We live in the most interesting of times. The changes in the world over the past few months have been staggering in their vastness. As we sit idly by in Australia and watch American cities capitulating into violence and looting, I wonder where to next.
How can I as a citizen, an educator, a father, a partner and an educator, step up and be a positive influence, to shine an inviting light on a more dependable pathway through this baffling maze we refer to as an uncertain future?
I remember listening to a lecture being delivered by Harry Palmer at an Avatar Course. He quoted Frank Herbert’s Dune, “Fear is the mind killer!” As I look at the world now, so many people seem to be consumed by fear and in being that way, seem to be losing connection with their good sense and their humanity.
The current unrest in the USA following the terrible death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week are nothing short of terrible. It must be deeply frightening for people who live close to the disturbances. My heart goes out to those who feel powerless to stop the violence and who fear for their safety and for the future of their communities.
A Spark that Ignites a Wildfire
It seems that the George Floyd situation and the resulting unrest has put racism in the lead space of every news bulletin on the planet. Even the Corona Virus seems to have taken back seat to the terror and strife of angry people marching; some fighting and some burning and looting.
In Australia right now, the spark has ignited a tinderbox of anger, regret and shame as people all over have decided to defy social distancing guidelines to march against the shocking saga of “Black Deaths in Custody”.
Our capacity to reach Aboriginal People in Australia, to understand them and to help them to heal in their communities has continued to fall short of what is needed. The death of a black person in a Police lock-up is often the finally stanza of a deeply sad story; a story ignored by most until the shocking final words are printed somewhere deep in a morning newspaper.
I wait with bated breath and hope that these demonstrations remain peaceful, and that education, reflection, deep contemplation, and a genuine resolve for change carry the day.
Any outbreak of violence will extinguish any hope we hold that a new dawn may be approaching. Treating injustice, inequality, and the degradation of human dignity with anger and violence is as far from a solution as any could ever stray.
But I fear the violence and anger will come and may claim the day.
Understanding Reactivity – A Path to Freedom
Old wisdom guides us to higher learning and evolvement. A challenge we face is that the deeply meaningful sentences of wise teachers get turned into memes and are quoted as slogans and lose the power of their intended message.
The Buddhists say, “When you point a finger in accusation at another, you must look where the other three fingers are pointing.”
From the Bible, Matthew 7:5, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” By this he means, first take the beam of timber from your own eye so that you may clearly see the splinter in the eye of your brother.
A modern way of stating these is: “If you want to know what a person is guilty of, just listen to what they accuse others of.”
If I am seeking to make myself right by making others wrong, then I am concealing my own self-doubts and perhaps my own transgressions. I am told that a person with a clean conscience does not feel the need to assert anything.
Certainly, from all of my studies of human consciousness during my years of learning and supporting others in Avatar® Courses, if I see something in another, or in the actions of another, that cause reactivity in me, then there is a good chance I have discovered something in my own consciousness that I can explore and take ownership of. Over many years of following this practice, I have become less and less reactive and much more appreciative. But I certainly still have a long way to go. Life truly is a journey.
Harry Palmer, the author of The Avatar Materials, once wrote “Preaching morality is hidden confession.” A most sobering sentence.
So, I guess that for all of us living in this world of 2020, there are times when we have been less than kind to others. Perhaps we have been harsh toward others because of their culture, colour, race, religion, gender or sexual preference. I know that in my life I have told jokes and laughed at jokes about all of these sensitive areas. I have said nasty things to people, sometimes in anger and other times to be the clown and get the attention of others. I have degraded other people to elevate myself. There were many times when I have been ignorant, intolerant, and offensive.
Owning all of that and feeling the deep remorse was not a comfortable journey, but it gave me the freedom to love more wholly and more deeply. None of that makes me perfect. I am sure I still have a long way to go.
Based on that line of inquiry, I am wondering why so many people are so stirred up right now. Are they angry about how “black” people have been treated? Or are they angry at themselves for past failures and character flaws?
The Deception of Demonstration
I remember once, my cousin’s son, went through a difficult time when he was forced to take custody of his toddler daughter as her mother was completely out of control taking hard drugs, completely unable to care for herself, let alone a young child.
At the time, I called the young man, invited him over and loved seeing how attentive and caring he was to his daughter. I promised him I would stay connected and would always be there for him. Time drifted by and I did not hear from him, and whilst I thought of him often, I never did pick up the phone to check in. I saw glimpses of he and his daughter on his Facebook posts and it seemed they were doing ok.
But, having had experience as a single parent myself, I knew it would have been tough for him. I never did make that call. I promised a lot and delivered nothing. I can blame the business of my own life, the demands of my own challenges, and I can cite the justification that all seemed ok with him and if he needed me, he would have called.
But I cannot walk away from the fact that I deceived him with a grandiose stance and no genuine dedication to following through.
When we March for a cause, especially to support vulnerable people, what are our intentions beyond that? What is the real intention for the March? Is it a statement that we are here to help and that we are not going away? Or is it just a statement of angry righteousness that will make us feel better, then we walk away and leave it to someone else?
I have a strong sense that it will be the latter. If that is the case, the marches will be an act of deception, asserting a preparedness to help and then abandoning the post when the speeches are done. We build people up and then dump them.
And, in many cases, it is just to make ourselves feel better and more righteous.
It is not the Government’s Job
Governments serve to enact legislation and to deliver services that keep the society functioning in harmony and progressing smoothly. Their resources are limited by our willingness to pay taxes. Many of the less obvious problems in society are handled by good people volunteering their time and energy to provide service and care when needed.
Selfless service is the path to happiness.
Often, situations end up in the realm of Police action because many people have ignored what they have noticed. We have so many opportunities, as we navigate our way through life, to notice things that are not quite right, and out of care, take corrective action.
Back in about 2001 or 2002, I was still playing football. I was 41 or 42 and easily the most senior player in my team. There was a player on the opposition team, a big fella who had obviously done a lot of body building, running around behind packs, king hitting my teammates. Some of the guys he hit were gentle spirits who would never hurt a fly.
My first response was to work out how I could line him up and take him out as my way of preventing him from hurting anyone. I was planning to hurt him to stop him from hurting others. But I must have been maturing because over the next few minutes, I began feeling really badly about doing that. The quarter time siren went so I ran over to him. The conversation went like this.
Me: “Hey mate, have you got a sec?”
Him: (aggressively) “Why?”
Me: “It’s ok mate, I just want to chat for a sec. Look, you don’t know me, but I am a pretty good bloke. All my teammates, they are all really good blokes. I imagine you are a good bloke and I bet all your buddies over there are good blokes. So, I don’t understand why you are doing what you are doing.”
I swear, it was as if his face nearly fell off!
Him: “I am so sorry mate. I am such an idiot. Sometimes I don’t even think. I am so sorry mate. I won’t do it again.”
Me (feeling incredulous): “Ok mate. Well, I have an idea. Why don’t you put your fists away and let’s have a really good game of footy? I’ll buy you a beer after the game.”
Him: “Ok mate. I am really sorry mate!” And as I jogged away, I could hear him behind me, “Sorry mate. Sorry mate!”
We had a great game. Several times I heard him run past my teammates and acknowledge their efforts. At one point he even complimented the umpire on his performance. It was really sweet.
After the game, he came walking through the crowd in the clubrooms and handed me a beer. I thanked him and said that I was meant to be buying him the beer. He responded:
Him: “No mate. I owe you the beer. I have not enjoyed a game of footy like that since I was a kid.”
Me: “Well, I reckon you played a good game” and I went on to cite things he had done during the game.
He was very chuffed.
Me: “But how is that other stuff working for you in your life?” (referring to the violence)
Him: “Not very good.”
Me: “Have you got kids?”
Him: “Yes, I’ve got three.”
Me: “Do you see them?”
Him: “No I don’t.”
That is heart breaking. Right there I felt so deeply for this man. His life was out of control and he couldn’t see his kids. I wondered what his football club had been doing to help him out. He was definitely one who had slipped through society’s cracks.
Without going into great detail, I organised for him to see a friend of mine who specialised in counselling angry men. I connected them over a 3 way call the following Monday morning. About a year later, I received a text from my friend letting me know that he was going to be seeing his kids the following weekend.
To this day I am grateful that I made a good decision, in this case. There are many times when I have missed the opportunity. But this one had a brilliant outcome.
The funny thing is that I could have done nothing, and then on Monday morning I could have kicked up a real stink about that football club’s poor sportsmanship and the need to make them accountable. I would have felt righteous and important, but that guy would never have got to tuck his kids in to bed, perhaps ever again.
So, my question is this. What is the real intention behind the protest? While I am at it, what is the real intention behind the black screens on social media? Is it a meaningful display of solidarity backed up by a genuine intention to take action? Or is it simply self-righteous pissing up the wall?
Perhaps there is a Better Plan
I wonder what would happen if we took our attention off all the things that we think of as wrong and who might be to blame, and go and stand in front of a mirror for a moment to ask ourselves some questions. Perhaps we can ask:
- Have I ever been racist?
- Have I ever judged another person harshly?
- Have I ever treated another person unfairly?
- Have I ever put someone else down, or degraded another person, or stood by and watched in silence while someone else did those things?
- Have I ever made fun of another person?
- Have I ever told a joke, or laughed at a joke, that was derogatory toward another person because of their colour, race, religion, culture, gender, sexual preference or anything else?
- Have I ever been intolerant of another person, perhaps because of their race, religion, colour, gender or because of the way they looked?
- Have I ever abandoned a person who really needed my help and support?
- Have I ever behaved badly toward another person and then justified my actions or brushed it off as insignificant?
I am sure you will come up with more questions.
And I am sure you will answer yes to many of these questions. I certainly did. If you did too, great. Thank you. Stopping for a moment and owning what we have done is a first step forward.
The Lakota Sioux Indians had a great saying. “You are who you are. You are not what you have done.” What matters most is what we do next.
Now, you might feel you should apologise to someone for what you have done. That is great, but you are not looking for them to forgive you, because at some level, that is selfish act, designed to get some relief. Just owning what we have done is a powerful step forward.
The next step is action. What can we do to spread love in the world? There has been enough hate. We don’t need any more hate. Darkness brought about by hate and anger has brought forth enough misery. Now, perhaps more than ever, we need joy, goodwill and peace. And only love can deliver those.
Healing with Homeopathic Measures
Homeopathy is a form of medicine that is often misunderstood. It uses subtle change to bring about change as a result of a “ripple effect”. A very small dose of an agent is administered and its presence triggers, in a gentle and unobtrusive way, a response that is designed to elicit further responses, triggering the body into a healing. It can be extremely powerful and effective. For it to work best, both doctor and patient have to trust the process.
I have a sense that kindness can work in the very same way. If I go out into the street tonight, and go about my business as I normally do, but with an intention to share loving kindness whenever I can, I will stimulate subtle effects.
The agitated and slightly frustrated man waiting in the queue at the supermarket might actually get to blow off some steam and find a new perspective when I simply ask him how his day has been, whilst we wait in line. The shop attended who is resisting being at work, wishing she could be somewhere else, and who might end up so wound up by the time she finishes her shift and then go and get drunk, might just relax and enjoy her shift when you tell her what a great job she is doing and how she has helped you.
Buying a hot coffee for the young lady standing holding a traffic direction sign on a cold day at the edge of a road gang doing a repair job, might leave her feeling so good that she begins to smile at drivers, and in doing so, may soften the heart of a frustrated young mum who felt like yelling at her crying toddler.
Instead of 40,000 people spending half a day marching, chanting, and getting angry, what would happen if 40,000 people spent the morning, deliberately going out into the world to intentionally commit 20 acts of random kindness. That is 800,000 people at least, touched by kindness in a single morning.
I really doubt that political action can change the world as much as we hope. But a committed collective agreement to be better human beings can change the world forever.
What can you do today to make someone else’s life better?
What was the real message in George Floyd’s dying breaths?
And if you really do have a passion for helping people with black skin, there are many refugees, asylum seekers sand newly arrived immigrants from Africa and the Middle East who really do need your care, support, guidance and kindness as they find their way toward assimilating into their new society and community. Perhaps you can make a new friend.
I am sitting here now thinking about what I can do next. Let’s change the world this weekend.
Note: If I have peaked your interest and you’d like to learn more about how your consciousness really works and how you can gain greater understanding of your own thinking, feelings, reactions and tendencies, this book is wonderful. You can buy a copy to read or download an audio book.