Published on Tuesday, March 4, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
by Catherine Sundberg
These are scary times. Our very way of life is challenged. Those of us who are reading and researching beyond mainstream media can be moved to anger on a daily basis with each injustice and misdeed we see. There is so much to be frustrated and upset by: corporate greed and agenda in world politics, the looming possibility of war, terrorism, racism, hyper-consumerism, our earth's fragile ecological state, hunger, homelessness, the AIDS epidemic, the economy, price gauging and the cost of gas - the list goes onů
We must however, remind ourselves constantly of the timeless and beautiful aspects of life, that exist despite the current chaos, if we are to hang on to our sanity and maintain some sense of wellbeing through these difficult times. These reminders exist in the simplest of pleasures: a sumptuous meal, a clear blue sky, the laughter of children, kindness from a stranger. For if we allow ourselves to become completely immersed in attitudes of fear and anger then 'They' have won - and we have lost. Isn't what we fear and resent in 'Them' their fear, their hatred, their arrogance, their righteousness, their violence? We must remember the essence of the very things we are struggling to uphold: Peace, cooperation, tolerance, mindfulness, appreciation, compassion. How often do we exemplify these qualities in our own daily lives? Peace begins at home, tolerance with others who confound us, appreciation with recognizing the beauty around us and compassion when we have the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes when it's least convenient.
I am inspired and moved to action when I see the vast amount of citizens around the globe rallying for peace and the ever increasing number of people who are choosing to look beyond the political rhetoric in order to find some different views lying beneath. I had never, before February 15th, attended a peace march nor truly been aware of the mass of individuals willing to work for peace . It was an amazing spectacle to behold and be part of - especially considering how many of us Americans have been uninvolved and occasionally unenlightened in world politics and international affairs for so long. It is very easy, almost a natural progression then, that upon facing such contradictions in our leaders' words and actions, coupled with the potential for global mayhem that we face, that a sense of indignation, anger and panic begins to find a place in our hearts and minds. We must take care not to cross the line into the same mind set that we are struggling to overcome.
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." - - Mother Teresa
Ludwig von Bertalanffy a theoretic biologist and author of General Systems Theory wrote, " We are dealing with emergent realities; no longer with isolated groups of men, but with a systematically interdependent global community. It is this level of [reality] which we must keep before our eyes if we are able to inspire large-scale action designed to assure our collective and hence our individual survival." Indeed, if we are to walk the higher path we need to be ever conscious of our connectivity to each other and avoid the name-calling and demonizing of enemy factions that has become so prevalent.
With all the global tensions as of late, consider for a moment the implications of millions of people simultaneously feeling embittered, angry, suspicious, hateful, scared and depressed and the ensuing actions that result from these feelings. Only hours before his death, Trappist Monk and Poet Thomas Merton wrote, "The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all living beings, which are all part of one another and all involved in one another." It is within this context that we are able to imagine the potential for positive change beginning with ourselves and naturally radiating outward.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." - - Mahatma Gandhi
It is of the utmost importance, then, for each of us to hold the vision of peace not only on our signs or bumper stickers or messages to congress but in our hearts and minds as well. As we read the news and march on Washington, sign petitions and speak to others of the need for peaceful solutions are we truly envisioning the world we're trying to create? Can we create a clear picture of what it would look like, be like, to live on the earth at peace with each other in freedom and true equality? Only once we as a mass are capable of imagining this will we be able to attain it. The great inventors of our times first had an idea; a vision of what it was they were striving to achieve, and only then were they able to take the steps towards its design.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." - - Albert Einstein
When we are fearful and angry our actions follow as such. When we are mindful and carry with us a vision of peace and compassion, we are then able to act upon it. So when your mate is being unfair, or the meter-maid gives you a ticket just as you're leaving, or the neighbor's dog pees on your lawn, remember that the way you choose to react can be the difference between War and Peace.
"Carefully watch your Thoughts, for they become your Words. Manage and watch your Words, for they will become your Actions. Consider and judge your Actions, for they have become your Habits. Acknowledge and watch your Habits, for they shall become your Values. Understand and embrace your Values, for they become Your Destiny." - - Mahatma Gandhi
So, while we are working for peace, let's make it a labor of love and consider it a campaign of the highest calling. Let's say some prayers for our fellow brothers and sisters of the human race in these trying times. Let's do all we can in our daily thoughts, words and actions with our mates, our children, our neighbors and our enemies to exemplify the principles we hold so dear. And Let's envision our studying for and eventual graduation to a Higher Ground.
Catherine Sundberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an aritist and a writer living in Los Angeles.