My company Citigroup does many positive things for the world, and we do them in more than 100 countries. We do microlending, we finance affordable housing and special needs facilities, we support NGOs and nonprofits, small business development and savings incentive programs. We have a whole department dedicated to the environment and one to the diversity of our staff. And we have a couple of socially responsible funds for our clients to invest in.
As for as my personal experience, I was very lucky to be involved with creating C-Women, a wonderful women's initiative in the Private Bank. We're only a year old and already we have a great mentoring program, have chosen two charities to put our energies into and have hosted three events that people rave about. It gives me for the first time a real feeling of community where I work and some feeling that I am involved in the pursuit of a greater good than my own advancement.
These are good things. But companies have always done philanthropies in their communities and we don't have peace. What can a huge corporation like mine do to promote peace?
Black Elk says that the first peace, which is the most important, comes from within our souls when we realize our relationship, our oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when we realize that our center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real peace and the others are only reflections of this. The second peace is made between two individuals and the third is made between two nations. But above all, he says, we should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is that true peace which is within our souls.
Could this be possible to have such a full and wonderful peace? I'm not a great thinker. I'm not one of those high executives who speaks the vision for Citigroup. I'm not even a big deal on my block in Brooklyn. I'm just one voice who doesn't speak up much, and I know we can. And if someone like me knows this, then so do a lot of others and if a lot of us know this, then it is possible.
It works like this. We each do it and we all do it. I find my peace, my oneness with the universe. And you find yours. That is two peaces. We come together and that peace is even bigger than the two of us. So now we have some bigger number than two, I don't know what it is, but we like to quantify things in the business world, so bigger than two. One. (This is women's math, which is more complete and thus a little wiser than that other math.)
Then two things happen. The bigger power of our peace together changes us and it also reaches out and changes others. They change, they move towards their own peace, because they want to. They may not seem like they want to, but they do. Because that's what oneness is. It isn't most of us with the exception of that guy who wants war or this group who wants to get even richer than it is at all costs. We're all in this oneness. Even the mosquito. Even the disease it might be carrying.
It seems so small, this peace between you and me. No contest for the hatred and out-of-control violence we see every day. But nothing short of small will work. You can make a law or a rule, and make people follow some behavior you want. But only on the outside. We make exceptions for ourselves and we break the rules or the laws. We expect it and just hope that most of us will follow the rules most of the time. But the law of nature was not made to be broken. Because it wasn't "made." It simply "is."
But we lose touch with the law of nature, become disconnected from our oneness. Something makes us afraid and we tell that power within us I'll catch you later and hand over power to some authority like our boss or our president or our king. Robert Thurman says, "we project kingly ability on others who can only pretend to knowledge, compassion and ability."
I have a story about a king.
Once upon a time, there was an old king who had no descendents to succeed him. So in the spring he called all the children to the palace and gave them each a seed. He told them to go Home and plant the seed and in a while he would call them back. One little girl was so excited about having her own seed. She carefully selected a pot, filled it with sifted soil and found a nice sunny corner out of the wind.
Fool and Flower, Cecil Collins, 1944.
Courtesy of Tate Gallery, London.
She watered it and watched and waited. Two days. Nothing. A week. Nothing. Two weeks. Nothing. All her friends are talking about their plants. Mine is a tree! Mine will be a beautiful rose! But this little girl had nothing but dirt. In seven weeks the king announced that all the children should come to the palace and bring their plants and he would chose his successor. The little girl said she was going to stay Home. She didn't want to show up with her pot of dirt when everyone else had big plants. Her mother said, "Go anyway and tell them what happened." So she went.
All the children were showing the king their plants. The little girl hid in the back. The king said, "Who is that little girl in the back? Come up here and show me your plant." The little girl's chest was going ka-thung, ka-thung, ka-thung, but she picked up her pot of dirt and went up to the king. "Where is your plant," said the king. In a little voice, she told the king her seed didn't grow. The king smiled and said, "This girl will be my successor. I gave you all sterile seeds. She has the courage to speak the truth."
When America's democracy was forming, Thomas Paine said we have to take the crown of the king and smash it into many pieces and give each person a jeweled piece. What if every child had come to the palace with an empty pot? What if every one of us at our jobs stopped being afraid and spoke our truths? And that spread to my whole nation and your whole nation? We would all get a piece of the crown and we would feel that power which is greater than one plus one. It would be something. It will be something.
(This speech was given on October 5, 2002 at The Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders.)
© 2003 The Golden Sufi Center, www.goldensufi.org