Into Full Flower Event

By Mitch Bogen

At the Ikeda Center’s first public event of 2010, held on March 6, more than 80 people came out to learn about Into Full Flower: Making Peace Cultures Happen, the latest book from the Center’s Dialogue Path Press. The event celebrated the inspiring examples of the book’s coauthors, Elise Boulding and Daisaku Ikeda, who both have demonstrated – each for many decades now – that the best way to help peace cultures blossom is to create the conditions for peace with daily dedication in every aspect of one’s life.

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Elise Boulding is considered nothing less than “the matriarch” of the twentieth-century peace research movement, according to Mary Lee Morrison (above), Boulding’s biographer and one of the day’s three presenters. Dr. Boulding’s eldest son, Russell, also offered reflections, as did Virginia Benson, senior research fellow at the Center.

Professor Emerita in Sociology at Dartmouth College and a devout Quaker, Dr. Boulding is the author of seminal books exploring what she called “the hidden side of history,” chronicling the contributions to peacemaking of women and other groups too often ignored in our history books. A great friend of the Ikeda Center, she was awarded its first Global Citizen Award in 1995 and also co-organized the Center’s “Cultures of Peace” conference series in 1999. She is the second woman to publish an English-language dialogue with Daisaku Ikeda, the other being Hazel Henderson (Planetary Citizenship, 2004).

In his talk, Russell Boulding (right) reflected on his life growing up in what he called “a caring Quaker community” in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan. His father, the esteemed economist and social visionary Kenneth Boulding, helped found the nation’s first center for research on conflict resolution there. “It was only years later,” recalled Mr. Boulding, “that I became aware of how intentional my mother was in creating a family and community that would encourage in its children the qualities of independence, creativity, and a commitment to making the world a better place.” The importance of intentionality would return, as well, as a theme in the other presenters’ reflections.

Transformations and Dialogues

Offering his impressions of Into Full Flower, Mr. Boulding commented on the commonalities shared by Dr. Boulding and Daisaku Ikeda. Despite their quite different backgrounds, he said, “both are spiritually grounded visionaries and bridge-builders. Both have a commitment to peacemaking at an international level that is grounded in recognition of the importance of education and the empowerment of women and children.”

He also expressed appreciation for Daisaku Ikeda’s appendix to the book, “Peace and Human Security: A Buddhist Perspective for the Twenty-first Century” (a speech he delivered in 1995 at the East-West Center, Honolulu). In it, Ikeda describes three transformations essential for creating peace in our world:

* from knowledge to wisdom;
*from uniformity to diversity; and
*from national to human sovereignty.

“I anticipate seeing these three transformations come about in my lifetime,” Mr. Boulding added, emphasizing that Mr. Ikeda’s view matches his mother’s.

Virginia Benson followed with reflections that focused on the imperative – and the art – of dialogue. She began by quoting Daisaku Ikeda’s observation that the choice to engage in dialogue “is itself the triumph of peace and of humanity.” She continued by outlining the key characteristics of Ikeda’s approach to his dialogue with Boulding:

* sustained curiosity about what inspired her lifelong dedication to peacebuilding;
* responsiveness to their areas of mutual interest; and
* unrelenting eagerness to uncover universal truths.

In fact, said Benson, throughout Into Full Flower, Ikeda “seems to be asking himself all the time: What can I learn from Dr. Boulding that will help people, including myself, to live lives as valuable as hers?”

Focus and Determination

Among the many passages from Into Full Flower that Benson (right) cited, one in particular revealed Boulding and Ikeda’s shared quality of focus and determination. Calling Dr. Boulding a “model of value creation and using time creatively,” Ikeda wonders how she accomplished so much as a peace researcher, scholar, and leader, even as she raised five children and helped her husband with his work. Boulding responds that she constantly checked herself against her location or position in life – taking stock of the decade, the year, even the day of the week and the time of day – and determining if she was accomplishing the goals she had set for herself within the continuum of her lifetime.

In response, Ikeda revealed how he had been diagnosed with tuberculosis when young and been told by doctors that he would not live to see thirty: “So I decided to live life to the fullest. … Every day of my youth was a battle waged in the face of death. But I won out and achieved my goals.” Benson said that these examples “strengthen my own resolve to create maximum meaning and value in my life at each moment.”

Dr. Boulding’s intentionality to make the world better was infectious.Mary Lee Morrison spoke next, sharing insights based on her experience as Boulding’s biographer. Complementing Benson’s comments, she said that Dr. Boulding’s “intentionality to make the world better was infectious to many of us.” She illustrated the source of this intentionality with a brief anecdote about Boulding, who was born in Norway and moved to the United States at the age of three.

One of Elise’s major epiphanies was the invasion of Norway by the Nazis on the eve of World War II. Elise, partly through her mother, had always held Norway as a safe place to return should America or, for that matter, the rest of the world turn out to be unsafe. Elise’s ideas on utopias have, at their heart, her early belief that Norway was a utopia. Once the invasion happened, she said to herself, “If there are no safe places, then it is up to me to create them.” Thus began her lifelong work in peace.

Achievements Large and Small

Dr. Boulding’s ongoing achievements, said Morrison, especially as a founder and leader of the International Peace Research Association and international chair of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, owed much to her incredible organizational skills and her enormous energy. Morrison continued: “Her high energy has been rather astounding to some of us who have attempted to trail her. As one former student I interviewed told me, ‘Elise takes big steps, both physically and metaphorically.’”

Morrison went on to catalog the extent of Boulding’s accomplishments. It was clear that few persons in the twentieth century did more than Boulding to champion women as key contributors to the creation of a better world, nor did many do as much to actually organize people in the cause of peace.

She was much more than a great achiever, though. A family friend once noted, said Morrison, “that Elise could be talking one minute with high level U.N. officials and in the next, stoop to tie a child’s shoes.” A “self-described homemaker,” Dr. Boulding considered her mother and husband to be her greatest influences. She also claimed that the foundation for her work as an academic grew out of her experience “listening to my [own] and other kids.” Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that one of Morrison’s fondest memories of their relationship is the talk they shared “over a pot of delicious home-made lentil soup” at Boulding’s apartment on the day of their first meeting, fourteen years ago now.

To Fullest Bloom

Elise Boulding was unable to attend the event due to declining health. For this reason, the Ikeda Center will hold a celebration of Into Full Flower later this spring at her residential facility in Needham, Massachusetts. (Read about the special celebration, held May 13) At this point in her life, said Russell, she is leaving the work of building a better world to us. His mother, he said, now “brings healing energy to our beautiful, yet war-torn planet just by being who she is, present in the eternal now.” He added that, in his view, his mother might be considered “a Quaker who now expresses her Buddha nature, and Mr. Ikeda, a Buddhist who, it seems to me, under different circumstances could easily have been a Quaker.”

Richard Yoshimachi, Ikeda Center president and executive director, offered opening and closing remarks that shed light on Daisaku Ikeda’s great respect for Dr. Boulding and her work. Movingly, he read from an unpublished poem that Mr. Ikeda wrote as a testimonial to Dr. Boulding prior to the start of the dialogue that would become Into Full Flower. The concluding stanza held special resonance for the day:

With a beautiful symphony echoing around us—
the tones of life resounding with life—
let us work together to bring
the human spirit to fullest bloom.

The afternoon was emceed by Center events manager Kevin Maher. He drew out key ideas from the speakers’ talks and moderated a whole-group Q & A session that allowed presenters to offer further insights into the lives and ideas of Elise Boulding and Daisaku Ikeda – dedicated peacemakers in the truest, deepest sense of the word.

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