Environmental deprivation and climate imbalances, on-going wars, starving children, threat of nuclear catastrophes, culture wars, political tragedies, depression and anxiety epidemic, worries and overwhelm, moral deprivation of those with most power, 50% divorce rate, unending school debts, unaffordable cities, educational inflation, relationship difficulties, betrayal, bullies, automation taking away jobs, the risks of AI, soul killing addictions to cell phones, porn, substances, body-image; child beauty pageants, aggressive teachers, headaches, cancer, heart attacks, helicopter parents, pedophiles, credit card companies, cults, drunk drivers, gender wars, governments killing for power, terrorist groups, tribalism, the right’s religious fundamentalism, the left’s irrational rationality, profit hungry corporations, bought politicians, girls being raped, men dying in war, burning forests, disappearing species, death.
How can any intelligent person be at peace?
How can any intelligent person seek anything other than peace? As well as healthy connection, mature belonging, and true love. How to find them, how to maintain them is the topic of this piece.
Almost every single one of us did not receive what we needed for healthy emotional, moral, and sexual development from our parents as they very likely did not receive from their parents and on and on it goes. Most schools still do not teach emotional literacy or mindfulness skills. Most children grow up hooked onto whatever “solution” provides some relief to their pain, confusion, or overwhelm either in porn, perfectionism, cynicism, substances, or gangs, etc.
There is no denying that we - are trying to - live in a f**d up world within a profoundly inhumane system. Yet for every argument against capitalism, there is a counter argument that also makes sense. For every movement of activism there is a shadow side lurking right behind condemnation filled, righteous faces. How can any political and social movement achieve long-lasting, healthy, and sustainable impact as long as we keep denying - and projecting - our pain onto our favorite version of “the enemy”?
What can a well-meaning, intelligent person do when faced with this world and its impossible dilemmas?
The solution lies neither in blaming others for our pain nor in self-shaming for not knowing how to deal with our personal, interpersonal, spiritual, existential, social, as well as environmental challenges. The saner response - not reactivity - to our personal and collective misery lies in doing what we can to create a life we can live with. Reactivity only creates more suffering. No amount of blaming our misery on our parents, the system, our cultural conditioning, other groups (or genders!) or political parties, etc. will provide us with the first hand wisdom and profound sense of freedom that is only available through owning our emotional and behavioral reality.
Once we begin taking responsibility for how we feel and what we do with those feelings, “the enemy” begins to lose power simply because we are no longer projecting our own power onto it. As we begin healing our wounds and taking care of our developmental needs, we find that our world (although it can benefit tremendously from reforms of every kind) is not as horrible a place as we are propelled to think - especially when in the grip of our most fundamental fears.
Only when we begin to intuit the inherent perfection of everything (yes, everything!) can we be of real benefit and improve the systems and attitudes that run our world. If we want to change the heart of “the enemy” (there is no other way for true reform) we must allow our hearts to be changed first. This is impossible so long as we continue blaming others (including systems!) for our personal and collective challenges.
I grew up in Turkey and I was very aware of normalized emotional immaturity, violence, sexual repression/obsession, and political corruption of the country from a young age. I moved to Canada at age 19 only to find out the world is not very different wherever you go. However privileged a life we might have growing up, there is no simple solution to our existential condition. We must rise up to the challenge, heal and grow, and contribute to this horribly beautiful and terrifying existence we call life on earth.
Changing countries did not shield me from any of the pain I was feeling but allowed me to look at it from a healthy distance so that I could begin to make sense of it. The fundamental task of every individual to free themselves from the prison of their minds and early wounding as well as their limited cultural conditioning is universal.
Once I left home, I got deeply involved with spiritual practice and self-transformation. Here is the super summary of what I have come to understand over the past 13 years since my departure from pure confusion and misery: We can be of benefit only to the extent that we are able to love. The only thoroughly useful activism is activism of the heart (however fiery it might have to be at times). Action, political or otherwise, without a corresponding degree of moral maturity, peace of mind, and openness of heart brings nothing but immature giving-in or more suffering and oppression and is always received with resistance in best of conditions and violent retaliation in worst scenarios.
I am ending this piece with a quick look into what is heartbreakingly beautiful in this world.
Couples in love, veterans healing from PTSD, sleeping in peace at night, birds chirping, joy of a job well done, the smile on a child’s face, rescued animals, friends reuniting, helping a stranger, receiving forgiveness, knowing we’re doing what we can, learning from our mistakes, volunteering, looking at a flower, scientific discoveries, useful technology, healthy remorse, fair treatment of genders, harmony with parents, a still mind, fulfilling marriages, grateful children, healthy food, an open heart, alternative energy, ocean view from a mountain top, the smell of rain, birth, delicious food, an appreciate partner, psycho-spiritual breakthroughs, healing from illness, a peaceful death, trustworthy people, you.
May we connect with beauty where there might be none in sight and with faith when we seem to be surrounded only by darkness. Gratitude and joy are pathways to heaven on earth.