“Since about that time, war had been literally continuous, though strictly speaking it had not always been the same war. For several months during his childhood there had been confused street fighting in London itself, some of which he remembered vividly. But to trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible, since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than the existing one….” Nineteen Eighty Four” George Orwell.
The Internet meme says, “Nineteen Eighty Four is a warning, not a blueprint.” It seems like we have surrendered to the reality of Orwell’s “endless war”. The war that is being waged has many fronts. The Middle East, Asia, and terrorism are ever-present in the news. I could also list mankind’s war on the environment, the war on working people, the war on women, and the war on education. There is so much warfare going on that most of us have become passive. The only thing some people think to do, is to arm themselves to the teeth.
We can take a few moments to shake off our feelings of dismay and the urge to distract ourselves, in order to analyze the root causes of our endless wars. The destructive fires of greed, ignorance, and hatred are blazing fiercely in the hearts of the people.
Skim through your social media feeds. You’ll soon find the fires of foolishness, decrepitude, sorrow, lamentation, suffering, sickness, infatuation, narcissism, and egoism. There are so many examples of these fires that we accept them like products advertised for us to buy.
A very common fuel is greed. That is the endless desire and attachment to material comforts. These comforts include the insatiable lusts for fame, power, and wealth. When people surrender to these obsessions, they are condemned to constantly seek out more ways to quench their burning fires.
The second, most obvious fuel is hatred. Rivalries and feuds are fired by aversion and dislike. It’s very easy to fall into the flames of envy, rage, and resentment. These highly destructive urges are very easily manipulated by our acquaintences, adversaries, religious leaders, and political pundits. We are urged to mindlessly consume the fuel of hatred at almost every turn. Our egocentric view of life encourages us to engage aversion.
The third fuel is ignorance. This is a sticky one because it is often the result of misguided efforts to follow some sort of “deeply held” belief. Sometimes ignorance is the manifestation of the wish to avoid reality. Willful ignorance is insidious because it is often couched in the dogma of socially acceptable belief systems. Ignorance can be thought of as the basic, most fundamental fuel. Willful ignorance is sometimes labeled as evil because ignorance is fundamental darkness of the soul or mind. The fuel of ignorance, kindles the flames of the other two propellents.
Shakyamuni Buddha referred to these fuels as the “Three Poisons”. They originate, grow, and are “spewed forth” from our internal thoughts and beliefs. The poisons inhabit the fabric of the mind. They are then turned into fuel as they manifest in the thoughts and actions of a person. The fuel feeds the flames that already exist within families, ethnic groups, nations, belief systems, and eventually, nearly all of humanity.
We can wish that the flames of discord will be extinguished, but hopes and wishes are half-hearted vanities. To help enable world peace we need to find real inner peace. In this world, that is a difficult job, but not impossible. The first step is recognizing the three poisons for what they are, combustable fuel of the flames. We then understand that real peace is achieved by transcending all three fuels. This process is evolutionary and expansive.
There is the irony of using the fuel to bring peace to our minds, and in turn, to the world. We can control the burning fuel through use of wisdom. The flame of ignorance can be turned down to where the flame no longer blinds us from knowing the fact of interrelatedness of all people, animals, plants, and the planet as a whole. This knowledge shows that the destruction of one aspect eventually leads to the destruction of the entire web of life.
The way to peace is the patient practice of expanding our circles of dialogue, cooperation, and friendship. When we willfully seek out knowledge and understanding of others, we can then easily choose to exercise compassion. As our mind expands into new understandings, we sincerely know that willful ignorance, hatred, and greed only fuel deep unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
As more of us arrive at this realization, we come closer to ending the endless wars that have engulfed our world.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this message from the Peace Pilgrim: “The simplification of life is one of the steps to inner peace. A persistent simplification will create an inner and outer well-being that places harmony in one’s life.”