Peace is NOT War

Lesson Introduction

Understanding interconnectedness as a path to peace…

“May you live in interesting times” is an old Chinese proverb [a fancy word for “saying”] that has been expressed a lot the last couple of years.  Some people say this proverb is actually a curse, since “dealing” with interesting times generally interferes with our ability to live our lives the way we would like to. Wars, weather disasters, pandemics are all examples of times that feel much more “cursed” than “interesting”. 

So what is in it for us?  How do we push against conflicts, big and small, to discover inner strength and use it to see how our own personal conflicts spiral outward to a global level and visa versa? Ah a big ask indeed!!

Since every question is different, no answer is the same, and the only constant is change, I explore things I don’t understand by free writing. 

Writing is reflection, a way of bringing the unknown and unexplored forward. Often when I sit down to write I don’t even know what I am even thinking about, but then when my fingers hit the keyboard or my pen finds the paper, the words tumble out. Sometimes they surprise, and other times they shock, but I always feel more free afterwards.   

So for this writing exercise, I invite you to enter with a “beginners” mind and let yourself relax and not be concerned with the outcome. If you write a poem great, and if you do not, that is great too.  The idea is engagement. To try and be present with this moment. 


A Vietnam War protest song, featuring Edwin Starr

This is a protest song about the Vietnam War, although it makes a broader statement of the need for harmony in our everyday lives. 

“War” was one of the first Motown songs to make a political statement. The label had always been focused on making hit songs, but around this time Motown artists like The Temptations and Marvin Gaye started releasing songs with social commentary, many of which were written by Whitfield. 

The Temptations were the first to record this; it was included on their 1970 album Psychedelic Shack. Motown had no intention of releasing it as a single, but many in the protest movement, especially college students, made it clear that the song would be a big hit if it was. Motown directors had other plans for The Temptations and didn’t want them associated with such a controversial song, so instead decided to give the single to Edwin Starr, whose legendary version shot to #1 on the charts in mid-1970.

War, huh
What is it good for?
War, huh
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again
War, huh, good god
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing

War, I despise
‘Cause it means destruction of innocent lives
War means tears to thousands of mothers’ eyes
When their sons go off to fight and lose their lives

[Chorus] I said, war, huh
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again
War, huh
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing

War, it’s nothing but a heartbreak
War, friend only to the undertaker
War, is an enemy to all mankind
The thought of war blows my mind
War has caused unrest within the younger generation
Induction then destruction, who wants to die?


War, it’s nothing but a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker
Wars have shattered many young men’s dreams
Made him disabled, bitter and mean
Life is much too short and precious to spend fighting wars these days
War can’t give life, it can only take it away


War, it’s nothing but a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker
Peace, love and understanding, tell me
Is there no place for them today?
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows it got to be a better way
I said


peace wife



They woke me this morning

to tell me my brother had been killed in battle.

Yet in the garden

a new rose, with moist petals uncurling,

blooms on the bush.

and I am alive

still breathing the fragrance of roses and dung

eating, praying, and sleeping.

When can I break my long silence?

When can I speak the unuttered words that are choking me?

Thich Nhat Hanh: This antiwar poem was written in Vietnam in 1964, when to pronounce the word “peace” meant you were “communist.”

peace world
Pre-Write:  Conflict, Violence, Non-Violence


1.  Consider the word CONFLICT 
Colman McCarthy, founder of the Center for Teaching Peace, says that conflict is a neutral word that just means, “Something has to change” – We often think about conflict as negative, but it also means growth – no one is exempt from conflict!

Come up with images:  What does conflict sound like, what does it feel like, where it happens and what does it look like? 

2. Consider the word VIOLENCE.

Are violence and conflict the same thing, or do they mean different things?

More images for Violence:  what it sounds like, what it feels like, where it happens and what does it look like

3. Now consider NON-VIOLENCE.

Dictionary definition – the dynamic of violence is simple: one force overpowering another. Nonviolence, on the other hand, invites creativity and responding with “out of the box” solutions.

Images for Non-violence:  what it sounds like, what it feels like, where it happens and what does it look like


4. Now consider what kinds of conflict you PERSONALLY EXPERIENCE?

[Conflict within oneself, with parents, friends, teachers, significant others, coaches, bosses]


5. Where does violence occur in the COMMUNITY?
[At school? In the neighborhood? With the police or other local authorities?]


6. Where is there violence in AMERICA?
[such as Child labor, poverty, freedom of speech and assembly, weapons making, and homelessness?]


7. Where does violence or conflict occur in THE WORLD?
[Think of conflicts or instances of violence transpiring across the globe; what do wars mean for the people involved.]

Directions for Writing Your Own Poem

Things to Consider:

Incorporate the free write and the images you created already and write a poem about war and peace, about how to see conflict as a spiral or a chance to emerge different and better.

If you want, use the prompt: “Where does peace live?” — substituting “PEACE” with any concept considered above, such as war, violence, myself, non-violence, etc.

Ask yourself:
What does peace wear?

Any shape associated with peace?
Colors? Sounds? Taste? Smell?
What does peace feel like?
Where do you feel peace in your body?
and so forth….

Associate this idea with elements of nature
— for example, one high school classroom brainstormed:

“peace is a wave” then another
classmate added
“rolling and forming the perfect barrel”
then a third added “ready to
envelope you”
and yet another said
“and give you the most epic ride of your life”



Borrow from one of the examples on this page and use the images and brainstorm above to write a poem about turning war into peace, conflict into change.

Audio & Video Inspiration

peace whole


~Carl Sandburg, 1878-1964

The single clenched fist lifted and ready,
Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.
For we meet by one or the other.

Peace Is NOT War

Kindergarten Poem by Mendocino Grammar School

Peace isn’t fighting
Peace is NOT war.
Everyone should stop doing war
Our local places should stop doing war
War is scary. War is dangerous to kids

War tastes bitter, like
Rotten eggs or spinach
(except: spinach is good for you)
War might taste like chalk, or paper
War looks like bloody murder
War looks like people who are really sad,

Peace looks like people running
and jumping in the flowers
and running and skating and twirling around
Giving rainbow colored red valentine hearts
to each other
Peace is when animals like chicks and birds
and bears and deer run free,
NOT in cages.

Peace feels like happiness, or
when butterflies don’t have ripped wings.
Peace is when you pick flowers
and give them to your friends.
Peace is orange with a huge blue sky.

Peace tastes like yummy sweet honey & fresh air
It tastes like a chocolate milkshake
and diamonds in the sky.
Peace is twinkling pink stars
up in the sky.
Peace is NOT war.

It is Our Time

~Blake More

We are in time to love

to open into eyes and explore the conversation of silence

cresting against the tsunami of overload

we have time to drop out

of the fear dramas

disregard the gossip

the marathon of deeds that morph into walls between people

friends who say too much or too little

the neighbor whose name you don’t remember but you hate

because he didn’t do the thing everyone thinks he should do

the lady who seethes when someone says her name wrong 

What else matters when we are alive

when we have roofs to keep the debris out

apples hanging from trees, music in our living rooms

voices to bridge the differences between us

yet we forget when there is no tornado sweeping us together

no mass shooting, earthquake, or airplane plunging into the side of a water cooler

reminding us of how lucky we are to be alive

I remember Manhattan just after that Tuesday morning horror

how the meanest city in America turned forgiving and soft toward its own inhabitants

open hearted glances confessing shared pain

conversations among strangers no longer exceptional

as everyone suddenly has anguish in common

yes, mourning brings us closer

watching her hair fall out from chemo turns the petty asshole we see every day at the post office into an old friend

a sudden heart attack harks of the way the edge of the moment perpetually beckons

that fatal car wreck showing how quickly we can slide over into the abyss, slink back to the sky 

so why is our warm, breathing community so exciting to gnaw on

tender tidbits gobbled between treks from car to post office, grocery store to pantry

you know the ones:  the nasty divorces, magically expanding body parts, the third DUI, the kid on meth, the neighbors who lost the house, the pot raid

variations repeating with a never ending cast

of revolving actors to thrust onto center stage

for their turn in that steady florescent burn 

when will we stop

when will we see that we do not need a disaster

to respect, dare I say love

the imperfect person who sells us bananas and eggs; makes our cars run, our toilets flush, our toothaches go away; builds the gathering spots, our houses, our confidence; teaches our children; plays us music, makes us dance, grows our food; maintains our roads, livestock, electrical lines; drives the school bus; cooks us lunch; sits through all those ridiculous meetings; keeps us entertained; makes us laugh; recites us poetry 

when will we accept that we are always us, always related in humanity

a family community with no need for shock or pain or devastation to bring us together

we are joined like illuminated suns in deep black

mingling with the warm wind and lolling sea

the jagged peaks and plummeting vistas

from family campouts and lightening storms to midnight vigils

our sacred place is right here

now, as we are

alive with each other

nothing more, nothing less

striped of stories, tally sheets, furrowed brows

moving forward

in time

Hug O-War

I will not play at tug o’ war.
I’d rather play at hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

Shel Silverstein