Are you a good world citizen? What does good mean to you? What does it mean to be a citizen? What is your world? What is the evidence that you are this good world citizen…and I don’t care how small or intimate or grand and universal your world is. I just want to know about your impact.
Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post on reviewing the impact of the 8 contexts of your life: World, Nature, Relationships, Health, Finances, Space/place, Culture, and Work. Now I want to rephrase that as a more difficult question: Who are you in each context? How do you impact each context?
In this post I am going to focus on the World, its impact on our individual souls and the potential for our souls, our thinking, feeling and willing, to impact the world. Of course, I am writing “in general” and from my perspective. It’s up to you to reflect and imagine what is so for you.
A Violent World of Hate and Fear…How Do You Impact It?
Right now violence is a central element of the world context and it is impacting all of us. How are you impacting this violent world?
Violence begins in an individual’s soul. It begins with someone’s fear and hatred. One person’s words or deeds of fear and hate infect other souls with fear and hate. Love does not hate or fear.
Violence drives us to blame and take revenge or take cover. We become victims: we flee, fight or freeze. We look for rescuers and heroes and protectors as we feel small, powerless and needy. We lose our ability to be safe and calm. We fall into a maelstrom of contagious violent emotions. Our thinking loses the capacity for love and freedom. Our deeds lack wisdom and compassion.
Who or what are you blaming for this violence? Do you have a list of perpetrators: the bad, the mad, the sick, the stupid? All those who are different from you in race, creed, status and opinion? Do you want to hate and shame those you blame or blame those you hate or those you are unwilling to understand or make room for in your world?
Do you want to counter the violence with more violence? Violence in thoughts? In words? In deeds? Do you want to push back, add fuel to the fire, whip into an aggressive frenzy in your soul?
Do you want to shrink, retreat and hide? Hold your breath and close your eyes until it all passes? Do you feel all you can do is pray that you and the world will be rescued by a hero and made safe by a protector…a president or a god? Or do you maintain a “safe” distance with a holiness that avoids the messiness of being human?
Depending on my mood and on what else is going on in the other contexts of my life, I find myself doing any combination of the above. None of these options give me any sense of safety, love, or possibility for a new world future. They impact the world with negative energy.
If I take a deep, slow cleansing breath, if I observe, question and consider rather than judge, identify or react, my soul impacts my world differently. My soul becomes spacious and sober and strong and when I use my voice and cast my vote there is no fear and no hatred entering the world.
The Impact of Conversations
Fifteen years ago I lived in a brownstone in Jersey City. The deck gave me a clear view of the Twin Towers which were less than a mile away. You know what I saw with my own two eyes that September morning. I went immediately into those three states: blame, attack, hide. About a month later, I began a year long series of conversations with another thoughtful woman, Bethene LeMahieu, that led to a 6 hour audio book, Ground Zero and the Human Soul: The Search for the New Ordinary Life.
We met 3-5 times a week usually for a couple of hours calmly exploring human consciousness and the mysteries of 9/11. Through our conversations examining what it means to be human in light of fear, hatred and violence, we sought equanimity and compassion in our feeling, clarity and truth in our thinking and a will to do no harm and manifest simple good deeds. We spent time considering evil as an archetype and how each individual could shape their own inner life to be able to directly meet evil in their/our own souls and vanquish its subtle temptations, manipulations, and seductions. We realized love was not about possession, power or pleasure but generosity and kindness and single thoughts, words, and deeds in individual souls. The world of 9/11 impacted us and we impacted the world with our conversations.
In the dark shadows of 9/11 and its cold aftermath, these conversations brought to life something new in my soul. They brought light and warmth to my understanding of the strength and weakness of every human soul in every kind of condition. It deepened my ability to resonate with compassion to the suffering of others: the victims, the perpetrators, the witnesses and the unaware and uninvolved. It brought a new force to my capacity for moral questioning and moral imagination. The conversations Bethene and I had were a mindful, moral and spiritual practice.
We need a new ordinary life. It is up to us to be compassionate, courageous, curious, and creative. And we need to have many bold conversations about potential and peace and all the obstacles, not just for the few but for everyone. We need open minds and open hearts so we can consider multiple perspectives and make a practice of considering things from opposing points of view. We need lots and lots of wisdom seeking and very tough questions. We need to forego any answers that depend on blame, revenge or putting our head in the sand.
Please make a practice of having conversations on the dark shadows in the world. Look at the shadows you cast. Ask how your soul can shine some light on the problems of being human and encourage the potential of the human soul. We need to look at our own accountability, forgiveness, objectivity and universal empathy. We need to look, not to the gods above us, but the loving divinity within us. We need to be willing to evolve and to sacrifice the familiar, the unexamined, the selfish. (Yes, I am also speaking to the selfishness of the liberal, altruistic and loving souls. How about that for a conversation…examining the selfishness of your unselfishness. Look at all your self-contradictions.)
Have conversations about your loyalty to your tribes and how that leads you to exclude or dismiss other tribes…how many tribes to you belong to? Have conversations about your need to be a hero in your thoughts, words and deeds…how romantic, but how does it empower others? Have conversations about your political and personal philosophies and how rigid your thoughts are? And see if you can find the humbling gifts of irony, radical doubt and archetypal humor as you face your need to be right and superior.
I have a grandson who at age six is asking me (thanks to Disney) what the difference is between bad and evil. My response is to keep the conversation alive with questions. If I can give my grandson a gift it will not be the gift of answers but the gifts of questions and unending conversation.
Here are some previous posts I have written on evil and empathy. Use them for the ground of your courageous and creative conversations.