Is it any wonder that Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior decided early on that the battle for peace and justice was always primarily a soul battle, a spiritual conflict about conversion of heart, not about massing weapons or converging interests, designing road maps or negotiating concessions?

Those who want to map the path to peace as a set of techniques have been seduced into confusing means for ends- because tools by themselves don’t build a house or plough a field. The diplomats whose careers have spanned multiple attempts at agreement have the credentials and the experience- its not lack of know-how that gets in the way. its the lack of will. And not just political will. It has more to do with what others have called moral courage, a courage that summons us all to get back in touch with our core human values. It is a courage that asks- Is what we most value in life worth living for, worth striving for, even worth failing for, more than worth dying and killing for? Courage cuts to the core, gets to the “coeur” of things, the heart. You can’t fake it.

Expediency sets a different agenda. You are forever watching tomorrow’s poll numbers, worrying what issues are too risky to take a stand on, You play it safe and yet, that can lead to even greater danger. Playing it safe when the house is on fire means you huddle in a room hoping the smoke will abate and an angel will rescue you. Not smart. Where did playing it safe ever get you? No one is safe if everyone chooses safety first. No, our safety resides in a quality of audacity,

That firefighter who breaks the door down to get you out of the fiery room or the smoke-filled train, the whistle blower who risks her career to call out the injustices of the surveillance state, the teenage marcher at Selma who peacefully faces the dogs and the tear gas, or that lone figure facing the tanks in Tiananmen Square: It is courage that keeps us safe.

We might try to do radical change on the cheap, but history is not on our side. Can there ever be a shift from oppression to freedom or war to peace or cruelty to compassion without someone daring to say No, daring to put his body on the wheel of fortune to stop the killing machine?

Courage I believe is at the heart of every lasting human change, and while many think it is rare, it is not. Every commander in battle who has had to lead his troops through the barrage knows- Courage is even more infectious than fear.

Lets have a Conference about that.

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