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The Language of Peace

The Flavor of a Peaceful World

By Babette Donaldson

A cup of tea once sang to me. My friend owned a tea shop and recommended Bi Luo Chun. Tiny twisted green leaves rested in the bottom of the glass bowl; a Chinese-style gaiwan. She poured the water onto the leaves and I watched them dance in the warm water. I felt their rhythm and smelled their joy. And then the tea sang to me. The first verse was the soft voice of the young girl who had plucked the tender leaves. The second was a chorus of her brothers who had withered and dried the leaves. During the song and the dance, the green shoots were restored. Reborn. Renewed. Returned to whole and green. Alive again. Fragrant as the morning they had been plucked.

The song had thousands of verses but only one note, like the vibration of chanting. Of humming. One note resonated, reminding me of every cup and glass of tea I had ever sipped in my life. One note filling a momentary vision of the connectedness of all things. My entire life connected to the day when the Bi Luo Chun leaves were taken from their tender stems.  Those afternoons with my mother’s mother from the chipped porcelain teapot she had inherited from her own mother. A teapot that had come from the old country, that had survived poverty and war. The ones from my father’s mother’s silver tea service; formal and perfect. Her wedding silver. The ones when my family gathered for holidays and reunions and funerals. Tall, sweaty glasses with clinking ice cubes percussing the rhythm of that single note.

Thousands of cups and glasses of tea consumed before the awareness of all the young girls and old women and families around the world who had made it possible for me to enjoy the tea and hear the resonance, join the dance and feel the importance of the song. Tea’s song.

My dearest friend, an Air Force navigator who had just returned from Vietnam when I was organizing anti-war marches argued war and peace with me while sipping cups of tea late into many nights. Back when the Berlin Wall still felt like the foundation of a worldwide Cold War. Back when some of us believed our friends and brothers were dying for all the wrong reasons and others believed that we were saving the world. He saw himself as being as devoted to the pursuit of a peaceful world as me.  He believed in the necessity of the military – that the wars would not end until we create a shared language for peace. He believed that we were not yet able to share a vision of what the world looked like without global fear and violence. That protests against war were not enough. I rebutted with the Albert Einstein quote, “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.”

And I sang the peace songs of the 60’s like scientific evidence.

Pete Seeger wrote, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” Country Joe McDonald enthralled the thousands at Woodstock with the lyrics to his brutal Vietnam Song, “. . . And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?” John Lennon wrote, “Imagine: Imagine all the people sharing all the world. . .” But not many of us were able to conjure images of a world without countries building walls and hatred fueled by our differences. The songs and the protests were not enough. Barely enough to affect one single war. Not enough to reach beyond. The songs and protests quieted while more wars raged. There were no big “fixes” to global conflict. But there was another song. “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me” was written by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller.

I’ve lived with the question, Could there be a common language of peace? A shared vision?

It was tea that answered that question for me. Tea’s sweet song. Tea’s soft voice. Tea’s invitation to turn inward. One cup at a time. Thousands of cups in a lifetime. A connection through this resonance – one cup at a time. One simple meditation, understanding and appreciating how humans can connect to build the vision and decode the language of this leaf. The most popular beverage in the world. The most universally shared food fueling a personal peace. Like the song, “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”

Tea has changed the world many times over the last 5000 years. It sometimes spread with elegant ceremony and personal meditation. Sometimes with violence and greed. But I believe it is possible that tea can change the world one more time. For peace. One resonant note and one personal vision, one cup at a time. Does the language of world peace live in the way we share tea?

As we share this first day in our Month of Tea with a focus on creating a vision of the people of the world living in harmony; a vision of greed giving way to beauty, we might consider the song from Jill and Sy Miller and listen for the echo in our cup of tea.

Let There Be Peace On Earth

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth,
The peace that was meant to be.

Copyright 1955, 1983 by Jan-Lee Music, ASCAP International copyright secured.  All rights reserved.


Let today’s vision for a different kind of world begin with me dedicating one cup of tea a day imagining the world free from violence. Knowing it is possible. Sharing that faith. Sipping the flavor of peace.

Babette Donaldson, 2017

Copyright 2017, All rights reserved.


Babette Donaldson