Saturday, June 6, 2020

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, June 6, 2020 - Peace Shall Prevail

It’s almost hard to conceive the level of desperate unrest occurring among humanity right now. A great moan emanates from us collectively as if we are slowly ripping at the seams while witnessing it in real time. We feel powerless to stop it. The sky feels as if it’s falling.

As real as this crisis truly is, the sky is doing no such thing, of course. It’s firmly in place as always. Yet none of this trauma is in our imagination either. Sadly, the presence of truth is no guarantee of progress when doubt is sewn. Even fake news makes its indelible impression on reality. Our own individual perception of this time is absolutely genuine. You are having a real experience.

But there are lots of real things in this world.

Love is real, too. So is compassion. As optimistic as I may be, I must be frank as well. I absolutely do see more hatred today than when I was a child. Much more. 

But, am I seeing less love?  I’m not. Much more, actually. It honestly appears as if there is more love actively and creatively expressed in the world today than when I was a child. 

Perhaps it’s a reaction to the increased brazenness of hatred being expressed. I can only assume. But even as we see more hatred, people are increasingly using their creativity and ingenuity to solve world problems. Society wildly celebrates those who make achievements of human compassion. It does not celebrate the opposite.

Against the backdrop of increasing riots and dramatic protests, there are hints at real progress occurring within society on the issue of racism which are crucial to its success. In fancy talk: the subtle perpetuating mechanisms inside systemic racism and discrimination (meaning some of what makes racism continue to flourish generation after generation) are becoming disturbed from their normal function by, among other things, our choice to use better words to describe other people. 

That small but profound shift is having an enormous and lasting effect on society. Even while the louder conflict rages and much larger battles are being fought, it's the meeker action which is the often the true stimulus of change. The call for kinder words is viscerally upsetting to some people and the ripple effect has been profound as the blinders have come off one by one. There are natural consequences to this. Rage is one of them. On both sides. Small shifts in our society, such as the advent of politically correct language, not only gets under the skin of racism and discrimination of others in general, but exemplify the success of the earlier work within the civil rights movement which has already made a lasting impact. That’s what’s bringing up the rage on both sides: It's the new visibility of social progress some don’t want. Do not despair! Keep supporting the cause of equality in your own way. There are far more on the side of unity than not.

Ironically, our natural instinct to work together is often switched-off in dangerous times. For ideological safety, people shut down and insulate themselves with those who think the same as they. Cross-pollination of shared ideas becomes quarantined. Fear makes us clench rather than embrace. There are natural consequences to that. Only an attention to the source of that fear will heal it.

Even while recognizing the abundance of violence currently occurring, people the world over are genuinely trying harder to expand their awareness of social issues. This is visible everywhere. Even national ad campaigns have picked up on our increased inclination toward unity and collaboration. Gender equality as well. Have you seen the new laundry detergent ads with men in them? I have. That never used to happen. Is that the advertising media trying to brainwash men into doing laundry? Not likely. And nearly all commercials today show people of mixed or ambiguous race. Hmm. Are they trying to convince us to be more racially mixed? Not likely. 

This is the advertising industry responding to the actual statistical changes toward gender and racial equity which we have already administered into our society. They spend millions on demographic studies and polls trying to get to know us and what makes us tick. They are experts on how we are thinking about important issues both political as well as personal. They know us better than we know ourselves. Look toward advertising if you want to see where humanity really is in real time. Advertisers always want to show us our most current selves—as improved through the use of their product, true—but ourselves nonetheless.

Civil rights has not arrived at its destination, by far, but it is doing its job relentlessly. The struggle is all real. It is based on a genuine and reasonable rage which legitimately exists. Sometimes that rage has been expressed in peaceful ways with successful results. Sometimes it has been achieved with violence and unrest as well, let’s be honest. Both have pushed the needle forward. 

I advocate for peaceful resolution always. But I also subscribe to the belief that there is no such thing as a disproportionate reaction. It is always, always proportionate to something. Perhaps not the situation as it exists in isolation from the larger picture, but that rage is coming from somewhere. Seek it out and soothe it. It’s hard, and humbling, but it’s the only way.

Earlier this week, one of my dearest friends posted this profound solution: “When times are full of confusion, fear or anger, the question to ask ourselves is: What does love require of me?”

Hate is not a real thing. Only fear is. Look for the fear and do what you can about that. The hate will evaporate when the underlying fear heals. That is the weakness of all hatred: The wound. Soothe the wound. That’s what the teachings of Jesus, as well as many other spiritual dharmas, ask of us. Pray for your enemies. Send a psychic balm to their fear. Pray for their ease. Work against your fear and rage. Get under the skin of it. 

There’s some physics behind this idea as well. Though we don’t understand it, we have observed its effects enough to conclude it’s probably genuine. But it blows our minds so much we don’t know what to do with the information. We don’t know how to apply it to our lives. Remember, however, we don’t understand a lot of things we still manage to make great use of. 

In 1993, a group conducted a consciousness study experimenting with lowering the crime rate in Washington D.C. using only prayer and meditation over a series of weeks “without any verbal, social, political or physical interaction between the meditators and the local community. The positive impact would be made quietly and discreetly from the field of consciousness.

This sounds far-fetched. But the crime rate did in fact drop in the city by 23.3% during the summer-long study period; something the Chief of Police said would be possible only with 20” of snow. I encourage you to read the study for yourself. Cross verify the information. 

Within all this just mentioned, exists the thread of what to do to be of service to the solution. Meditate on peace. Encourage others to do the same. Pray for it in groups (virtually, for the time being, of course). Spread creative and ingenious ways to be of service to others. Be a balm to fear, in person as well as on the level of your consciousness. Don’t encourage violence, but dialogue. Insert yourself into the problem by hosing it down with empathy. Relieve yourself of judgement. You cannot walk a mile in their shoes. There will be things you just can’t be made to understand. Pray for understanding to occur anyway. You are a bell unto the Universe. Ring like the dickens.

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