The Center for Interfaith Relations is revisiting Festival of Faiths catalogues in search of insight, wisdom and inspiration. Our hope is that these written words will spur meaningful reflection and serve as a beacon of hope amid challenging times.
By Howard Thurman (1899-1981), philosopher, theologian and civil rights leader
Previously published in the catalogue for the 2016 Festival of Faiths, “Sacred Wisdom: Pathways to Nonviolence.”
A beautiful and significant phrase, “Island of Peace within one’s own soul.” The individual lives his life in the midst of a wide variety of stresses and strains. There are many tasks in which he is engaged that are not meaningful to him, even though they are important in secondary ways. There are many responsibilities that are his by virtue of training, or family, or position. Again and again, decisions must be made as to small and large matters; each one involves him in devious ways. No one is ever free from the peculiar pressures of his own life. Each one has to deal with the evil aspects of life, with injustices inflicted upon him and injustices which he wittingly or unwittingly inflicts upon others. We are all of us deeply involved in the throes of our own weaknesses and strengths, expressed often in the profoundest conflicts within our own souls. The only hope for surcease, the only possibility of stability for the person, is to establish an Island of Peace within one’s own soul. Here one brings for review the purposes and dreams to which one’s life is tied. This is the place where there is no pretense, no dishonesty, no adulteration. What passes over the threshold is simon-pure. What one really thinks and feels about one’s own life stands revealed; what one really thinks and feels about other people far and near is seen with every nuance honestly labeled: love is love, hate is hate, fear is fear. Well within the island is the Temple where God dwells – not the God of the creed, the church, the family, but the God of one’s heart. Into His Presence one comes with all of one’s problems and faces His scrutiny. What a man is, what his plans are, what his authentic point is, where his life goes – all is available to him in the Presence. How foolish it is, how terrible, if you have not found your Island of Peace within your own soul! It means that you are living without the discovery of your true home.