When we think about the world we live in and how modern society has evolved, it’s helpful to start by reflecting how it all began for us as humans. Two hundred thousand years ago, homo sapiens started populating the planet. We formed clans and tribes then clusters of organized villages. Then along came commerce in the form of crafting and bartering and trade. What was once an organic, primal need for existence and survival became commercialized. The natural occurrences of sunrise, sunset, life, death and rebirth became mechanized by humans seeking progress and growth and more. So much good came as a result of our advancements, yet because we are imperfect, we created social structures and governing systems and religious constructs that were inherently imperfect. Soon, culture began to define human self-identity. Fit in and be like us or run the risk of being cast out. Most felt (and continue to feel) powerless to fight the constructs of fabricated society. Some have created (and will continue to create) new societies with different ideals, either by clashing with or fleeing from corrupted constructs. Truth is, there is not a single society, culture, or system this world has upheld to equally and adequately reflect the preciousness of every human soul or the beauty of every human heart inhabiting this earth.
Fast forwarding to modern society, in Western culture, our attention is drawn to impulse, to instant gratification, to immediate transient fulfillment. Like the hollow temptation of sugar, we consume and are temporarily satiated, but then we crash and are left wanting more. This perpetual hunger for “more right now” fuels an economy built upon short term satisfactions neatly subscribed to by eager customers. Western culture also feeds the ego. We are led to believe our importance and self-worth are tied to the things we amass and the accolades we receive.
How do we elevate ourselves above the precept of society to honor the equal value of every life? One way is to remember that society is an evolution of change. It is incumbent for each member to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, face the flaws of present society, call them out for what they are, and work with others to enact real change. Evolution requires adaptability. It almost never occurs without discomfort or conflict. Within the change is the lesson of choice and resolve, of whether we will choose to be compliant or fight for a better construct. Change comes with momentum, with clear direction backed by physical and emotive energy to beat a new path forward.
The problems of this world are as overwhelming or as underwhelming as the human mind allows them to be. Strip away attention given to news and social media and other people’s affairs, and we free ourselves from significant unnecessary pressure. When we actively choose to limit the attention we give to circumstances that don’t directly affect us, our minds have more space to cope with our own concerns. Try this: Erase everything for at least 5 minutes a day. Set a timer if you need to. Take this short amount of time all for yourself to be in the present moment. It could be in the shower, sipping your coffee, eating your lunch, sitting in sunlight, whatever works for you. For 5 minutes a day, think of nothing at all, breathe, and smile. This simple daily practice of being in the present moment helps dissolve the world’s cares and worries away from your mind, opening up a window for more calm and less stress. With continued practice, your mind may become more open to fresh ideas, enlightenment, and understanding.
You may be saying to yourself, it doesn’t matter how calm I get. I’m not living a life of my choosing! This may very well be the case. I think about all the modern slaves, all the planned marriages, all the parental career mandates, all the choices made for fear of disapproval. I think about all the quiet self-loathing that eats away at people’s minds without anyone being any the wiser. On the surface, we carry on. But inside, we are dying.
When our minds and bodies are repressed in an unjust circumstance, some of us resign ourselves to comply. We behave. We follow orders. We become docile citizens. This form of existence can be satisfying — without much to think about, we go through the motions and avoid conflict. For others of us, this is agony. We seek due power and long for change. But what if we’re afraid? What happens if we feel powerless to change anything? Will we ever find meaningful happiness? Or will life and happiness be at the mercy of the system?
Trying to fit into what we think society wants is not the solution. In fact, I’ve come to believe that society’s main purpose is to facilitate our own evolution. The creator creates the creation, and in so doing, the creation creates the creator. Once this realization set in for me, I started to view life from a whole new perspective. Like taking the red pill in The Matrix, my eyes were opened, and I felt like I discovered a whole new truth. This epiphany helped me learn that I have more power than I think over any situation. It helped me perceive challenges as opportunities for growth and development. It’s no question that some people on this planet are tested to a greater extent than others. Their sacrifices light the way for others to learn and command change. The ultimate discovery for all of us is that we are here on this earth to love, to be tested, and to gain wisdom. What is that wisdom? It is to know the nature of our true selves, it is to realize our connectedness with all things and all people. It is to recognize that we are all phenomena of love, light, and beauty.
Imagine for a moment that life is like a video game. You’ve been assigned an avatar, and ta-da! You are now in that avatar role, playing the game with a bunch of others, experiencing life on earth together as humans. Imagine that all of a sudden, other avatars started to pick on your avatar. They didn’t like your avatar. Well gosh, you were assigned that avatar. For the course of the game you can give it new clothes, a new do, and new shoes, but the avatar is the avatar. Not much you can do about that. It’s all that the current 3.0 operating system allows until the next upgrade. Oh well. Better to focus on the goal of the game, which is to get through the maze of life and get back home. Getting too caught up in things you can’t control would be a waste of time and energy, right? But sometimes we forget that we’re all avatars. It’s understandable, because we are so caught up in the realness of the game. Right now, I want you to remember that you are not the avatar. You are way more than just appearances, and this game of life is temporary. When you remember these things, you might find yourself feeling deep sadness, but you would know it won’t last. You might experience suffering, but you would know it was just a rite of passage. You might see madness, but you would know it’s only there to challenge your resolve. Imagine the power you would have over any calamity. Petty bantering would become insignificant. You would have the insightfulness to know what’s worthy and unworthy of your engagement. You would make choices out of love, kindness, and compassion. You would know that happiness is, in fact, the reason why you’ve chosen to play the game.
My hope for you is that you discover these truths about yourself. Modern society will tell you that you are less than, that you don’t fit in, that you’ll never amount to anything unless you follow the rules, that others know what’s best for you. These are fabrications. This is part of the game. My hope is that you now start to realize how very powerful you are. You are and have always been in control. You are the master of your own destiny.
Tell yourself, right now, that you are more than your avatar. Tell yourself that you are an extraordinary work-in-progress doing your best to figure out this game of life, just like everyone else. Tell yourself that it doesn’t matter how you or how others choose to play the game, but kindness to yourself and to others must always be the first move. Tell yourself that when you need time to recharge your avatar batteries, you will take it. Tell yourself that the game can be as fun as you want it to be. I’ll be cheering you on.