It is my humble understanding that most individuals I have encountered want to make a positive impact on the world and each other. The majority of us are decent people, at our very core, and we do our best in the world with the hands we have been dealt and with the ways we have been taught. The idea of making a positive impact, and how exactly one best directs their energy in doing so, has been particularly pertinent in my learning over the past few years.
There was a time in my life, in the not so distant past, when I was so distraught by the happenings of the world that I thought, with the right intention of course, that I would get out there and ultimately save the world. Yes, I would appease the guilt of my privileged upbringing and would rescue all of those starving war torn countries. Because I believed, as I was told – through academia, the government, and the media – that it is we, the Westerners, who are the ones to promote and institutionalize change. And so, out there I went after seven years of studying, to the countries that I believed I could help.
A wake up call I had!
After experiencing the many countries that I had preconceived notions about, that I had read about, that I believed were somehow less developed than where I came from, I ultimately discovered that it was not they who needed to change or adapt, but rather it was I. I asked myself: can I honorably be this person, the person who comes from a society that is founded on anger and the blame game, and stand some kind of moral high ground? My country is not experiencing war or poverty in the immediate sense, but we are most certainly experiencing war in our own households when we blame, ridicule and abuse our loved ones, and we are experiencing poverty when we treat our own people, the aboriginals, like societal rejects and outcasts.
Most of us, including myself, expend much of our efforts in trying to control things and morph the world into what we think it should look like. We each have our own ideas about how things should be and to meet our own version of the world, even if it’s a positive one, we unconsciously try to control our friends, our families, situations, people, and well, everything. But reality hits, at least it hit for me, and as one bright man recently said in a high school commencement speech, even if you are one in a million, there are still 7,000 people just like you.
You are not the center of the universe.
So I suppose the simplest and most articulate thought I am left with is this: before I, or we, get out there and reverberate some kind of moral platitude, whether it’s in our relationships, our workplaces, or on a grander scale in our attempt to save the world, maybe it’s time we do some internal investigating and take a good look at ourselves and our intentions.
In my personal experiences I have come to find that in this Dark Age of human society, where conflict and violence seem to be the norm, the most profound way I can change the world is by changing myself – by humbly being the example of love and compassion – just as I was shown by so many beautiful souls in the so-called developing world. Now you may laugh and dismiss what I am saying as hippy mumbo jumbo, but even if you do, at the very least consider it as food for thought and share your insights!
I will leave you with a quote and some questions:
“Everyone talks of changing the world, no one talks about changing themselves”
Have you had similar experiences? Do you agree or disagree? Can we change the world by changing ourselves?