Will changing yourself change the world?

April 27, 2008

As I discussed in my post on Deepak Chopra’s book, Peace Is the Way, his basic premise is that everything begins with you. That you need to transform yourself and if enough people transform themselves, we will have a global movement of change. I think this is true, in the sense that we will not have global change until enough individuals have changed. However, how many people are going to pick up Chopra’s book or some other book and go through a transformation because of it? Not enough. The problem is that the people who are the most ingrained in the ways of violence and war, and who are the most violent, are not very likely to even see that something is wrong with their outlook on life, let alone pick up a book such as Peace Is the Way and change their ways because of it. I am persuaded by Chopra’s words, but I was already a non-violent believer in peace before reading his book; it only served to reinforce what I already believed.

In a comment on my post on the Golden Rule, a.s. wrote that teaching the Golden Rule alone is not going to be enough, because the people who do harm to others have themselves been harmed (most likely as children) and thus are simply doing what was done to them. I agree entirely with this, but I will admit that reading this comment made my hope shaky for a while. The intent of that post, however, was not to say that all we need to do is teach everyone the Golden Rule and things will be fine. Rather, I was simply inspired by the fact that the Golden Rule is a globally and historically shared value, and thus there is hope that we can reach a point someday where everyone recognizes this as part of their shared humanity. I do realize that there is a lot of change that needs to occur before we get to that point, and I was able to bring my hope back by remembering that we can do things to help that change occur.

Although the two paragraphs above may seem somewhat unrelated, they are linked by thoughts that contributed to my understanding of the fact that for me, changing myself is not enough. I believe that in order for change and the way of peace to come about, those of us who already believe in and follow the way of peace need to take positive actions that help others reach that way as well. I am not content to sit alone in my room saying “I believe in peace”; I need to do something more, something that reaches out to people who have been hurt and cannot find the way of peace, or something that helps transform the parts of our society that detract from a way of peace. If I sound vague, it is because I have not yet figured out what this thing is that I need to do in my life, that will fulfill me and be contributing in this positive way.

However, I do have a good idea of the things that I think contribute to people being unable to embrace peace. These things include children who are hurt and not allowed to heal, children whose creativity and critical thinking are stifled, the treatment of criminals in our society, poverty, and racism and sexism. Relying on people who have been hurt in these ways to find the way of peace and go through transformations by themselves is not going to be enough; we need to put in place support systems to help these people (who are unfortunately the majority by far) and work on fixing things at the source. I hope to find meaningful work in my life that contributes in a positive way to one of these issues (or another that I may not have thought of right now).