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Explanation to a Friend-of-Peace-Poles

A woman promoting peace poles was trying to arrange for children in elementary schools to paint their own, and arrange for a couple of larger poles elsewhere in her community. Someone local criticized the effort saying that to passersby the posts do not ring out “Peace” and thought the artist helping them was just trying to make a quick buck. She was meeting him for coffee to talk about it. So I wrote this for her.

A vocabulary for peace

When we place a peace pole at a school we are teaching a visual vocabulary that communicates the thought Peace. We especially are doing that when we plant poles substantial enough to be considered monuments. All those monuments in Washington, DC are there for a reason. They communicate the legitimacy of the stories they tell about the intentions and goals of our founders and our government, about democracy and freedom. As there are monuments to war, there also should be monuments to peace.

Why is it a pole?

It started in Japan where they have a tradition that predates messages about peace on poles. Long before that they had poles all over their country with text aligned vertically to commemorate everything from school graduations to tsunami disasters. In about 1955, when Hiroshima still was a devastated landscape, Masahisa Goi wrote “May peace prevail on earth” on such a pole. He had it translated into a different language on each side. Somebody saw it and wanted one. Now there are a couple hundred thousand of them around the world.

Sculptors and non-sculptors have tried many times to make sculptures that represent peace. I have searched them out and tried myself. None of them communicate peace to people passing by. But the people who know about peace poles get that message every time they see one. It is a humble, visual vocabulary more and more people are getting to know.

Why the Excitement?

For years I, myself, did not understand why people were so excited to receive even the cheapest peace poles I made. Finally, a friend explained that they see this movement. They want to be part of it. And I send them the ticket – even when it is only a cheap, vinyl pole.

I do not make the vinyl ones anymore, or the wooden ones. But for people who want those, I have an extensive page on how to make your own: https://peace-pole.com/make-your-own/ The vast majority of the people who go to my site go there for that.

Why I still make them

As an artist, I find it frustrating never to be able to make anything but a pole (except off season when I do). I also dislike the fact that 85% of my time is spent at the computer, either creating the artwork necessary to make a peace pole, or communicating with the people who ask about them, or working on the translations. None of that is creative and I do not get paid for any of that. A number of times I have considered retiring from making peace poles, but no one else makes stone or stainless ones. If you are a university wanting to put one in front of the main entrance to your biggest building, a wooden post doesn’t do it. Aluminum isn’t much better.

I have had people call me for stone peace poles saying that quotes they got from people in other industries that make things from stone were in the $25,000 range. Financially, mine should be too, but few people would spend that. That is why I am the only one who makes them. It does not pay.

Someday, when there is more awareness about them, perhaps people will be willing to pay realistic prices. I will be gone by then. I predict a gap during which fewer substantial peace poles will be made. I have seen some created by local artists who were given a grant to make their first one. It’s part of why I have not retired yet. My first ones were not much good either. But that was twenty years ago. I would get an apprentice to carry on what I have learned, but the apprentice would have to be independently wealthy to survive. My house is paid for. I have no dependents. I live cheap and work hard.

Stature Speaks

I would like to see the day when all peace poles were 14 feet tall and with enough girth to be right for that height. No one is going to pay for that at this time. I make the biggest stone ones that people can plant without a crane or a contractor. Most people interested in them have enough on their plates without having to deal with logistics beyond a post hole digger and some volunteers.

Most peace poles are 6 feet tall after planting. Those cost what people can imagine paying at this time. For the few people who can imagine paying more there is my work. I am hoping what will come of my work is an expanded awareness of the value of bigger and better. Stature speaks. Deeply. The bigger and better ones still need to be poles to be part of the vocabulary. And they still need to have text on them. They need to be instantly recognizable as Peace Poles. But there need to be more that are 14 feet tall and big enough around to hug.

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Why King Ashoka devoted himself to peace after the Kalinga War

Written by Ken Lambert, our Peace Correspondent in India

 In India, the history of the Kalinga War is well known. Recently I have been moved by reading more about it and the ruthless ruler who waged it, Ashoka, who went from being one of the cruelest rulers in history to becoming the opposite and promoting peace for the rest of his life. One of the ways he did that was by having inscriptions promoting peace and tolerance carved into pillars, not unlike peace poles. So I wanted to write this blog showing how something as simple as peace poles, like pillars with inscriptions, can have significance and meaning and promote peace.

Ashoka before the Kalinga War

The Kalinga War, fought in what is now a part of India, was one of the most dreadful wars in history. It was fought for wealth, political power, and military dominance. The jealous ruler of the Magadha Empire, Ashoka, waged war on Kalinga in order to dominate what at that time was the state of Magadha. More than 100,000 people were killed, and several lakhs of people (a lakh is a hundred thousand) were imprisoned. Ashoka made sure that his prisoners were subjected to all level of tortures. No one left his prisons alive. The war of Kalinga, waged in 261 BCE, is considered one of the bloodiest and most brutal wars in world history. The Kalinga people put up a valiant defense and fought with honor, but lost.

In the beginning, Ashoka ruled his empire the way his grandfather had ruled, with efficient cruelty. He used his superior military power to expand his territorial rule and encourage sadistic regulations to punish people who didn’t obey.

However, Ashoka, the third monarch of the Mauryan Dynasty, now is considered one of the most exemplary rulers in the history.

Ashoka after the Kalinga War

Ashoka was moved by the massacre. He saw that the Brahmana priests, as well as the Buddhist monks, were affected too, which brought remorse and grief upon him. After the war Ashoka issued an edict expressing his regret for the suffering inflicted. In it Ashoka denounced war and embraced pomoting Dharma. Although exactly what Ashoka meant by Dharma is not clear. Some believe that the mighty King here was referring to the teachings of Buddha and thus later converted into Buddhism. But I believe that with Dharma he is referring to its peace promoting its facets, which were only part of Buddhism. Some of Ashoka’s ways of promoting peace are very similar to peace poles.

Edicts of Ashoka refer to the word Dharma as morals, religious tolerance, and social concerns, more than Buddhism in general. Today, people with the same ideas are trying to promote peace by making peace poles to promote harmony amidst distress and disturbance anywhere in the world.  

The ideology of Buddhism adopted by Ashoka:

After the destruction and sordid methods of establishing his rule, King Ashoka had a turning point. He abandoned physically occupying the land and conquering through cultural confiscation. To state it in technical terms, Ashoka adopted Dhammagosha by replacing Bherigosha. Ashoka started appealing to the frontier and the tribal people to follow Dhamma principles. He stopped treating the conquered dominions as rightfully his as a result of his military conquest.

He started taking steps that were for the welfare of humankind and for animals too, even in foreign lands. Ashoka worked towards establishing peace by sending ambassadors to the Greek Kingdom in Greece and West Asia. He sent missionaries to promote the parts of Buddhism he favored in parts of central Asia and Sri Lanka where inscriptions were put on pillars in support of Ashoka’s peace initiatives, not unlike what is done on today’s peace poles.

After Ashoka’s pillars showing his change of heart after the Kalinga War, the empire experienced 50 years of security and peace. Mauryan India enjoyed religious transformation, social harmony, and the expansion education and science. It just takes a few minutes, or maybe only a few split seconds, for a person’s heart to change and embrace how peace can transform our lives. Ashoka’s is a vivid example with all its mirth and glory. When Ashoka embraced Buddhism as a form of peace, it created a foundation for the reign of political and social harmony, encouraging non-violence across India and other parts of Asia.

Buddhist Kingship of Ashoka:

After Ashoka’s conversion into Buddhism, he believed that religion was beneficial for all, including human beings. The basic notion behind it was to restore peace. Ashoka worked towards building several stupas, viharas, Sangharama, chaitya, and residential places for the Buddhist monks all over Central Asia and South Asia. Peace poles are a great way to carry on his peace initiatives. Ashoka ordered for the construction of more than 84,000 stupas (dome-shaped structures erected as Buddhist shrines) for housing the peace relics of Buddha.

Most of us are not in a position to build stupas and residential places dedicated to promoting peace. However, I believe that our planting peace poles all add up to being a significant voice for peace. The tradition of installing the peace poles started some 50 years back, and more and more people are participating in it.

Edicts of Ashoka explained!

The Kalinga War gave Ashoka the ability to control of all the Indian subcontinents, excluding the extreme southern parts. But he decided against it. The inscriptions of his edicts suggest he was sickened by the slaughter and mayhem of the war. He refused to fight anymore. Ashoka stopped expanding his empire and allowed India to experience peace and prosperity for years.

Ashoka began by issuing one of the most famous edicts in history by what he instructed his officials to carve on pillars and rocks. The carvings employed the local dialects and talked about religious tolerance and religious freedom. He also ordered his officials to help the elderly and the poor by establishing medical facilities for humans as well as animals. He preached obedience to parents, respect for elders, generosity towards priests, and tolerance of all creeds. He planted fruit-bearing trees and built well-dug roads to help the travelers as well.

Read: Peace Poles: Why are they so important to the world?

Bottom Line:

Ashoka started out bloodthirsty, but became an avid follower of the teachings of Buddha. He adopted the path of ensuring peace in the state of Kalinga and all parts of his empire. In the 13 proclamations on pillars and rocks issued by Ashoka, it explains how Ashoka felt greater degrees of regret and sorrow for the family and the friends of the ones who were killed in the war. It caused King Ashoka to take a different path for the rest of his life. It altered his entire personality. Peace became the cause of his empire till the end of his reign.

Just as the 13 edicts of Ashoka were put on pillars, peace poles are being put all over the world, which I believe is an immense contribution towards a greater cause. Midst the turbulence and inhumanity, contributing peace offerings is what we all need. For restoring the sanctity of living and enhancing the matters of human unity, we all need to join hands and work towards restoring peace all across the world.

Written our Peace Correspondent in India, who prefers to go by the name Ken Lambert in spite of our encouraging him to use his Indian name.

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Stuff

A guy promised he would make my site better. He wrote blogs, and other things, that misrepresent this site. Now I’m trying to figure out how to make them go away.

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7-Sided Peace Pole

On Pinterest is a photo of one of my 7-Sided Peace Poles, but linked to someone else’s site. So I put this here so someone could find it with a search if they really wanted to.

7-Sided Peace Pole
7-sided copper peace pole back-lit by rising sun

Above is a 7-sided copper peace pole with the single word “Peace” etched into it many times, rather than the traditional phrase “May peace prevail on earth.” The one of mine like it on Pinterest had phrases, but some of them were like “Be the change” because that is what the customer requested. The one on Pinterest appears on a number of pages including the one at this link: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/514325219946360596/

Currently the 7-sided peace poles that I offer on this site are made of stone.

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Blog – Peace Poles of Stone and Stainless

Why not set peace poles in cement?

A tree near my front door finally grew too large and was crowding a copper peace pole I had put near my front door seventeen or eighteen years ago. There still is room for the stainless peace pole, but not the copper one. I took it out and carried it across the lawn and leaned it on a tree. Now I can see it out my window as I type this. I rather like it leaning on the tree where I can see it. I wonder how long I can get away with leaving it there. Passersby probably would regard it as an unfinished project needing attention.

Copper peace pole temporarily leaning on a tree
Pre-spring, no leaves on the tree the copper peace pole temporarily leans on.

There still is a stainless peace pole closer to my front door right in front of my kitchen window where I see it everyday. One by one fewer and fewer have remained around my front door over the years as landscaping matured or was altered leaving less room for them. Five different ones was excessive anyway. Now that I’m looking at it where it is I would like to put this copper one closer to being in front of the office window I’m looking out of now as I type this.

But first I think I’d like to take it to my art studio downtown and let it be seen there for a while. Normally, when there is a peace pole there for anyone to see, it is one I just finished making and am getting ready to ship, if the deadline for it is not too close. At the moment no one is going to art studios anyway though, not even me. The Covid-19 plague has most of us self-quarantining. Where the copper peace pole is now will be in the way of lawn mowing when it becomes time for that. I guess I’ll leave it where it is until that becomes the issue.

Copper Peace Poles

The title of this post is peace poles of stone and stainless and here I am talking about a copper one. Why I don’t make these anymore is covered at Copper Peace Poles.

Copper Peace Pole with vines and peace messages etched into its patina

Patina

The blueness of the patina is temporary. This photo was from when it was brand new. A little age will temper it to greens and darker shades with streaks of blue like the copper peace pole higher on this page and another one on this site at this link.

Forever

I like making things that last forever anyway. Consider your having a peace pole that lasted longer than stone henge or the sphinx. Peace poles of stone and stainless will. I like that.