Written by Jacci Gooding
Finding five minutes for peaceful reflection these days is not easy. Finding reflective peace is even harder; wherever you look there is human tragedy and suffering. It is overwhelming and it is relentless. Where then, do we place ourselves in this maelstrom of human experience without losing our sense of self?
Awareness of the terrible things humans deliberately do to each other day after day can cause us to lose our centre of emotional gravity – that thing that fixes us in our own world, that mentally balances us – and sends us spinning way out into places, metaphorically, we don’t want to go. They are the dark places, the sad places; the home of the nihilist where the existentialist is not welcome and endogenous depression can easily flourish. No one wants to go there. No one wants to fall.
So how then, do we hold on tight?
Some would say by letting go. Letting go of the belief that anything we do can make a difference.
But wait, you say, little things can and do make a difference. And they do. And that is the paradox of human existence.
Rebalance the scales
Visiting a lonely neighbour can make a difference to their world; donating to a charity that needs funds to help those displaced and starving does help. No good act or thought is wasted. Every good act or thought can help re-balance the scales and who wouldn’t want to do that? But easier said than done, right? When the next depressing news item serves to erode the desire to change things and make that difference.
During the transformative days of teenhood when for many the idea that life has no clear meaning or purpose is when this notion of ‘what’s the point?’ is purest and when we have the best opportunity to see the world realistically. Yet however our teenage brain views the world, it is, for most, a very different way to how we view it for the rest of our lives. If it wasn’t, then the world and our place in it could be very different. And that is the lesson: as long as there are humans, there will be war and suffering because it is in our nature.
But we will also evolve to talk and listen and understand, to cure disease and to embrace compassion and not give up. Those good things are out there. We cannot prevent an earthquake but we can create the tools with which to help those affected by it; quicker response tactics, better medication, advanced cleaning-up solutions. Re-balancing the scales.
Let it go
But what of the religious concept of moral evil – those acts of violence and hatred created by us? There’s no point kicking back against that, surely? No, you’re right. There is no point. And yet in a democracy, petitioning can bring changes in the law to empower the future. That’s good. That’s worth the effort. But murder – what about that and all the other horrors I don’t need to list here? If the horror of some things we hear about is unbelievable, then stop trying to believe.
Humans are aggressive animals – we kill each other, we kill things around us and this is nothing we don’t already know, but it is something we try and hide ourselves from until it becomes too much and we begin to question the purpose of that aggression. Don’t. It won’t help. See that rainbow? You’ll never find the end, no matter how hard you look, but you always do look because that also is human nature.
As creatures we are constantly evolving and the history of our species tells us quite clearly that the strongest do and will survive, and that also applies to those who want to and do make the world a better place.
From the time we stood up and learnt to walk, humans have created strategies to cope with being human. We have fought and killed to ensure others acquiesced to our authority and invented religions and belief systems within which to live. Sadly it still holds true that the question of where you sit in the order of the world is different depending on your race, sex, age and ability amongst other definers, and the modern world magnifies this. We argue that the evil in world is nothing but human-made, a human construct. And it is, because we just are. But don’t let that stop you from trying to rebalance the scales.