Have you ever felt a tension between your body, mind, & conscience like this: “I want that new piece of gear so bad it hurts; but my mind is telling me I don’t have the finances; plus my conscience is simply saying, ‘no.’”
This represents a lack of Shalom, Salaam, or Shlomo. The fabric of Self is at odds with itself. The fabric of humanity can similarly be at odds with itself. Our world lacks Shalom.
These words—from Hebrew, Arabic, & Syriac-Assyrian, respectively—translate as “peace” in English. Any speaker of these Semitic languages will tell you that “peace” in English fails to grasp the full concept of Shalom.
You can find definitions in English dictionaries like the Merriam-Webster. But even there they define it simply as “a Jewish greeting, peace be to you.” I found the full definition of Shalom in Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon. There it’s defined as peace, welfare, prosperity, health, favor, friendly, & rest. These can be further unpacked as wholeness, reconciled relationships, peace of mind, flourishing of self & society.
photo: Kerry Lammi
So now the real question: Does “peace” in visual peacemakers align with the English definition or a more Semitic understanding? Getting to the root of our name can give us a deeper sense of what we’re seeking to do with our photographic vision & visual peace movement.
“Peace” defined in English is the freedom from war or violence, or any disturbance; quiet & calm. Sounds more like a vacation during cessation to me. So, fellow “visual salaam-makers,” let’s uphold visual peace efforts as efforts toward the shalom of humanity!
Consider the web of all human relationships, societies, nations, & systems as an intricately woven fabric. Now imagine the opposite of visual peace: “images everywhere focused on tension & polarity, stereotypes used to distance some as ‘other’, & difference regarded as ugly & dangerous. And by no means is someone granted dignity just for being human—they could be a terrorist, a capitalist, a commie, a right-winger, a tree-hugger, a homosexual, a pro-lifer, an infidel, too poor, too rich, too fundy or too flighty…” you get the point.
The fabric of a humanity woven together on those realities would be a tattered rag, fraying, & useless for anything practical or decorative.
On the flip side, imagine a humanity where visual peace has made some impact, where visual communicators have “shown common humanity, broken down stereotypes of the ‘other,’ & displayed the beauty & dignity of peoples around the world,” and where millions have subscribed to being socially conscious image-viewers. The fabric of humanity would be more whole, restful, friendly, & able to flourish.
Let me be soberly clear: The visual peacemakers movement & Charter for Visual Peace is only one thread among millions. We are NOT the answer to a whole humanity. Nonetheless, when synergized around a vision like this, we have a chance at weaving one strong thread—something that is just about impossible to do as individuals, but that we can do together. Does anyone else out there also have the grit to believe this?