I’ve heard rumblings… rumblings for quite some time now about “where we’re headed as a civilization.” Books have been written… 2012… geological disruptions… atmospheric changes… wars… Global warming… unrest in Egypt, Korea, Jordan… etc. Collectively, many are getting “nervous”. AND as a species, we do this kind of “catastrophizing” more often than we realize. (Understand me, I’m not condoning hiding our heads in the sand and pretending everything’s peachy. As a species we need to take responsibility for our actions. What I’m addressing today are the dangers of the “gloom, doom, destruction and despair” mentality.)
It would appear that humanity as a whole has behaved better at other times than we currently are. But is that really true? Certainly history, recent and ancient, shows that we have had some truly horrific wars. How do you suppose the Crusaders felt about “the condition of the world” in their day? The Spanish Inquisitors, whether or not they were expected, clearly believed there were some major issues… When have we as a species ever believed that all was well and right with the world?
Ultimately, it’s about perspective… and it starts within each of us. When we are trapped in “crappy-land” listening to our Saboteurs, we have little or no compassion for ourselves. Every slip up, “miss-step,” broken promise or perceived imperfection leads to deeper self-condemnation as the Saboteur tightens its grip. Like a boa constrictor wrapped around our hearts, every ounce of loving kindness for ourselves is squeezed out of us when we listen to its lies. In our own eyes we have become despised (to some degree or another). Is it surprising then, that when we go out into the world we have so little compassion for the plight of others? When we ourselves are in so much pain, how can we spare any energy for the world? We are wrung dry.
As ever this blog is about Choice. If you choose to stay within the perspective of the Saboteur, you will likely believe that we are a lost cause here on this planet.
Through us, our Saboteurs paint our world in drab colors obscuring the complete picture. Think about the last time you listened to someone telling you his or her story. You can almost imagine them standing along side their Saboteur painting the world grey. You nod sympathetically and then bring in some yellow by saying something positive. “Yeah, but…” they say and paint over your yellow with their grey… before you know it, either you have gotten up and walked away or your paint brush has become mysteriously grey too! Our Saboteur begins to commiserate with their Saboteur and there goes the neighborhood! The trouble is, they rarely realize that they have a choice. And that’s where you can help. They are so firmly in the grip of the Saboteur, and in a great deal of pain, that they really can’t see that there is any other way to perceive the world… until you show them.
The media tends to make this worse as it mostly spews the stories that sell. I have a theory about this… you know why it’s easy to spot the “dark” stories? Because they are in the minority; all the good stuff,* the stuff that’s done day to day by the average citizen of this planet, gets missed. It doesn’t sell because it’s so commonplace. It’s much more entertaining to watch the giant explosion than the boy scout helping the little old lady across the street.
In Saboteur-land, because we give over so much energy to our own condemnation, it’s easy to paint the whole world in the same grey as we paint ourselves. We condemn our fellow humans for being bad, and wrong because we have no compassion for ourselves. How can we possibly have compassion for anyone else?
It starts in your own heart. You must forgive yourself for your own self-abuse… and then you must stop listening to the lies of the Saboteur. From that place we can then turn towards others. If we have done poorly by someone, we must seek to repair those wrongs, and we must do it from a place of personal compassion. Each one of us has stepped in it every now and then. When we recognize the “doo” we’ve created, we must first forgive ourselves and then seek the forgiveness of the other. Then we can step out into the world from the place of compassion.
And to those of you who are facing truly challenging times, wherever you may be in the world, consider Viktor Frankl and his experiences in the Nazi death camps. Despite his devastating situation, he decided “within himself how all of this was going to affect him.1” His mind and spirit intact, through conscious daily choice, he visualized himself in better times, became an inspiration to those around him and survived. As Stephen Covey says “It is not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.2”
So, are we “doomed”? That, as ever, depends a great deal upon your perspective. If all we’re looking at is the ugly stuff, then maybe…
It’s up to each of us: do we want to continue to feed the fire of hate by fueling our own Saboteurs, or are we ready to forgive ourselves, open our hearts and look at all the good stuff within, and all around us? When we move through the world from this place of seeing the good, we spread so much light it outshines the dark.
To quote one of my favorite humans, Mohandas Gandhi:
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
Always infinite possibilities… always your choice.
*As I wrote this entry I sought to document some good, so I went online to start researching… and I realized that, as media goes, it’s not so easy to find. Then I started thinking about the FreeHugs people… and I stumbled across this guy who is traveling the world catching people doing good. And then I found the Good Deeds Organization, and then HelpOthers.org and the concept of Smile Cards and I thought, “this is getting to be a trend!”
As you find other organizations promoting the good in the world, please feel free to share them here with us!
1 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey, Copyright 1989, 2004, p.69
2 Ibid, p.73
Music Credit: “Save Yourself”, ©2009 Greg Johnson.