In December, 2018, my wife and I went to the university town of St. Gallen in Switzerland so I could give a talk at TEDx HSG called Can a TEDx Talk Really Change the World?
Since the video was released last week, I’ve been fielding a number of queries from people who want to know more about the “ideas worth spreading” I shared during the talk. While I certainly recommend watching it and seeing what you see, I can highlight the main points here:
1. We live in a thought-created reality. Everything from money to national boundaries to the significance of skin color, religious affiliation, and sexual/gender orientation is made up of thought and then lived as if it’s “just the way it is”. Fortunately, we always have the capacity to think again – to have new thoughts and in so doing begin to live in a different world.
2. We are all made up of a singular spiritual energy – what is sometimes called “the oneness of life”. As individual waves in a universal ocean, we are both unique on the surface and intimately related at a fundamental level underneath.
These two things have huge implications for the way we live our lives and the future of the planet.
One of my spiritual inspirations, Syd Banks, wrote about it like this in his book The Missing Link:
Before the formation of physical reality and the contamination of personal thought, soul and consciousness were the same divine intelligence. Cut off from innate wisdom, a lost thinker experiences isolation, fear and confusion.
This is why there are so many horrible atrocities throughout the world. Newspapers are full of wars, killings, children starving.
Ignorance of our own inner wisdom is the cause of sin. There would be no sin without such ignorance.
The malfunction of our own personal thought system instigates the breakdown of personal relationships and leads to the crumbling of societies, causing unnecessary suffering and sadness.
The misled thoughts of humanity, alienated from their inner wisdom, cause all violence, cruelty and savagery in this world.
Since the beginning, the state of any society is a direct result of its conditioned way of thinking.
As you think, so shall you hear.
At the simplest level I can see, all conflict happens between “us” (usually me and other people of my ethnic, religious, political, sexual, and/or socio-economic group) and “them” (generally everyone else who looks, thinks, and believes differently to me and couldn’t possibly understand my plight). While I’d like to think I’m beyond all that, it would be kind of weird if I somehow managed to grow up without picking up any cultural conditioning along the way. I suspect I carry all sorts of unconscious biases against people who I perceive to be different than me.
But I do know that I’m not my thinking – which means I also know that I’m not my conditioning. This points me towards a whole new way of thinking about changing the world:
The challenge in creating a better world isn’t figuring out whose vision of the world is the most worthy of implementation; it’s waking up from the nearly universal illusion that another person’s appearance, inclinations, or beliefs make them fundamentally different from me.
Each time we wake up to our own “us and them” thinking and see through our conditioning to the truth of our shared humanity, we see that we’re surrounded by our very human family everywhere we go. And while I know from experience that I will inevitably disagree with my brother, sister, son, or daughter’s point of view from time to time, I also know that I’d invariably rather go for ice cream than go to war.
The moment we see through the noise of our personal thinking and recognize we’re all made of the same stuff, the game changes, and a lifetime of inherited prejudice can disappear in a single moment of clarity.
And that one fact gives me hope for humanity, even in the face of a thousand examples of conflict and misunderstanding.
I finish the TEDx talk by sharing a Facebook post my wife wrote a few years back when ISIL and Israel were dominating the news cycles. I love it for its honesty and humanity and its acknowledgement of the fact that it’s really hard not to get caught up in fear and anger and hate when all you see all around you looks like injustice, ignorance, and cruelty. But I also love it for its hopefulness…
Travel broadens the mind they say. I like to think that’s true. I have traveled a good portion of the world thus far and the thought which frequently strikes me is the knowledge that throughout the world, we are all the same.
All. The. Same.
Now, I know full well that statement will get some criticism in this current climate. Thoughts of ISIL and Israel and a whole host of global injustices come screaming forth. I get it. I’ve been spending a good amount of time lately having those thoughts too. Thoughts that fill me with with horror and fear and repulsion. They rile me up to the extent that I feel the stress physically.
I won’t let myself feel hatred. Hating another person is tantamount to hating oneself. Why?
Because we are All. The. Same.
To me that means we all want to live and learn and grow and love. Some of us want to serve, some of us want to inspire change. Some of us just want to be where we are in any given moment.
Many of us are damaged. Some more than others. A bunch of us think it’s just fine to justify our damage by inflicting harm on others. Many of us react to that by sequestering ourselves into our little corner of the world, surrounding ourselves with like-minded people, protecting ourselves with the necessary accouterments, getting riled up all over again.
And then there are a bunch of people – and I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of knowing some – who acknowledge the damage in people, open their doors to them. Truly LOVE them, hope for the best for them and the rest of humanity. Gosh I wish I could be like that.
My greatest hope is that my children expansively open up their hearts to the plight of others in the world and do their best to know that we are, sing it with me now…
All. The. Same.
With all my love,