent legislative and judicial initiatives, and political victories and defeats profoundly affecting millions of people.

I am describing a present‐day reality. Those who are pro‐choice, as I am, and those who are pro‐life, including many Quakers and other peace activists who derive their convictions from an absolute belief in the sacredness of all human life, recognize that all the truth‐claims, on both sides, are also power‐claims. We want something to happen according to our truth‐claims. In such a situation, does the peacemaker try to find neutral words to describe the conflict, or take a stand on one side or the other and try from that vantage point to bring about change leading to reconciliation?

I have been corresponding with Friend Julie Meadows, a member of Baltimore Yearly Meeting and a student of ethics, about these issues. She offered me a formulation used by Murray Wagner of Earlham School of Religion. It might be called the Parable of the Three Umpires. The first umpire says: “There is a ball, there is a strike. I call it as it is.” The second umpire says: “There is a ball, there is a strike. I call it as I see it.” The third umpire says: “There ain’t nothing till I call it.” Julie Meadows suggests it would be useful to invite each person to contemplate which kind of umpire one is. She thinks there are a lot of first and third kinds of umpires among Quakers; the first umpires (“I call it as it is”) think everyone who is at all faithful will agree with them; the third umpires (“There ain’t nothing till I call it”) assume everyone who is halfway intelligent will agree with them. A lot of us also seem to believe we should be free to shift from one to another umpiring stance in the middle of the game. Like Julie, I am the second kind of umpire: I believe there is a ball, there is a strike, and I call it only as I see it, trying to see clearly what is there and to report honestly what I have seen.

We could try to avoid the whole problem and resort to the current popular formulation, “This is my truth. That is your truth.” But this apparently humble approach has some practical problems for the peacemaker. “Speak the deeply held but unexamined, ideologically inflected, opinions of your race, class, and gender to Power” is not a compelling rallying cry. Nor is “In my humble opinion, the truth as I see it will set you free, I think” much of a sign to carry in a protest march.

Even in the best case, this apparent openness may be only a way of hunkering down in one’s own ideological enclave and refusing to engage with the truth‐claims of others. Bernard Williams calls the “my truth/your truth” approach “an idle relativism.” He says it “often complacently presents itself as a witness to human equality, a refusal to impose our concepts on others, but in fact, if it does anything at all, it simply imposes one of our conceptions rather than another. It gives up before the real work of understanding human similarities and differences even begins.”

I have another problem with the “my truth/your truth” formulation: it seems to claim the authority of truth while relieving the speaker of responsibility to check the known facts against one’s own opinions or to test the validity of one’s actions. A number of times in recent years I have sat in meetings where people misrepresented what I and others had said, repeated unfounded rumors as fact, made judgments on the motives of others, and sugarcoated it all as speaking one’s own truth. Am I daring to suggest that some Quakers might now and again be careless of facts, in the name of truth? Yes, I am. I am daring to suggest that we are all fallible human beings.

You may have heard of the child in Sunday School who got the Biblical texts mixed up and said, “A lie is an abomination unto the Lord but a very present help in time of trouble.” If there are no truths, only truth‐effects, and “truth” is only a little rhetorical pat on the back we give ourselves, is there any such a thing as a lie? And does it matter?

In a letter from 1802, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, “My mind misgave me … that thousands who would rather die than tell a lie for a lie, will tell 20 to help out what they believe to be a certain truth.” Millions of people around the world look at the assertions by which the leaders of the United States justified the war against Iraq—that Saddam Hussein had and intended to use weapons of mass destruction, that he was actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program, that he was associated with al‐Qaida, that “time is not on our side”—and they ask, were we deliberately misled? Was correct information knowingly withheld or manipulated to justify an unnecessary and terrible war? To put the question bluntly: were we lied to?

You know how these questions are being answered by our leaders. Apologists for the war say the weapons of mass destruction argument was a bureaucratic choice, the argument most likely to succeed. The claim that Saddam Hussein was actively pursuing nuclear weapons was only 16 little words in a long State of the Union address. They may be inaccurate, but so what? We got rid of a terrible dictator, one who killed thousands of his own people. Surely that is a good result from a little bending of the facts. As I understand them, Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as President George W. Bush and his associates have been arguing exactly that case: we didn’t intentionally mislead, but if we got the facts wrong, look on the bright side; the outcome is excellent. One U.S. journalist, when asked recently whether he thought the president of the United States had told the truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, said, “He told his truth.” I am tempted to say simply, “The prosecution rests its case.” As William Stafford has written, “Today in society you need a tendency not to believe.”

believe there is such a thing as a lie, not just “my truth” or a “truth‐effect.” And the distinction matters precisely because sometimes people of integrity have to decide whether to tell lies in order to preserve some value without which they find their integrity is meaningless. You may know the famous formulation of this issue by Immanuel Kant. If a known murderer intending to kill your friend asks you if your friend is hidden in your house, are you required to answer truthfully? Immanuel Kant says yes, because you owe more to sustaining the moral law than to saving a single life. You must ask, what would happen to us if everyone told lies when faced with difficult moral choices?

You may also know the case of Pastor André Trocmé, who organized his community in France to hide and save Jews from the Nazis. Time after time an official would come to him and say some‐thing like, “Pastor Trocmé, we know as a Christian you are required to tell the truth, so let me ask, do you know of any Jews being hidden in this area?” And André Trocmé would not evade the question, or try to be clever; he would take advantage of his position as pastor, as Occupational and Professional Truth‐Teller, to lie flat out, in order to save people’s lives. Every night he would confess the sin of lying to God but could never ask for forgiveness, because he knew he would have to tell more lies the next day, for all the years of the German occupation of France. He saw the conflict Immanuel Kant was identifying, and lived with that torment in order to keep faith with both the moral law and the moral necessity to save innocent lives.

While in prison, Diet‐rich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was executed for his part in the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, worked on an essay about what it means to tell the truth. His circumstances made it impossible for him to draw on the most compelling test cases in his own life without betraying his friends to the Nazi authorities, so he addressed the question with this Aesopian example: “A teacher asks a child in front of the class whether it is true that his father often comes home drunk. It is true, but the child denies it.” As a simple no to the question, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, the child’s answer is certainly untrue, but the child rightly feels that the teacher is prying unreasonably into his family life, thus the child’s lie “contains more truth, that is to say it is more in accordance with reality than would have been the case if the child had betrayed his father’s weakness in front of the class.” The blame for the lie falls upon the teacher, Bonhoeffer argues. “Telling the truth” means something different according to each particular situation one finds oneself in, the nature of the relationships at each particular time, “and in what way a man is entitled to demand truthful speech of others.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s way of resolving the conflict of when to tell the truth is different, but he and Andre Trocme are alike in finding that they must tell lies in order to live in the truth. The first generation of Quakers were especially insistent that their yea would be yea, and their nay, nay. Other persecuted groups of the time would hold prayer meetings around tables holding playing cards and drinks, so that if they were interrupted they could pretend they were merely dissipating, not praying. The first Quakers would not follow any such stratagem. And we honor them for that costly integrity. But what of those Quakers and others in the 19th century who helped escaped slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad? Did they deceive and lie to the slave‐takers? I assume so. And what of Quakers in Germany, Austria, and the occupied countries during the Second World War? Hans Schmitt’s book Quakers and Nazis: Inner Light in Outer Darkness documents how individual Friends and meetings were sensitive to the issues of truth‐telling and evasion, and the ways they found to negotiate those ethical dilemmas in hiding Jews and other victims of Naziism.

I think you and I honor them, and those like them, who have deliberately falsified facts to save lives, but we do not do so without misgivings. I will no doubt disappoint Immanuel Kant, but I promise you, if a known murderer comes and asks me if I know where you are, I will do my very best to lie skillfully and earnestly, to try for a convincing “truth‐effect,” but not because I believe there is no such thing as truth or that telling the truth does not matter.

That the commitment to truthfulness helps make us suspicious of the idea of truth, is all the more reason for us to cling to those two capital‐letter virtues, Sincerity and Accuracy, which Bernard Williams identifies as key tests of how we speak and act the truth. Sincerity and accuracy need to go together, to test and sustain one another. I think that is why I am so troubled by the easy formula of “my truth” and “your truth.” I may be completely sincere in what I believe and what I tell you, but if I trust only in my own sincerity, my good‐heartedness about what I am saying, I may misinform, mislead, help out one of those undoubted certain truths by my sincerely told lies. The test of sincerity is one we must apply rigorously to ourselves. It is at the heart of both André Trocmé’s and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s struggles. Does our motive affect what we are saying? Is it in my self‐interest to be speaking this way? Perhaps the only way we can get at the influence of our ideology, our perspective shaped by our desire to hold or keep power, is to be rigorous about sincerity, testing it always against accuracy.

A good example of such sincerity is John Woolman’s searching his conscience in the midst of his travel among Native Americans. He had already given a great deal of thought to what might happen to him on this trip. He might die, he might be captured and used as a slave by the Indians. One night, he reflected on the day’s news of violent events nearby. He writes in his Journal, “In this great distress I grew jealous of myself, lest the desire of reputation as a man firmly settled to persevere through dangers, or the fear of disgrace arising on my returning without performing the visit, might have some place in me.” That is to say, he looks hard at the purity of his motives for acting. For most of that night, he tries to bring his motives and all he knows about himself into God’s Light, “till the Lord my gracious Father, who saw the conflicts of my soul, was pleased to give quietness.” In this passage we see John Woolman testing his sincerity twice—first by that close self‐examination itself, and then by writing about it so you and I can see him not as a brave, self‐assured saint but as someone conflicted by what he has gotten himself into, “jealous of himself”—which I take to mean suspicious of and perhaps shamed by his motives—and finally only given quietness, not even renewed confidence in his own integrity.

So sincerity is one pillar of truth and accuracy is another. Bernard Williams says that, in the territory of sincerity, we may ask “ ‘Shall I tell the truth?’ But in the territory of accuracy, there is no such question as ‘Shall I believe the truth?’ ” Accuracy, he says, is the virtue that encourages us to spend more effort than we might have in trying to find out the truth, “and not just to accept any belief‐shaped thing that comes into [our] head.” Accuracy requires us to devise, and restrict ourselves by, careful, precise methods of investigation that can generate truth, the practice of detachment, rigorous self‐examination for bias. We must be, in John Woolman’s words, “jealous of ourselves” about haste, laziness, wishful thinking, and self‐serving. To prove trustworthy to others, we must start by questioning our own motives, our evidence, our conclusions.

The Latin etymology of the word “accuracy” means “done with care.” The American poet Adrienne Rich says in Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying, “Truthfulness anywhere means a heightened complexity.” Truth is complex; truthfulness is a heightened complexity. That is so for all the reasons I have been asking you to consider with me: truth is pluralistic, modified according to the discourses it is imbedded in; what we say and believe is deeply influenced by ideology, which in turn is entangled in our wish to gain or hold onto power; and new voices get a hearing only if they can challenge what has been taken as received truth. People will tell lies to “help out a certain truth,” says Samuel Taylor Coleridge. There is no such thing as truth, only the will to power; it is whatever the strong say it is, says the cynic, the philosopher who deals in irony.

And yet, I believe, through all that contention and complexity, we must persist in trying to find what is most dependably true, we must pledge ourselves to tell what we believe is the truth, to try to shape our lives as testimony to it. Julie Meadows wrote to me:

Quakers have understood … that certain truths are fragile and can only be passed between people who know and care about each other.… Only people who worship together, who know each other well enough, and respect each other enough to take the time to listen and be changed will be able to dedicate themselves not just to slogans but to tasks, will grasp the kind of truth that doesn’t exclude all other possibilities but tries to find the best harmony of them possible in this moment, knowing that in the next moment it may well change.

Adrienne Rich says, “An honorable human relationship—that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word ‘love’—is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they will tell each other.” What she says of the honorable relationship between two people I believe also applies to the possible relationships between groups, people, even nations. “We are too ready to retaliate,” says William Penn in Fruits of Solitude, rather “than forgive, or gain by Love and Information.” By information he means accurate facts, dependable knowledge, workable truths. Our love must be accurately informed; our information must be held and used in care, as the etymology of the word “accuracy” reminds us.

Earlier I promised I would do my best to lie convincingly if a murderer came looking for you. I was making a glib joke, but promising is a very serious act. To promise, to give one’s word, is to say one will stand by what one believes. The Irish use a very evocative image of a relation to the truth when they speak of “standing over” their words. One stands over one’s words protectively, but one also takes one’s stand on them as the foundation of one’s being. One makes an identity between one’s deepest self, the soul, the conscience, and the veracity of the acts one performs and the words one says. God help me if I make such a serious promise and cannot keep it. To give a serious promise, one must be both sincere and accurate.

Remember the words of Denise Levertov’s poem:

But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.
A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.

Making peace and making poetry are similar in that they require of us the most ethical, precise, and respectful use of language. Each grows from and expresses truthfulness. We negotiate peace by finding the form of words by which we can bind ourselves to pledges we can keep. Peace grows as we find the right words for the right deeds and put them together in the right order. “A line of peace might appear,” Denise Levertov says, “if we restructured the sentence our lives are making.… Grammar of justice, syntax of mutual aid.” Peace comes about through treaties and promises made and kept. To make peace we must make a self that is trustworthy, a self that persists in trusting.

Confucius taught that our great ethical work is to call things by their right names; to recognize and use the most accurate and truthful words for our actions, for our social inventions, and for the institutions we have created to serve us. Every generation has its particular struggle to reclaim and rehabilitate its most precious words from the cynical, the power brokers, and the oppressors and their tame rhetoricians. Every generation has to find ways to live by the great words, the great promise‐ words, with courage and integrity. Truth is a complexity, but our work is to seek the truth sincerely; to listen to even the most painful truth‐claims and weigh them against our own convictions; to demand of ourselves sincerity and accuracy in what we say; to learn to speak the truth in love; and to speak it to each other, to the world, and in our own hearts.

A cadence of peace might balance its
weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a
presence,
an energy field more intense than war, might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.

———————
An earlier version of this paper was presented as the Carey Lecture at Baltimore Yearly Meeting on August 2, 2003.

Paul A. Lacey, a member of Clear Creek Meeting in Richmond, Ind., is emeritus professor of English at Earlham College and clerk of the national board of directors of American Friends Service Committee. He authored Growing into Goodness: Essays on Quaker Education. He is also the literary executor for Denise Levertov and edited her Selected Poems.

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