Michael Stern


None of us can have real peace without chaos. I do not look for peace because I am trying to run away from the chaos around me. Chaos is sometimes excruciatingly painful and frightening, sometimes more benign than that — but in the end, chaos is merely noise, random and disorganized activity, nothing more. It is not necessarily violent or ugly, sometimes it simply is what it is is: unordered activity. We cannot let fear dictate our reaction to the world around us. Chaos can also be defined as the primordial state of things before the establishment of order, the roiling mix of energy and creativity that existed in the universe before discrete forms were created. Chaos and peace have always existed in the world in equal measure, and like everything else, human beings have to hold in hand these two seemingly incongruous and opposite things. Nevertheless, we have always, always, the choice to make. There is a difference between any peace that comes from isolating ourselves with purposeful disregard, from making ourselves blind and deaf to the world, as opposed to the more real peace that is worth pursuing with real intent. When peace comes as a result of an active choice, a meaningful expression of understanding, and love, and embrace of beauty and kindness, the impact is much more palpable.

For me, therefore, peace comes when I engage, and when the reality of being present in the world clearly is the antidote to the chaos in our world. We must be inspired by our reaction to chaos to seek ever more deeply real connection, real empathy, and real beauty. The reaction to chaos is more frightening if we see ourselves alone in a world spinning violently and out of control around us. “We read to know we are not alone,” has long been one of my favorite quotations. Peace comes when we know we are not alone. Music does that for me; making music, hearing music, having music fill me up. It connects us, and reminds us of our shared connection. I look for peace in the space between the notes, in the smile in my children’s eyes, and in our kinship with one another. We listen to music, we make music, we live with music, to know that we are not alone.

And so I ask you:
In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?

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