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Building the Case for Peace   

Posted by Erin Bechtol
09.12.17

SOLDIERS OF PEACE

by Paul K. Chappell

Review by Christopher Mahon

There are many characteristics that define the very unique work of Paul K. Chappell. The strength of his ideas is one. The clarity of his vision, the strength of his reasoning, and the lack of his naiveté are others. The power of his language is yet another. Soldiers of Peace is the sixth book in Chappell’s seven-book Road to Peace series. In all of them he has been building a formidable case for peace.

In Will War Ever End? and The End of War, Chappell introduced new ways of looking at the age-old problem of war, including the idea that human beings are not naturally violent. In Peaceful Revolution, he explained the seven muscles of our shared humanity – hope, empathy, appreciation, conscience, reason, discipline, and curiosity – we need to develop. In The Art of Waging Peace, he looked at the ways “the infinite shield” (respect) and “the sword that heals” (nonviolence) can meet the forces of trauma, rage, and violence. In The Cosmic Ocean, he delved into the nature of reality and the human condition; he explored our mythological roots and the ways humans have dealt with violence in the past; and he detailed the spiritual needs that must be met to move forward and protect our fragile future.

All of his work has been moving to the notion that we human beings must become “peace literate” if we are to find our way to a future that is both peaceful and prosperous. His books, in sum, are an education in peace literacy. In Soldiers of Peace, he mentions the term more and more and notes that all those who work for peace must not only have good intentions; they must have peace literacy skills. But what, exactly, is peace literacy? Chappell defines the seven forms of peace literacy as literacy in our shared humanity, literacy in the art of living, literacy in the art of waging peace, literacy in the art of listening, literacy in the nature of reality, literacy in our responsibility to animals, and literacy in our responsibility to creation. The first five of these literacies are discussed in this book. The last two will be discussed in the final book of the series.

I have often thought that the games with the simplest designs allow for the greatest feats of intelligence and athletic skill. Think of a tennis court or a soccer field. Or a chess board. Paul K. Chappell designs his books with great simplicity but they become fields for the most complex thoughts and penetrating truths. This particular book is designed around four simple chapters. They are the chapters which discuss the stars in the “constellation of peace”: (1) The Star of Struggle; (2) The Star of Training; (3) The Star of Truth; and (4) The Star of Strategy. It seems simple, but the more you delve into the meanings of struggle, training, truth, and strategy – as Chappell does here – the more profound and necessary they become, especially in light of the need to become peace literate. For instance, when discussing the Star of Training, he says: “So far I have discussed that the first step in the art of listening is empathy. The second step in the art of listening is concentration, because without concentration, we lack the focus necessary to become deeply connected to others.”

In Soldiers of Peace, Chappell at times refers to topics he has discussed in his other books. This serves the reader not only in introducing important topics but in pointing the reader to the books where he or she can investigate them more deeply. Yet this book is a fine place to start.

The very term soldiers of peace implies action. The term also implies discipline and strategy. Beyond that, it implies working together under enlightened leadership. Peace work involves real risk in a metaphorical battle where the stakes are high. All of those implications – and many more – are evident in this book. In fact, what is implied is often explicitly explained and investigated. Once a West Point cadet and later an Army captain who served in Iraq, Chappell is now writing his way into a living reality and vision of peace. As Thich Nhat Hanh has said, “Peace is every step.” This book is one more important and profound step in the journey to and the experience of peace.

Christopher Mahon, B.Ed., M.A., is a high school English teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District and a graduate of the University of Notre Dame. He also received an M.A. in English Literature from Michigan State University and his teaching credential from California State University, Northridge. In addition to teaching English courses at all high school grade levels, he has taught English as a Second Language to numerous students from around the world and has coached his high school’s Speech and Debate team.  He is interested in bringing peace to the educational process.

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