You’d think we’d have learned how to get along by now. We have access to the necessary knowledge to do so. Now, more than at any other time in history, we can learn more factual information about nearly all the world’s cultures and subcultures. For once, this information is available in forms that are largely uncolored by biases and agendas. It is finally possible to acquire understanding of people like us and people greatly unlike us.
Yet, it seems that our world is suffering by not getting along. We are not honestly seeking to understand others in objective ways. We choose to indoctrinate ourselves by feeding from echo chambers. Our social media data reflects our own points of view and rejects other data based on our own preferences and web history. We are not expanding our horizons, we are becoming more balkanized. Competition has been elevated to the status of religion.
Albert Einstein once said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Other thinkers have noted that when we understand people we realize we are more alike than different. What we don’t like about others, we have present within ourselves.
We can see how the lack of peace on Earth is caused by the lack of resonance in many mental areas.
There are disagreements over facts. We all tend to cherry pick which things to believe and which things to disregard. We select different sources to validate our own “truth” and invalidate other people’s “truth”. This causes stubbornness of heart, and inflexibility in thinking. Our minds become closed.
Related to factual disagreements are personal history conflicts. What seems natural to one person, because of her background and experiences seems wrongheaded and mistaken to someone who grew up with different circumstances and cultural norms. This is known as a lack of empathy.
The lack of empathy is strongly related to ego conflicts. A person believes she should be in charge and another one thinks he needs to be the leader. We see this within families, the workplace, and politics. This aspect is magnified in the international scene.
These ego conflicts are supported by differing concepts of values or morality. Some people follow long established doctrine and tradition. Others discover deep morality through ethics and personal experience. Sometimes these values intersect and other times they are in opposition.
One of the world’s most chronic problems has to do with physical resources. People and societies clash over the the availability and desire for more necessities and luxuries. People feel entitled to stuff and money for various reasons. We suffer as a species due to conflicts between economic ideologies. To quote Christian scripture, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”
When we all understand these basic roots of disagreement and conflict it becomes easier to bridge various points of view and see ourselves as part of the greater whole of humanity.
It is through this understanding that we can work on the ages old dilemma of war and peace. We can more easily see the folly of fighting within a nation and between nations. Only a very elite few ever benefit from infighting and warfare. The rest of us only receive grudges and sanctimony.
These are serious times of disharmony. The way to peace is to work through this disharmony and seek out what we all value in common. How can we serve the common need to survive and to thrive? We need more than peaceful coexistence, we need a sober and tranquil approach that is empowered by empathy.
Peace is a state of mind, one that we can share with everyone else. When we are at peace, we learn and grow and find more social and personal happiness. This can be the result of communication and the sincere desire for understanding others. We not only speak with our hearts and minds, but we can listen with equanimity free of prejudice and bias.
World peace begins on the individual level. The heart of individual peace is the discovery of dignity and self-respect. We truthfully observe then transcend our inner conflicts. We understand that other people have yet to do that and empathize without feelings of superiority. When we have inner peace, we naturally show outer peace.
In this world that greatly lacks outer peace, it looks like we all need to work more on inner peace.