This is the second installment in a series called “The Quest for Peace in a World of Violence,” by Charles deGravelles, an Episcopal deacon, chaplain and teacher at Episcopal High School of Baton Rouge where he teaches a course in peace and conflict studies. In the first installment, deGravelles wrote about his inspiration for the class and its inception. The series will follow the progress of the class.
By Charles deGravelles
“It’s a standard procedure of problem-solving, tried and true,” I told them during an early lecture. “You break it down into its component parts, note the connections, how they fit, how they affect each other, then when you put it back together, you will hopefully know how it runs. So I’m going to throw onto the floor of our classroom, 2,000 pieces of an intricate machine, some unwieldy and impossibly heavy, some tiny and delicate, and our job will be to put it all back together to see what makes it go.
“Unfortunately,” I continued, “we have no instructions, and we don’t even have a picture of what it looks like finished. All we have are these scattered parts (and we’re not even sure if we have all the parts). But we do have the name of the machine: ‘Human Violence and the Promise of Peace.’ Don’t worry,” I laughed, “we’ve got a whole semester to put it together.”
After some discussion, we decided to use a wire mobile as our idealized model, our frame on which to connect the myriad pieces of a problem so enormous and complex it has never been solved. We started with a single crossbar hanging from the ceiling. We labeled it “power,” and from that we hung four arms: “personal violence,” “interpersonal violence,” “community violence” and “societal violence.” As we read, researched, discussed, traveled, interviewed, the scant frame of the mobile began to expand, to fill out.
An early trip we made was to the Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center, where trained volunteers field phone calls from desperate people. Director Norma Rutledge and her staff taught us about the many forces that can nudge someone down the long and ever-narrowing corridor towards a door marked “oblivion.” We learned about the most vulnerable populations, ways to detect suicidal tendencies in family or friends, and ways to intervene. Read More…