There is a deep and abiding desire in the hearts of most people to make this world a better place. When we allow ourselves to get still and quiet we can hear that small, yet persistent, whisper from within saying, “something isn’t right here.” Though we may try to distract ourselves from that truth whether by watching television, or becoming engaged in gossip or keeping up with what’s trendy, we cannot silence that nagging echo resonating in our core, “Something isn’t right here.” It can be difficult to accept that the world we live in is falling apart and that we each hold some responsibility in its destruction. We want to believe that we are good people who would never harm another being but our inaction makes us just as culpable as those who do direct harm.
It is when we are confronted with this reality, one which differs greatly from our previously held views about the world, that we many experience Cognitive Dissonance [defined as “mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas, or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.”] People who experience Cognitive Dissonance react in ways which are counterproductive to what they know, deep down, to be true and real. They see the pain in the world, but ignore it. They see news about people starving but continue to waste food. They hear stories of other people making a difference, yet they discredit themselves as “not being capable” and never even try to enact change. They turn their attention toward “noise” and distraction, accepting whatever opinions they are fed as their own, and they stop (or never even begin) to educate themselves about what is really happening in the world around them.
On some level, people seem to believe that by choosing to adopt another’s opinion rather than forming and voicing their own, they avoid responsibility for the state of affairs in the world. What they fail to realize is that by choosing not to make a choice they have still made a decision. They have chosen to ignore, or even deny, the truth in an effort to remain in a state f blissful ignorance. Some of this behavior may be due to genuine ignorance (people who survive paycheck to paycheck and become overwhelmed by anything beyond the limited “box” they are contained in, or people who were raised under strict rules and worldviews and never dig themselves out from under their misguided views), or laziness (there are many out there who know what is happening but would prefer to live in “ignorant bliss” rather than face reality, and many who believe that it’s someone else’s job to “fix” the planet). There are also many people who truly desire to make positive change happen but are left afraid or overwhelmed because they simply don’t know where to begin. Where do you begin to heal the world when everywhere you turn there is pain, anguish, and a loss of hope?
To those people who desire change and are unafraid to begin, and to anyone else who knows on a Soul level that change is inevitable, and that it is up to us to decide what that change looks like, I share this quote by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.” We can become easily overwhelmed, and stop before we even begin, when we ponder the extent of the world’s suffering. If we really want to enact positive change then we must do as the quote says and begin with what is within our reach. I believe the best place to begin this journey is within ourselves. It is vital that we first take time to turn within and, with the same tender loving care we would show an injured child, we must mend the wounds within us before we mend the wounds of others. When we are again whole, we can carry the healing forward to the others in our own homes, then our neighborhoods, then our cities, then our counties, then our states, then our countries, and so on.
Real and lasting change begins with the individual. Anyone paying attention can see that this world, and its people, are in trouble. We need one another now more than ever and yet the divide between us seems deeper than ever before. I, for one, do not accept this rift as representative of the true state of the world. We are closer than we think and the barriers between us are thin, some are even an illusion created by others for their own benefit. We need only reach out our hands in trust, as a sign of unity, and the barriers which stand in the way of peace will fall away.
I stand here now, hands extended, knowing that I am not alone in my belief that we can be better and do better for ourselves and for humanity as a whole. I stand here with my heart wide open knowing that yes, I may be wounded on this journey, but there is strength in my vulnerability and a closed heart cannot breathe life into this mission of Love. I stand here now, fully aware that I hold a piece of the puzzle, as do you, and every soul on this planet. I stand here now, fully aware that we need one another to complete this puzzle and that we cannot succeed alone. I stand here now and ask you to stand with me. We are many. Together we can show the few, who would put fear and hatred above love and peace, we refuse to cower at their feet. I choose love. I choose unity. I choose peace.