Anyone who looks out from his or her sanctuary occasionally can see our world is full of hate in all it’s manifestations. I sometimes think the negativity, the aggression is getting worse as we age, but it could be that I’m just paying more attention. As a child, one is blessed with ignorance of worldly affairs and politics, perhaps with reason. As one ages, the nastiness of our world encroaches. By the teen years, one makes a conscious decision either to become involved in bettering our world or to look away.
I took the second path. I believe many teens today do the same for the same reason: it’s easier to ignore than to battle global insanity, easier to focus on ourselves than on others. It is possible to live most of one’s live in self-imposed ignorance. Eventually, I believe, one necessarily must become involved. For me, it took a convergence of two factors: raising a child (something I used to be adamant against) and George W. Bush.
No joke. Until the 2000 election cycle, I never bothered to vote. I’m not proud of it, but there it is; I still clung to my aversion of global affairs and the habit of ignorance right into middle-age. Then I saw GWB’s infamous smirk for the first time, and something snapped inside my head. I hated this man more than I hated politics. He must not be president, I thought. I signed on to vote.
There’s another lesson in that, perhaps better saved for another day.
This story brings us to today’s Zen posting about how to see through all the negative expressions of this world to its core of goodness and love, as is taught in Buddhist traditions. First, we must realize what we are fed by media is a lopsided picture of our world. So much is edited out for the sake of sales and profit. Little is heard about compassionate acts and heroic expressions of charity. If one embroils oneself in headlines, the world indeed looks un-savable.
From a book by HH the Dalai Lama, Live in a Better Way, a compilation of his words from several interviews and teachings, comes a query on this topic presented in question-and-answer format:
How can one continue to believe in inherent human goodness when one sees the suffering man inflicts on his fellow man?
If you take a wider perspective, all human beings as a people have survived due to the care of their mother or a mother figure for whom they have cared and have compassionate feelings. Without mutual care, compassion and feeling, one cannot survive. The survival of 5.7 billion people is proof of this fact. Another reason is our human body: negative emotions are very bad for health. Positive emotions or peace of mind are a positive influence on this body. This is the basis of my belief. This does not mean that we have no negative aspects to our nature. I think another explanation is that the most effective way to change others’ minds is with affection, and not anger. It is very difficult to survive without compassionate feeling. Without anger, not only is survival easier, life itself is much happier. However, without affection, one cannot survive. Therefore, I feel that affection is the dominant force in our lives.
How refreshing! As tough as it may seem, to keep this attitude in mind as you interact with whomever you come in contact, the concept proves itself. Simply by maintaining an open, respectful stance with coworkers, cashiers, other drivers, whomever, stress and negativity subsides. People act differently toward you, and life generally smoothes out. Try it. As the Buddha says: Don’t take my word for it.