One of our favourite family pastimes is hanging out in the library. I have carried this tradition from my childhood, when the library was the centre of all learning and discovery – endless aisles of ideas, culture, knowledge – where the entire universe was waiting to be discovered. We still visit often and are always rewarded with new inspiration. On a recent visit I pulled this book (“Shh! We Have a Plan”, by Chris Haughton) off the shelf because the art was wonderful. I have since read it over and over (to my own children and to many others) and have added it to my ongoing book cart as it seems I will need to have my own copy…
The book tells the story of four characters on an adventure. There are three “hunters” and one younger character with a different approach who is chastised often by the elders for not following the plan. It is a story of transformation, and of the simple wisdom in being oneself in spite of opposition. It is a story of building understanding by listening and gentleness instead of forging on with a plan that isn’t really working.
I thought of this story many times in the last month or two, whenever things weren’t really working. I thought of it often during moments of conflict and during moments of misunderstanding. I have wondered why more people don’t see the simplest ways of communicating and cooperating; when I have been most disappointed in the chaos created by arrogant human failings this little book has brought some hope. (That’s a lot to say about a children’s book, isn’t it? Are you listening, grown-ups of the world? Are you listening, world leaders?)
Even more recently, while reading an article on the dire state of our political world (violence, repression, economic dominance and military might…) I read a quote from Gandhi that made me think of the importance of this beautiful book too:
“Everywhere wars are fought and millions of people are killed. The consequence is not the progress of a nation but its decline… Pride makes a victorious nation bad-tempered. It falls into luxurious ways of living. Then for a time, it may be conceded, peace prevails. But after a short while, it comes more and more to be realized that the seeds of war have not been destroyed but have become a thousand times more nourished and might. No country has ever become, or will ever become, happy through victory in war.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
I had read this book several times (and I encourage you to do so too!) before I noticed an inscription at the beginning…
“Peace can only be achieved by understanding.” Understanding can only be achieved by communication. Communication can only be achieved by patience and never with judgment… Have we gone too far on our human quest for power and control? Can we learn to value cooperation and kindness? Can we learn to trust and love enough to change the world for the better? How far into the future can we see?