“Shanti” : “Sit Down and Talk” – The Doctor, “The Zygon Inversion”
Shanti is a soft word, a pretty word, a word we chant in yoga while just enjoying its sounds.
But Shanti, or peace, is revolutionary.
Shanti is what the Doctor calls for in his famous speech in “The Zygon Inversion,” delivered in tones of manic, gritty, impassioned desperation. He begs two warring sides to stop fighting by appealing to them with every point he can muster, most notably by describing the terrible cost of taking the path of war.
“You don’t know…many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does until what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning. Sit down and talk! Listen to me. Listen, I just, I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind. ….
I don’t understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!”
Peace is not pretty or soft or bland. It is the top of a mountain with gorgeous, breathtaking views–but with steep, precarious drops possible at every step. It reflects a treacherous climb full of tough decisions. “Sit down and talk” and “changing your mind” sound easy but require so much effort that the effort almost feels like pain. To resist our stubborn, stone mindset and our intense, self-righteous emotions is a monumental struggle–one which we so often do not attempt.
When you do sit down and talk, when you do listen and change your mind, it is an amazing accomplishment, something to be lauded. Because although peace is hard, the alternative is much harder in raw, visceral, cruel ways. In fact, the stakes could not be higher, as the Doctor so eloquently explains.
Let’s chant Shanti, but let’s do it with intention and like the Doctor, with desperate, fervent hope that one day it may actually come to pass.