Wow! Here we find ourselves at the beginning of another year. The feeling of freshness is here once again for awhile. Perhaps some of us are anticipating a new approach to life in some way. Maybe the world will see the error of its ways and
somehow become more humane. There’s a certain naïveté that’s present among the population. If we’re not hung over, we might, at least, feel less jaded.
Collectively, we love new beginnings. This is one reason we celebrate the first day of the year as official holidays. In many cases, we begin new endeavors and projects on January 1st. There have even been new nations or rebirths of old nations that took place on the first day of a year. I counted nine countries that either became
independent or initiated an official new phase on January 1st. To illustrate this fact, I located the images of the flags that represent countries that began or were reestablished on the first day of a year.
The conflict that continues around our world seems to want to threaten our own personal lives. Some people escape into entertainment, others take drink or drugs, others of us face the music and try to deal with our messy world the best we can. We know that “other people” either cannot or will not do anything to help the situation. In fact, some of us have come to realize that most people are dead wrong about most areas of life, almost all of the time.
Yet, our default mode of behavior is that of conforming to the pack. The pack tends to follow a leader. In our hearts, we know the weaknesses of pack behavior and the problems with even the most well-intentioned leaders. We see the egoistic desire to break away from nations and states displayed in our news reports. Many of us believe the solution to our problems lies in the founding of a new nation. Sometimes that works out, for awhile.
A nation and, in turn, the world can only be as good as its weakest individual citizen. We might try to solve this problem by inventing new systems that either force the population into police-state submission or idealize complete, selfish, self-centered liberties to reign. Neither extreme will ever work, in the long run.
I have been sold a bill of goods if I think that the solution to world peace and harmony resides in the minds and activities of “others”. Such thinking is a form of denial and passing of the buck.
In order for the world to experience a new beginning, we need more than another switch from one political party to another one. We need more than to place our faith in one ideology over another one. History has shown us the folly of believing that one person or elite group will solve our problems. We can read and listen to debates about one form of national ideology or another ad nauseum. If we tune out the “noise”, we risk surrender to the lowest common denominator. Sooner or later, our escapes into trivia and entertainment will no longer work to shield us from the massive problems we collectively face.
In the same light, we have our own issues to confront. When we seriously contemplate our own problems, we soon come to realize that our problems are much the same as the problems of the world at large. Imagine one personal issue, such as aggressive behavior or overt competitiveness. Now, picture that same issue multiplied by hundreds of millions. This aggressive behavior congeals into groups. The groups ally themselves into factions. The factions become nations. The individual urges towards aggression and competitiveness become focused in the groups, factions, and nations. Hence, we find alignments, and realignments. We find the breaking apart of nations and the creation of new countries to take their places.
None of this national and international discord will amount to anything positive and peaceful because all of it is the manifestation of individuals’ conflict, self-centeredness, lack of compassion and neglect of empathy. All of these aspects tempt us to play the blame game. I can witness this behavior in myself during quiet times. I don’t think I need to provide any examples of our shortcomings, because, if we’re honest, we know them already. I don’t need to frog-march them into this post, because they’re all so very “last year”.
It all boils down to this. We are the problem because the world is the projection of us. To understand ourselves, is to understand the world. I understand that I cannot isolate myself from the world, no matter how hard I try. Whatever I do will affect the world in some way. Whatever happens in the world affects me in some way.
If I want to help transform the world, I must begin with myself. If I don’t want greed, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and misogyny in the world, I need to transform my own attitudes.
When I think about pollution, waste, and climate change, do I take responsibility for my part in these things? What new approaches can I take to lessen my impact on the environment?
Do we really need yet another new nation? Do we need another new ideology or political movement? Is it sufficient enough for me to merely harbor a new vision of non-greediness and non-violence? Probably not. Hopes and dreams alone won’t do the trick. Hopes and dreams only postpone transformation.
Real, and helpful transformation comes about by being and doing.
This line of thinking intersects with the popular notion of New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions represent our hopes and dreams of becoming a better person. Resolutions are easily and frequently broken or forgotten. However, if I am my best self and when I actively perform the necessary actions, I get closer to what I desire. I understand a better world is up to me, not more beliefs, new ideologies, other teachers, nor new nations.
When I act to become better and not merely self-righteous, I do my share to transform the world around me. How can I multiply this effect by hundreds of millions?