Have you ever asked yourself what would happen if aliens ever found our planet and began monitoring our TV networks? Thom and I have asked ourselves that question—especially after hearing about reality shows like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” But even if those aliens only tuned into our news channels and programs, what do you think their view of the human race would be? Unfortunately, the day-to-day hostility and aggression frequently viewed on those programs would likely be enough for any alien to determine that our species is egocentric, violent, and highly competitive. In fact, if you watch much TV news at all, the average person would probably be tempted to think the world is a very scary place and that any minute something horrible could happen. But is that true? Are we really that egocentric and violent? Or are we actually much more compassionate and empathetic than we sometimes believe? Maybe exploring those questions is one way to find out why we struggle to get along in this day and age.
I started dwelling on this question last week after hearing people throw harsh statements around in regards to the current issue of gun control in the U.S. While I can respect the right of other people to have a different opinion than mine, what most surprises me is the venom some people use to express their view—and my sometimes desire to react in kind. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending upon which way you look at it, our world of instant communication is fueling the fire. Maybe we’ve always had those who felt violently opposed to other sides—but up until now we didn’t have the means to show it and know it 24/7—365!
While the topic of instant communication and connection is a part of the problem, I’ll leave that for another post. Today I want to explore three big reasons I think so many people feel antagonistic towards one another these days, and then ideas about how we can take another approach that is more empathetic and compassionate.
So what are some of the thought forms that might be responsible for some of the current animosity in our world today?
- Fear. This surprises me. According to The Global Wellbeing Index, the U.S. ranks #14 worldwide and the average citizen has reported life satisfaction at 7.3 on a scale from 0 to 10. I’m happy, and most people I know are happy—so why is everyone acting so afraid that at any moment a person (or our government) will swoop in and try to hurt you or your family? (I’m mainly touching on the gun control issue here.) I have two theories:
- One is that we are making a habit of fear. I wrote about habits a while back so I won’t go into the details of how and or why it happens. What I will say is that anyone who consumes a daily diet of fear from the media (TV news for example) is setting a habit to focus on the negative and scary. Unless you live in a third-world country, don’t have enough to eat, or a roof over your head, you probably have very little real world fear to deal with. Most fear then—is mainly in our mind. If we stop watching/reading the news for 21 days, I can almost guarantee that each of us will feel less fearful.
- The other reason I think so many people feel fearful is because our culture is currently using fear to manipulate the general public. The government wants to spend a gazillion dollars on defense and very little on education and health. The gun makers and the NRA want to continue to sell and do whatever they want with guns in the U.S., so by coming up with scary scenarios they can instill fear in many Americans. Unfortunately their propaganda is working on many people.
Remedy: So what do I suggest we do about all this fear? First, if you have made it a habit—then STOP IT! We all need to stop talking about our fears to everyone we come in contact with. Stop watching news or reading scary information—and stop talking to people who scare you every time you get together. Fear is a nasty habit that kills people from the inside out.
My next suggestion would be to be very honest about whether you think life is for us—or against us—and then figure out why you believe that. Albert Einstein once said that one of the most important questions we could ask ourselves was: “Do you believe the Universe is friendly or not?” The way I see it, if any one of us goes around believing that Life is out to get us, then it’s understandable to think a person needs guns to protect themselves from the government or your neighbors. On the other hand, if you believe in a friendly benevolent Universe (or some call that God), then perhaps relying on that Higher Power is a better way to start living as though people are basically good and that good things happen all the time. As the saying goes, ““If You Pray Don’t Worry… If You’re Going To Worry Why Pray?”
- Belief in scarcity. Scarcity is the idea that there is only so much good to go around. Scarcity teaches that with limited resources of any kind, we all live in competition for whatever good can be found. The big reason I believe many of us operate with this worldview is that it is another cultural meme we are taught from the time we are small. Although charity and generosity are encouraged, most of us still use caution when it comes to giving. Why is scarcity so prevalent? Because from the time we are babies we are taught that there is only so much love, money, time and resources available. And it doesn’t ever let up. By the time we are adults we are fairly certain that if I don’t get that boyfriend, job, raise, promotion, car, lover, money, etc—then you will and I’ll be out of luck.
Remedy: Belief in scarcity is another habit that we have accepted in our lives. It is a way of looking at the world that is very much a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, start beginning to see the world as abundant and generous. Whenever we start “acting as if” the world is generous and giving to all that we do, we let go of clutching everything out of the fear of loss. Of course it takes a lot of time to turn our thinking around but it is possible. How do I know? Because both Thom and I are living examples of what it means to have been raised with the idea of scarcity. However, we now know (at least in the vast majority of time) that life is abundant and generous. I don’t worry that someone will come and take my good from me because I know there is more than enough to go around.
- Separation. From a materialistic perspective it is easy to imagine ourselves as separate and unique individuals. This mindset is so prevalent that we usually forget that on a subatomic level we are all made of the same stuff—we exchange atoms constantly. On the spiritual level we are even more connected. Just about every religion on the planet teaches that we come from the same Source—we are all One. Unfortunately, the illusion of the material world is that we are unique, alone and individual. So as long as I continue to see others as “others” it is understandable to assume they are a danger and out to take away my good.
Remedy: The best way to retrain our thinking to be more inclusive is to practice Unity. Unity lets go of thinking of other people as “the other”. Unity also helps to remind us that all of us want basically the same things, (i.e. happiness, love, peace, safety, etc.). Again, much of separation is a habit that can be remedied with intention.
Obviously the topic about why we can’t all get along is very layered and complicated. As I’ve written about before, the unconscious mental practice of “confirmation bias” also continues to convince us that we are right and everyone else who thinks differently is wrong. But I remain convinced that the above three thoughtforms keep us opposed to one another rather than connected. Until we are willing to address the underlying beliefs that create the current climate of fear, scarcity and separation in our country, we will continue to show anger and lack of compassion when dealing with each other. Only when we address the issue and turn it around will we start attempting to communicate in ways that are more loving and considerate.
I say this even for myself. At dinner the other night with friends I found myself disagreeing with what was said. My frustration started growing, and I could feel the flame of anger just below the surface. Just as I was about to respond in a way that was less-than-loving, Thom stepped in from a place of compassion. He saw that both of us were coming from a ideas of fear, scarcity and separation. Thankfully he was able to neutralize the conversation by gently reminding us that we live in a friendly and abundant Universe—and we are all One.
I still work on myself every single day to be more loving and compassionate. I also see plenty of examples around me that remind me that we all have a long way to go. However, let’s hope that if aliens do indeed tune into our planet from afar, that they are able to find messages and examples that prove we’re making the effort. And after all, if we’re all One—they will be right there beside us.