Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Transformation this decade?

So we all know that one man's actions began a movement that led to the toppling of the Tunisian government. Mass protests, a public screaming out loud for change, for an end to old ways of thinking and doing things. Will this revolt turn into transformation? A better government, more responsive to the plight of it's people? Will real, responsible leadership actually take hold? Today, no one knows. Tomorrow, we can only hope. But, we can also create.

Protests followed in Algeria and Egypt, the Sudan and Lebanon, and now Yemen. This weekend Egyptian protests have intensified. There are rumblings throughout the Middle-East in light of Tunisia. Also, Iran is another country whose population has been suppressed and strangled with increasing fervor. What will happen there? How long before another crisis in Israel-Palestine explodes? How long before the Ivory Coast erupts into chaos and removes its stubborn leader? How long before the people of Zimbabwe stand up and sacrifice their lives to depose one of the most vicious tyrants of all time? Until the rural poor in China rise-up enough to challenge certain rules of an out-dated system of government? Before Pakistan becomes ungovernable? How long before America finally wakes up and decides to reinvent itself in the wake of its current problems? The list goes on and on.

Still, the presence of these crises, taking a positive viewpoint, shows that these questions are starting to be answered. Our global society is beginning to actively reinvent itself and challenge old ways of thinking.

I predict that this decade will be a decade of revolutions, some peaceful, some not. People are waking up (as suggested in the Middle East) and will demand that their struggles be heard by their governments, by the world. They will ask for real change and expect to get it.

Some talk of a new Cold War between China and the US. But I say that we're beyond these old ways of thinking at least where one country is pitted against another and everybody else is stuck in between. The globalized society that we live in today where technology and the internet brings us closer together has given a voice to many people for all to hear. It's not just going to be about superpowers, but about people this decade.

Today, the gap between rich and poor has widened. However, some say that that gap is actually decreasing (The Economist), precisely because of the boom in information technology and innovation. Others say the gap is decreasing because emerging economies are growing and helping their people out of poverty. This is without a doubt true, but it's not enough to explain the whole picture.

The gap between the "haves" and the "have nots," at its core, is a spiritual problem. It derives from a notion among us that in order for me to have something, someone else must not. Today, it is still very much survival of the fittest where only the strong survive. I believe that's changing though right before our eyes. And I believe it will change more this decade as global citizens declare that its ludicrous for a small percentage of the world's population to hold 80-90% of its resources. Enlightened leaders and common citizens will seek to change this.

There is a movement among us of social entrepreneurs, social businesses, and well-known philanthropists and foundations giving away their money in creative ways to better the world we live in. There is investment in innovation and research (while not enough in my opinion) and there are thousands of ideas-people who are starting grass-roots movements, sustainable companies, social enterprises, and the like. They are channeling advanced technology to do good. These efforts among us will generate future opportunity and jobs, new wealth, and they will alleviate suffering by giving people the tools to live in dignity, to be more connected to community and to the world.

Governments may not act quick enough to lessen the income gap and spur social change, but people sure will.

Our climate change/energy crisis is a real problem. Whether you believe in these things or not, something is changing on our planet. Actually, we're changing and as we change, the earth is correcting, adapting, and responding to us. With these visible changes also comes natural disasters in some cases and environmental dangers that challenge us. But future crises like these will bring people together, as they have done in the past, and force our society to consider new attitudes, new processes and ways of doing things, and will ignite a renewed altruism among people to dissolve of injustice, empower others, and to lift up those in need.

Thus, our environmental and energy crisis will provide new opportunities for environmental and energy renewal (it's already happening). It will provide opportunities for collective evolution and will inspire a new energy amongst us to care for the earth that sustains life on our planet. And our determination to save energy and protect our forests, to advance green technologies and investment and develop cleaner energy will only get stronger. I'm not the first to predict this obviously, you can read it everywhere if you look. I'm just reaffirming that I think it will intensify.

Health and Education will change too. The information age we're living in will make education and health-care more accessible and more inexpensive. People will learn to take better care of themselves while taking advantage of online visits to the doctor and psychiatrist. New government and private schemes will improve health-care while lowering costs and reducing the need for unnecessary visits to the hospital. Hospitals and care-facilities will change. Elders will stay in their homes and have purpose in their lives instead of losing that purpose in bureaucratic and expensive assisted living and nursing homes or institutions.

More governments will work together to improve early childhood education and innovative companies will expand education and innovation to all corners of the globe. Universities will increasingly build campuses over-seas. These projects will spurn innovation and increase accessibility to education for those that need it most. Institutions of higher-learning will also find creative ways to include lower income citizens in educational schemes and join up with non-profits/social enterprises to create cross-cultural connections, bringing new ideas and resources to and from the grass-roots.

Global education and global health-care will advance. People will power these changes. It's only natural.

Never has there been a time when possibility was so alive in the hearts of man and woman. More and more of the tools for change on our planet are within our reach. More people care, are informed, and are watching. It will be harder and harder for us to turn a blind eye to the glaring injustices and atrocities that are perpetrated upon innocent people. Harder to hear about and to see fellow citizens of humanity living in squalor, without food, a roof to live under, or the basic resources to lift themselves up. A more inter-connected world brings more inter-connected problems, and fortunately, in my opinion, it also gives us a chance to create inter-connected solutions and to build a better future.

So this decade will be about transformation. Individual and collective transformation. You say that transformation has always been and always will be. You're right. But, here and today, we are staring transformation in the face. Do we change? Or do we look the other way? I predict we'll change.

Start now, be the difference.

Friday, January 21, 2011

On Our Relationship to God

I recently had a nice conversation with a dear friend of mine. We talked about the power of prayer and the experiences he'd recently had. To summarize, he'd been praying for something and within minutes after praying, what he was praying for appeared. But then he had his doubts, got distracted in what he was doing, and the thing he was praying for didn't happen after all. And then, as if to complete the circle, the opportunity appeared again for him when he focused on it and trusted in God, as he put it.

I see myself as a spiritual person. I do not go to church or follow a particular religious denomination. I embrace all religions as best as I can and accept their diversity of beliefs. But I would be lying if I said that I didn't disagree with some of the things I hear church-going people say or do. I respect the church, I respect people of the church, and I love the peace and tranquility that you find within the walls of a church or cathedral. It's a place like no other. But the practices of religion, of belief, in some but not all cases, still bring up serious questions in me.

When explaining his revelation, my friend did not believe that it was his intentions (I equate intentions with prayer) that helped to create or bring the experience he desired to him. It was God. It was his devotion to God, his faith in Jesus that allowed for these things to fall into place. He explained that things hadn't been working out because he did not trust in God. That God was demanding that he put his faith in Him. By doing so, God had then let his desire be fulfilled. It was almost as if God was playing games with him, in my interpretation and in his explanation; testing his faith, giving and then taking away to demonstrate His Power and showing my friend what he needed to do to fulfill his prayers. When things finally worked out, my friend explained that he had finally listened to God and put his faith in Him.

There's beauty in his experience. The back and forth, the internal dilemma, and his witnessing of a process going on within him. He was drawing things to him via his understanding of what God wanted for him, but in turn, clearly what he wanted for himself.

What always gets me, however, is this notion of "separation" from God. God is there. I am here. God controls and God demands things of us. God gives and God takes away. I either respond to Him or I don't, but there are always consequences. And there is the notion that if we do not adhere to Him, it is very likely that our desires will not be fulfilled, or at least, that we are in for a long journey to God because of our continued disobedience of Him. In more extreme versions, people are told that by not following God's orders, they are relegated to some burning hell in the afterlife as punishment.

I didn't say to my friend what I was feeling at that moment. But my feeling is that we are Not separate from God, we never have been, and never will be. I don't agree that we are at His Mercy. That it's Him not us who decides what's best for us. That we don't have the ability to create in our daily life. My friend's process, the internal back and forth and the presence of God as the ultimate decider for him; for me, is not about a God giving and taking away from us from some unknown external place, but instead, it is a part of an internal process occurring within one person who, like so many of us, is experiencing the power we all have to do, have, or be anything we want in life. I feel that as a society we constantly fail to associate the things that occur in our lives with our own choice for them to happen at some level. We are creators and I do believe that God is a part of this process, loves and supports us unconditionally, but not in the exact way that we have been led to believe.

I also agree that God is powerful, but I see God and I as one. That we work together, consciously and unconsciously, as a team in loving harmony, and that what's best for me is best for Him and vice versa. My decisions are His decisions. My power is His power. There's no separation here. It's not just about me working for God as many would have us believe. We work together. Don't misinterpret my comments here as believing that I am as powerful as God in some righteous way. When I say "I," I mean "we." We all have that power to create.

We create our experiences. I see us doing it every day. Human beings don't give themselves enough credit for that. They don't believe that God would want for them what they want for them, even if we sometimes make mistakes in our decisions, our actions, or our judgment. How could God support these decisions you might ask? Well, when you step back and look at the process in people's lives, you see numerous cases where poor decision-making has eventually led to growth and even individual/collective evolution.

It's still frustrating though to observe that while many of us don't believe God is like us, we have created a God that is most definitely like us at our worst: jealous, greedy, controlling, insecure, and needing of power over others to feel important or get what we want. We regularly misinterpret ourselves and God, and we've paid for it dearly in our history. We've paid for it in wars, in violence, and in crime in the name of God, and often in the name of a belief system that preaches division over union, separation from God instead of unity with God, or His word against ours.

I've heard many religious folk who I respect say that you must do God's bidding to be saved or to be accepted into the kingdom of heaven. And yet, in many cases but surely not all, you must believe what they believe and follow their way of thinking to get there. Is that true freedom? So you must pay to be part of God instead of God being part of you. So I differ on our understanding of how we interact with God.

I pray every day. I meditate and it's through this meditation that I envision how I want my day to go and I give thanks in gratitude for the things I have. I speak with the God within me, the Self that is connected with the body of God and worthy of His love. I feel Her loving support in everything I am because I love myself, respect and appreciate who I am (I'm not trying to be narcissistic here). Love of God is love of Self and vice versa. I've observed that if I ask for things and if these things are perfect for me at a given time, and are in line with where I choose to go in my life at that moment, then they will be manifested without effort.

Could this have been why my friend finally achieved what he prayed for? Asking and then receiving, aligned with Self? Finally having faith in his ability to make manifest his desires? Well, I think so, but that's only my interpretation. For him, God makes things happen. That's okay. I think I understand where he is coming from. But it's difficult for me in my experience to see a God outside of us who is the only gatekeeper to success in or after life. For me, we're gatekeepers. We are One.

We all have this profound connection to God or to Life if we don't believe in God. We can know God as we know Life. We can work together with God or Life to build a better present and future. And as we work with God or Life, we can also work with our fellow human beings to build a better, brighter present and future. And this naturally brings me to my profound feeling of oneness with God and all Life. To my profound feeling of oneness with all of you. Alas, We are One. Knowing this and applying it ever day could be one important way to creating a more peaceful planet (in my humble opinion).