The Middle East, Climate Change, pollution, water shortages, wars for profit… etc. And your recommendation is that we should all go have more fun? Can you read? Have you ever read a newspaper? People like you are dangerous.
That is a very compassionate statement. It’s so obvious that you care about your fellow man and that you believe in empathetic and respectful ideas. Is it possible we are more alike than you realize?
The appreciation and prioritization of joy, happiness and satisfaction might appear irresponsible from the outside. But we can achieve those things while still caring about the things you noted. In my case, I am attempting to have some kind of positive affect—I’m just going about it in a different way than tackling those issues directly. I’m flanking them, so to speak.
In working with a lot of people, the pattern is unmistakable. If they are merely earnest in their studies with me then they universally became happier and calmer, and that leads to them also having more energy and less fear. That in turn has lead to them to lead less demanding lives that are also more generous and compassionate.
Helping people to see things clearly, with an open heart, can easily lead them to be agents of change in whatever areas of life they function in.
It’s routine to hear about people spontaneously improving their diets, or how they gain a new respect for nature and the simple things that make up life. People start being more interested in their own compelling forms of physical activity, be they team sports, something meditative, or even different types of dancing.
People feel less awkwardness and more connection, which in turn leads to even more quality interactions on a daily basis. So ‘happy’ can seem like a light and unimportant objective, but when given deeper consideration, the opposite is often the case. Happiness is a resource to be cultivated. It’s like our fuel for engaging with all of the challenges your letter noted.
I can relate to who you’re asking me to be because I was that person. I was the guy who felt a responsibility to bring up challenging issues so that we could solve them. And I did it because I genuinely cared just as I am confident that you do.
Like I did, you may feel that if the people weren’t interested, or if they responded cavalierly, that they were automatically poor citizens. But in reality their compassion was just coming out in other ways. While we were focused on that part of life they were focused on other parts we couldn’t see.
Maybe you’ve done better than most of us who earnest try, but so far change continues at the same slow pace it always has. But. While we may have never affected a single thing in the Middle East, or in the world of finance or politics, but we are citizens within our own spheres of influence.
In many cases, we can be living in our own city, with our own circle of people, and yet we can almost ignore them for half our lives. So we can care about the world while still accepting that it will always be a work in progress.
Sure, we can do what we can to push the future in a direction we feel is more inclusive or compassionate, but that push is pointless if it is done only thanks to obligation, desperation, sadness or a sense of defeat. If we’re going to approach solving those things, we want to embrace that challenge with love and light and energy and support.
When it comes to changing their lives or the world, the students I work with end up having a lot more energy available to them once they relax and stop stressing about important things over which we have zero control. Caring when we’re helpless is more crippling than it is helpful.
This is why I encourage joy and connection. If we want to tackle the sorts of problems that take billions of people to solve, we may be better to enthusiastically focus on our potential for action, rather than comparing that action to an ultimate end goal.
In the end, while the process is slow and chaotic, most big change does not come about through some central decision and action, but almost always by some small collective set of changes that each of can make, over time, within our own small sphere of influence.
Just as any bucket is filled with drops, so the world is filled with collections of small spheres of influence. So, rather than demanding change from others, as Gandhi suggested, our best approach is often to just be the change we want to see in the world, and then let the rest unfold by nature.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.