Many of us are deeply concerned about the perilous state of our world. But most of us feel overwhelmed by the ugly face of it and know not what to do except throw some money at it, when and if we can, to keep it at bay. When we realize how deep and diverse the sources of this ugliness are, we understand this isn’t enough by any means. But when we look to our “leaders” for answers and guidance, they usually fail us and actually add to our problems by utterly ignoring these deeper sources; by taking absolutely the wrong approach to solve them; or by inflaming situations for selfish political purposes.
We’re left bereft, confused, and conflicted, frustrated, guilt-ridden, and deeply saddened – sometimes to the point that we cannot help but look away. It’s just too much for us to bear – how much suffering, misery, poverty, abuse, devastation, and exploitation can we really stand to witness?
There are a few remarkable people who don’t turn away but actually dive right into the midst of turmoil, doing what they can to relieve others’ misery. They do what they can in the moment to relieve the most immediate, the most desperate suffering. But in their hearts they also know this won’t be the end of it – it will happen again, either in this same place, nearby, or on the other side of the world. But this is what they can do, so they do it. And the relief in people’s eyes momentarily lifts and releases the enormous weight which presses on the hearts of all who are present. So it’s infinitely better than nothing!
But what about the rest of us – those who cannot participate directly for various reasons, or those who make donation after donation to cause after cause with the hope that some of it will actually get to those in need? What about those whose own lives are so challenged as to not allow much concern for “strangers” in strange lands?
It’s also the path of least resistance to hear and see the news, feel shocked and appalled, maybe even angry for a few moments or hours and then turn our attention elsewhere. We’re assisted greatly in this by the attention deficit disorder exemplified by our media’s affinity for sound-bites, attention-grabbers, and their dependency on advertising which greases the skids on which we slip away. But in this turning away we run the risk of eventually joining the ranks of those who actually do not care. And as the population of the world grows, so will this number; as this number grows so will exploitation and misery.
Something profound and dramatic must shift in order to prevent further devastation. For we are dangerously deluded if we think all this can go on indefinitely, without catastrophic results. The warning signs abound, taking many forms: those events preceding and following 9/11, global drought, floods, fires, and deforestation leading to and resulting from global warming; global warming caused (in large part) by massive dependence on fossil fuel; fossil fuel sources lying deep under the sands of countries which spawn jihadists who see us alternately exploit, assist, then abandon their often corrupt regimes, based on our need for fuel or “strategic” presence; jihadists who become martyrs – human bombs, who walk, drive, sail, or fly into crowds, buses, ships, markets, churches, clubs, skyscrapers to make a desperate point.
And what is my point? Well, my point is that it’s all interrelated, we’re all interrelated and we must begin to seriously acknowledge how everything and everyone on this planet are inextricably bound together! So what must be done? A re-visioning must occur, a re-framing, a re-forming of the way we all see ourselves, others, the world. And how might this begin to be accomplished? A few ideas:
– To begin with we all need to take a step back, breathe deeply, allow our minds to clear, and give up our obsessions for a minute.
– Then we have to realize that a lot of what we’re doing is wreaking havoc on ourselves and on others; a lot of what we’re doing is unnecessary and counter-productive, if not downright destructive for everyone. What’s done in one place effects something elsewhere, like the vibrations on a spider’s web.
– It would then be good to consider that there may be alternative, non-habitual ways to approach things, and to consider the possibility that taking our personal views, beliefs, and agendas so seriously (and as the only valid ones) may be catastrophic in the end for everyone.
– The next and maybe most important thing to do is be fully present in the moment: allowing sounds, sights, physical sensations, and thoughts to pass through our awareness – not clinging to or judging them, not analyzing or interpreting them but just letting them come and go, come and go. If practicing this once or twice a day doesn’t make us humble and enormously appreciative of everything and everyone, I don’t know what will. We just need to remember to do it despite the endless distractions/preoccupations we get caught up in.
After a while most people engaged this practice also become aware of how rich and amazing every moment is, how full of life, energy and change. And by expanding this awareness to envision and sense the flow of life and energy that exists throughout our world, we can awaken to the wonder that any of this exists and that we are part of it! We’re all perched on this tiny blue, green, brown planet spinning around a tiny sun in the center of one spinning solar system that’s part of one swirling galaxy among millions of galaxies in an incomprehensibly vast universe. What are the chances??
So how does this translate into creating a saner world? Well, in light of rediscovering the mind-boggling nature of our existence, we might not continue to beat up on each other, let people starve and suffer needlessly, kill each other over some disputed speck of land (or religion or whatever), degrade, exploit, or pollute this finely-tuned and balanced environment that’s our only means of support and survival. And if we did continue these reckless behaviors, we’d have to be way more than damn fools. And would deserve to vanish. Yeah, that’s right, I said it – vanish.