Cultivating Peace is life practice. Our speaker, Alastair McIntosh, brings his leadership on the practice and the real-world impact to our next retreat.
Europe is experiencing the greatest threat to peace on our soil since WWII, and many of us have personal relationships with those directly affected. World peace seems more tenuous, as long-simmering conflicts threaten to ignite. As we experience a renewed influx of war refugees in our respective countries, and the beat of war drums sounding beyond Europe, we are called to ask how can we react in this moment in history, and even more importantly, how can we, human beings, cultivate the kind of heart and mindset that prevents this kind of violence in the first place? What can we do in ourselves and our communities that brings clarity on how to express our Seven UU Principles, not only as an ideal, but as our lived reality?
Alastair McIntosh, our theme speaker for the Fall EUU Retreat in Mittelwihr, has explored these questions in depth across the length and breadth of his life’s work. Nonviolence, he asserts, “is about seeing ourselves in true relation to the whole, to the rest of life with which we are interconnected.” He has been welcomed at military academies in Europe for over 25 years to remind those who prepare for war to take on board the nonviolence perspective. Here his spiritual practice gives him the strength, and the courage, to implore experts at battlefield tactics and military strategy to look inward and find guidance toward the kind of peace that prevents the very thing they prepare for. Alastair’s respectful directness leads him to be invited back again and again.
I confess I had not yet heard of this Scottish author, social activist and spiritual leader before Dorcy Erlandson put him forward as a candidate for our fall theme speaker. Raised a Presbyterian and now a committed Quaker, Alastair articulates a progressive vision deeply in alignment with the values that define our EUU community. Unsurprisingly, many of us already knew him through his 2001 book, “Soil and Soul: People vs Corporate Power,” where he defines the disease of our time as meaninglessness and offers us a way back to meaning.
His more recent work, “Hell & High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition” on the cultural and spiritual dimensions of climate change, and “Rekindling Community” on the spiritual basis of inter-relationship, are more evidence of a body of work both broad and deep in exploring the possibilities for a renewal of the human condition. His published work has been described as “world changing” by British activist George Monbiot, “life changing” by then Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, and “truly mental” by Thom Yorke of Radiohead.
We invite you to start now by finding Alastair at his website. We invite you to this chapter from “Spiritual Activism” as a common read, and to check out the numerous of his previous talks on Youtube. I think you’ll agree that Alastair, both in word and deed, shows us precisely what it means to lead a meaningful life.