I used to sign my emails with ‘peace’ instead of ‘best regards’ or ‘sincerely.’ The reasons for me doing so wasn’t entirely because I’m an old hippy, though. It had a lot to do with how I wanted to communicate my intent.
The Arabs, Muslim and Christian alike, say ‘peace be unto you.’ The Bavarians and Austrians say grüß Gott, meaning may ‘God Bless You.’ But that’s not exactly where I’m comin’ from.
My social psychologist wife has always told me to never conduct an argument or disagreement via email. There is a likely chance that your language and/or intent will be misconstrued. It’s too easy for us to (mis)interpret what the sender might have meant (or not) to say. Granted, if they say ‘fuck you’, then it’s pretty clear what the intended message was. I get it. But generally speaking, there is a lot of room for error.
So I used to sign emails with peace and I no longer do. I remember having a beer with Yuri Afanasiev, the former UN Ambassador (Resident Coordinator to be exact) to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Back then, I still used my peace greeting. Yuri is a beautiful mix of Moscow and New York – the two places he spent his formative years in. He has the attitude that matches both. I respected him (and still do) for many reasons. One was that he certainly told you as he saw it. He wasn’t one for bullshit. So back to our beer.
After a sip or two he looked at me and said “so what is it with signing your emails with this ‘peace’ shit? I thought you were some fucking tree hugger or something when I first started getting your emails. Now I find myself defending you to others….’no, no, Tim’s cool’, he just signs his emails like that. He’s not really like that.” ‘Like that’ I took to be a spacy, new-ager that promotes vegetarianism and obsesses over his astrology readings everyday. Although I do fully support vegetarianism…I have never followed my astrology readings. I swear.
So we talked about perceptions…and how he perceived me before he knew me just because of this one word – ‘peace.’ Horrible little word, isn’t it?
I found it quite fascinating. I discovered that he had conversations with others about the fact that I signed my letters with ‘peace.’ People ‘were wondering’ about it too. I guess most prefer the bland and safe greetings of ‘best regards.’ I’m still not entirely sure what that means. But I do know what peace means to me…so let me tell you.
Perhaps when I was a youngster it was a naive construct for me. It was full of fluff and love, true. But a few wars and two and half decades in the Balkans later it has lost its fluff. It has much deeper meaning to me now. The fluff is gone. It doesn’t just mean the absence of war to me either, though. I’m certainly not going to talk metaphysics with you (or with anyone for that matter)…but the intent behind that frequently used and rarely realized word packs a tremendous punch for me.
I don’t believe in world peace. I wish I did. So that’s not at all where I’m coming from, either. I’m coming from a place that is, yes, hard-core anti-war. But I’m not one to push my own philosophy (hahaha, right?). It’s more a genuine intent that 1. I earnestly do wish you peace and 2. I am coming from that place as well.
The reason behind this story? Well, I’ve decided to go back to using peace again. I’ve resigned from my UN job (the institution intended to, among other things, promote peace). No need to feel misunderstood by the terms usage any longer. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no need to feel insecure about wishing anyone that or letting them know where you’re coming from. I’m guessing it won’t affect my professional life all that much. And if it does, well, fuck it. If people think I’m a fruit, well, perhaps they’re right. I’ll take my chances.
That leaves only one question open for me, does that mean I should sign ‘fuck off’ if I’m pissed off at the recipient? Consistency is important, n’est pas?