The Sydney Opera house is 32 years old today but the Danish architect, Joern Utzon, has never seen his creation and, following a major row with the NSW state government when the project was in the early stages of its construction, has vowed never to return to Sydney. It’s not known whether his reluctance is due to fear of seeing the much-criticised work of the young team that took over from him, his anger at his treatment or simply the wish to forget about it.
We too sometimes choose to deal with painful experiences from the past by simply refusing to look them in the face. We can get stuck in an entrenched position in relation to a squabble or bitter experience and never move on from that initial reaction. We can allow our anger about treatment by someone in the past to prevent any possibility of more creative interaction in the future.
If today we are aware that we have taken such a stand in some area of our lives, we might be challenged by Mr Utzon. Recently he announced that, while remaining in Denmark, he would join two other architects in producing designs to make the building both more functional and more beautiful. There is risk in this. He may be rebuffed again. But it is a demonstration that mending fences doesn’t mean you have to go all the way all at once – a gentle step towards reconciliation may be the best start and might be a risk worth taking..
Two 8-year-olds - a boy and girl - helped the Pope on Sunday to mark January as a month to promote peace. But all did not go quite as planned. Standing together at his window in the Vatican, the two youngsters sent doves flying out over St. Peter's Square but they flew straight back in through the window. Greatly amused, Pope John Paul grabbed one of the doves as an aide returned the birds to the window sill. But even when he tried shooing it out, once more it fluttered inside again. The symbol of peace kept coming back home.
There is a yearning for peace in the hearts of most people. We want an end to the violence and pain that seems a permanent part of life in so many countries. We’d love to send the dove of peace to bring healing into the world’s war torn places. But it may be that the best we can do is let it come back to us.
The causes of strife are there in our lives as well as between nations. The fears, mistrust, competitiveness and greed which divide people from each other are there inside us. Dealing with these in ourselves is an important contribution to a more harmonious world. Perhaps today, though it may be tempting to focus our longing for peace on countries in the news, we might do well to let the dove of peace back into our own lives and work there for a less violent world.