Meditations in Gratitude 5: Crisis and Opportunity

Good morning everyone. Here’s hoping that you started your day off positively, and that you and yours are healthy. I also hope that you are all finding ways in addition to this, to nurture your mental health while we all go through this unfortunate Second Wave.

Today’s meditation requires a bit more explanation, but please read on. Don’t let TL;DR cause you to miss out on this unique and incredible opportunity. I promise, I’ll make it up to you with really short meditations for the rest of the week. 🙂

I suspect we’ve all grown to have greater respect for the people who endured WWII. It is no small thing to have one’s supply lines for food and basics be threatened. And it is no small thing for any society to have a large number of lives be facing debilitating illness or profound loss, over and above the normal death rate.

In WWII, the exodus of all of the fighting-aged men would have devastated cities. There would have been an uncomfortable period of adjustment as their mothers, wives and daughters took up the reigns of industry.

In turn, that would have also altered how children were raised. And then not long after, stories of horrific loss at a massive scale. I know from my own parents, it was an extremely difficult time. That said, it’s also important to note that they also spoke of it as a time of great unity.

There had been a lot of anger and division prior to that, all tumbling out of the onset of the Depression. The war against a common enemy acted to bring everyone together, on both sides. And we now face that same combination of crisis and opportunity today.

There is a mathematician who is gaining increased interest. He does mathematical modelling of history. Like all animals, he presumes that humans are driven by some basic but fairly consistent forces. That means his argument (and his increasingly accurate predictions), emerge from the patterns that flow out of those consistent forces.

One of the things he has found is that, as prosperous, cooperative, successful societies meet reality, some people can end up successful while others do not. That good fortune is often created through effort, and often through sheer luck, and most often it is created by a combination of both.

Over time, those that are successful want society to make choices that ensures their success grows and continues. Meanwhile, a divide begins because those who have not been favoured by fortune. They can often have worked just as hard, but they faced obstacles not of their own creation.

They may have made innocent mistakes, been limited in some way by their bodies or minds. Or their hard work may have, unwittingly and innocently, been applied to some path that was doomed to narrow and end. Think of things like blacksmiths, corset-makers, coal-miners, or auto-workers who get replaced by a robot, or see their jobs move overseas.

Meanwhile, those with advantages innocently use them to create further advantages. Over time, this gap widens further and further until almost no one is left in the middle and understanding between the two remaining groups is poor. This creates a divided society, with half of it being angry while the other half becomes defensive.

Then, according the mathematician, about every 70 years or so, that dissenting group’s anger explodes and the need for a villain leads competing nations to be driven to war, and the wars –especially for the winners– become highly cohesive periods where everyone is once again cooperating against a common enemy, for the greater good.

That unity again creates a period of peace and stability for another 50-60 years. For anyone old enough and interested in studying such things, that pattern is visible in a lifetime. But this time we have a massive new opportunity.

Previously, cohesion was achieved by fighting against another nation. But following WWII humans got smarter, and we started trading with each other to the extent that we truly need each other to survive.

Few nations can feed themselves complete diets without imports. Few nations have the world’s key minerals from which we make almost everything we use. This means our ancestors did a great job of setting us up to succeed.

Those conditions turn the virus into an opportunity. Because, for the first time in history, we have good reasons not to attack other nations. But we do have good reasons to cooperate with other nations. Because this time the entire planet is fighting one common enemy that knows no borders.

We each have a choice. We can join the army of division that will foment differences and create further havoc. Or, we can access our better selves, and we can be humble, generous, vulnerable, and cooperative. Historically, in whatever war takes place, the winning side always succeeds through better cooperation.

We can have compassion lead our way, all the while knowing that a small percentage of people will not come with us on that positive journey. But if we all seek our best selves, those who take the negative route will not number enough to affect what we do. Which leaves the rest of us free to unite in our fight against a virus that is decimating our hospitals and our economies.

So today’s meditation is about us noting that difference. Those who are most afraid will exhibit their fears as anger. We need to see that anger as fear, and respond accordingly and maturely, with compassion.

In addition, we also need to be consciously grateful for those who see opportunities for unity and cooperation. I already watch for that kind of thing as a habit, and I am amazed at how caring and giving people are. I simply couldn’t count the number of generous, caring, sensitive and compassionate acts I see every single day in real life and in the media. There is great strife, but there is also a beautiful, caring response.

Today, go out into the world and consciously account for all of these signs of the best that is in us. Think about doctors and nurses and hospital support staff all going to work each day with fears for themselves, their own families, as well as their co-workers and their families. They go into those hospitals for us, not for themselves. It’s a sign they care about us.

Donations to food banks are up. Volunteers to help others are everywhere. Public officials work hard to do all they can in the face of massive challenges. Parents home-school, teachers take risks to teach those in class. People give blood, wear masks and social distance.

Everywhere we look there are signs of people caring for strangers and loved ones alike. Focusing on these people and these situations is what will get us through this. If you need some inspiration, re-watch the Oscar winner, Life is Beautiful. People really did that. The famous Viktor Frankl was one.

Hard times spawn heroic actions. So our meditation is to note ordinary examples of heroism we see every day. We should seek as many examples as we can in every situation we’re in. We need to earnestly watch life, and the media, for signs of kindness, compassion, concern and love.

Overwhelm yourself with how generous and caring our fellow humans are any time they are not afraid. And if they are feeling fear, then that is our call to offer solace to all those that are angry as a result of their fears.

If we do this right, despite all of the challenges, each of us should end the day feeling very good about ourselves and about humanity. And that will leave us in a good position to be optimistic about the vaccines that are already being produced, and the return to life that will follow.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Our job is to simply stay positive, cooperative and courageous until then. While the fearful may struggle among us, overall, we can be grateful that, this time, humanity has such a unique opportunity to work together as a planet.

What will turn a crisis into an opportunity will be the sum of the individual actions taken by each of us. So let’s get our oars in society’s spiritual waters, and let us row our boats together, in unison. It will not only save the world, it can save us as individuals as well.

peace. s