I am an eternal optimist.
Despite the challenges, the horrible acts of mankind, the hatred, the storms of deception, and the rampant, pervasive, growing maelstrom of anger – I hold every day, that there is hope for our humanity. I believe there is a possibility for transformation and growth. I have faith that we can each evolve into wiser, more compassionate human beings. Less reactive, able to not only speak our own truth but hear the truth of others. More proactive in stepping out and speaking out peacefully, and with an open heart, when we see and experience wrongdoing to our fellow human being no matter the religious belief, political ideology, or color of skin. Each of us able to take greater self-responsibility, not just with words but through our actions.
With these thoughts in mind, I wanted to share with all of you the following words from Robert Wright’s book Why Buddhism Is True. I needed these words this week as my heart sunk with the horrific death of George Floyd and the resulting looting and tearing apart of a city washed with anger and hatred. All I could think of, “is oh my – where are headed?” I felt a deep fear for humanity. And so, Robert Wright’s words brought me back to some sense of solace and hope.
Back to believing that transformation is possible and that even one individual’s path creates a ripple of change in the world.
Robert Wright shares the following thoughts on our world today and our path forward.
“Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a moment of truth as ‘a moment of crisis on whose outcome much or everything depends.‘ I don’t think that’s too strong a phrase for the planetary challenge I described in the previous chapter – the problem of ethnic, religious, national, and ideological conflict that can feed on itself, creating a spiral of growing hatred that leads to true catastrophe.
Suggesting that meditation can help save the world is a good way to get written off as hopelessly naïve. So, let me stress that the idea here isn’t to generate a worldwide wave of loving-kindness. I mean, that would be great, but I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon, and I don’t think the salvation of the world would require it.
I think the salvation of the world can be secured via the cultivation of calm, clear minds, and the wisdom they allow. Such minds, for one thing, keep us from overreacting to threats and thus from feeding the vicious circles that intensify conflicts. Calm, clear minds can also help us soberly assess what animates the threat – and so figure out, for example, what kinds of things encourage people to join or support violent causes, and what kinds of things discourage them from doing that. We don’t have to love our enemies, but seeing them clearly is essential. And one lesson from both Buddhist philosophy and modern psychology is that seeing them clearly involves dialing down fear and loathing, but also more than that; it involves transcending much subtler distortions of perception and cognition, often distortions that are grounded in subtler feelings.
This clarity of vision doesn’t have to suddenly envelop the world. Even isolated pockets of equanimity (mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation) and wisdom can make a difference and can prepare the ground for their own expansion. As with individual progress toward enlightenment, global progress toward enlightenment can be incremental and yet, through commitment, can acquire a momentum of its own.”
These words had a profound impact on me. They reminded me that my own small journey toward a calmer, more peaceful, compassionate, perhaps even a bit wiser state of mind does have an impact. Each of us, practicing daily mindfulness and cultivating an awareness of living more mindfully, can together exert a powerful ripple effect – in our families, our schools, and our communities. My practice is far from perfect, my journey has great days, good days, and tough days. In each of these days, I hold faith in the belief that my mindful practice and life provide hope and shine a ray of light on what might be possible. That my work, my life, and my being human has a purpose.
I hope that you will find your way to some version of mindful meditation practice to guide your way during this time. I believe with all my heart, it will ease your soul, brighten your heart, and bring you and those around you, beams of shining light even in the darkest of nights.