Colleen Sharkey | July 22, 2020
John Paul Lederach once turned in a peacebuilding trip report in the form of a haiku. Five syllables followed by seven and again followed by five summed up his experience. After decades of work in countries and cities ravaged by violence and war, Lederach, emeritus professor of international peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies in the University of Notre Dame's Keough School of Global Affairs, was “experiencing a deadening of [his] soul.” What reanimated him was the art of haiku, something he began to learn about in second grade.
“As an adult second-grader, my rediscovery was in understanding haiku as a contemplative practice, the seeking of the haiku attitude; that is, to prepare yourself to be touched by beauty, the noticing of the haiku moment that is the aha when the world is revealed for what it is — and that simple form, that five-seven-five that was landed on and experienced because it could be said in a single breath,” Lederach wrote in his 2005 tome, “The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace.” “So I started writing haiku, and I never stopped — finger-tapping choreography of life. If you ever see me walking, and you see me tapping, it’s because there are haikus all around you.”
The blossoming of this ancient Japanese art form within Lederach coincided with his desire to directly address an ongoing debate among experts in his field: Is building peace an art or a skill? He believes building constructive social change requires both but thinks the balance, in practice, is off.
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