You are the template that others follow

It seems the news just keeps getting worse. The battle in Israel continues. Three hundred Malaysian airplane passengers were assassinated in the sky after a few hundred more had simply disappeared altogether. More than 100 schoolgirls were kidnapped while tens of thousands make up an immigration crisis. Newly discovered holes may have formed in Siberia after more ice has melted on this warming earth.

It seems too much to bear. The headlines are always shouting bad news. We try to live in the moment without regret for the past or worry for the future, but painfully, history keeps repeating itself.

I’ve written about dealing with bad news in past posts. I’m back at it again because we must all be reminded from time to time to stop and regain perspective. We must remember this reality: hopeless as we may feel, we each play a role in creating the kind of world in which we want to live.

We can’t get there though without first being thankful for what is good. For all the serious problems we DO have, there are many, many more we DON’T. For all the pain and suffering we are experiencing, there is a great measure of comfort in our lives today when compared to the past. No longer must we bite down on a stick to endure the pain from an amputation. No longer does war mean hand-to-hand combat with shields and knives and leftover fields of blood. No longer do the rich climb bleachers to get the best view to see who will die first, the poor peasant or the ruthless gladiator.

Yes, these things past and present are horrible. Heinous wrongdoing is everywhere and always. And even the prescriptions that numb our nerves for weeks after surgery cannot change the fact that every body hurts.

Yes, it is in our compassionate nature to stand up and demand something be done, someone be held accountable, measures be taken to ensure this never happens again. Yes, we want to correct the imbalances in our ecosystem, especially the ones that have resulted from human impact. But when bad things happen or when the environment does not heal, it will not be my fault or your fault or your neighbor’s fault … unless I, you, and he throw up our hands and quit.

Maybe we can stop the devastating and invasive Asian Carp from reaching the Great Lakes and destroying that marine ecosystem, but we cannot change the fact that, sometimes, the bigger fish wins. We may even bring peace to Gaza and the Ukraine and Afghanistan, but we cannot change the fact that, often, different people cannot live together.

I’m writing this as much to convince me as you. I’m reminding myself that the world will spin with or without me. I’m returning my attention to the path on which I am walking — the one that winds through peace, kindness, compassion, and good health — so that I can maintain my footing and avoid slipping down a cliff into despair, anger, worry, and guilt.

I am putting into perspective the nature of our times by comparing them to the nature of all times. Where 200 years ago we felt great pain in our frontier shacks located far from a doctor, today we feel sympathetic pain from remote shacks located on the opposite side of the globe, transmitted to us through the same network of wires and satellites that were built to reduce isolated suffering.

Breath. Relax. Be grateful. Don’t become so fearful and frustrated about the stranger in a foreign land that you are unable to be kind to your neighbor, for such kindness is the link in a chain, one that (if unbroken) will eventually lead to that stranger. Don’t become so filled with despair about the condition of a changing earth that you forget to notice the astounding scene — the canyon, the mountain, the cliff — that was formed as a result of earth’s changes, for such awareness leads to appreciation which leads to a willingness to adapt which leads to harmony.

There is only so much you can do, but there is one you thing you must: live your life as a model of that which is in your heart, and then you will have done your part.