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The Reality of Peace

September 6, 2011

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I came across a gem of a poem in the Poems on the Underground archive.

…You can read the German original – Optimistisches Liedchen – by Hans Magnus Enzensberger here

And here is David Constatine’s translation:

Optimistic Little Poem

Now and then it happens
that somebody shouts for help
and somebody else jumps in at once
and absolutely gratis.

Here in the thick of the grossest capitalism
round the corner comes the shining fire brigade
and extinguishes, or suddenly
there’s silver in the beggar’s hat.

Mornings the streets are full
of people hurrying here and there without
daggers in their hands, quite equably
after milk or radishes.

As though in a time of deepest peace.

A splendid sight.

“As though in a time of deepest peace.” There is a hidden though potent truth behind these words. In this world of “grossest capitalism”, peace can only be a simile, never a reality, because of our fallen human nature. Every now and then, we encounter a glimpse of charity and selfless love in this world of chaos and discord, and it is a splendid sight. Every now and then, it’s as if we are living in a world of peace. Ultimately,  Enzensberger’s poem shows the futility of man’s optimism, because all it amounts to is a glimpse of the real thing – it is an earthly perspective where true peace is unattainable.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:17-18)

The ultimate Peacemaker is Jesus – the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Where we had messed up and turned our back on God, he made peace with the Father on our behalf.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (Romans 5:1-2)

Elsewhere, Paul writes: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) In other words, when we abide in the Prince of Peace, we can “reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).

Where we have failed in showing love to God and others, Jesus paid the price. When we know in our heart that Jesus has made peace with God on our behalf, we are motivated to become peacemakers ourselves here on earth.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Arjun Sharma permalink
    September 7, 2011 11:23

    Loved ur post :)

    would appreciate it if ud visit my blog as well. thanks :)

    • September 7, 2011 12:36

      Hi Arjun. Thanks for the comment. I’ve had a look at your blog and especially like some of the ideas that come out of your poem ‘Sights’ which fit with this post – “inner peace gone astray”.
      As for the line – “Wish you would fathom,/ The thoughts I keep bundled inside” – I think everyone can relate to that. In the light of that, the words of Psalm 139 are even more beautiful: “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.” You can read more about this and what it means to be known by the God of Love here:

  2. September 10, 2011 09:09

    wonderful words of wisdom. Thank you


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