Have you read the news lately? If you have any empathy or compassion in your heart, then the news can feel depressing and hopeless. It seems that there is no end to stupidity, greed, violence and cruelty. The world needs leaders with compassion but for most it seems that their most prominent characteristic is venality. We see inequality bringing out the very worst of people; people who have accumulated thousands or millions of times more material wealth than they could possibly need, and yet they continue, driven by greed and ego, to accumulate ever more, exploiting their fellow beings, leading many to starve, suffer and die. Our empathy and compassion can feel overwhelmed. The real danger is that we become resigned to do nothing.
Modern media, above all social media, has made people ever more cynical. People want to be famous for being famous and will do whatever it takes to do that. In this environment acting compassionately or trying to make a difference can feel pointless. There is simply too much injustice, horror and suffering. We might feel motivated to save the world but at the same time depressed by the sheer enormity of the task. Remember this: you cannot fix all that is wrong in the world nor are you supposed to.
Question: What is the best way to eat an elephant?
Answer: One bite at a time!
This philosophy can be applied to our own lives. We cannot fix the broken world we live in but living with an attitude of mindful compassion, we can make a difference.
Instead of focussing on problems of “humanity”, focus on problems of human beings.
Here is a well-known story:
A man walking along a shore after a storm finds the beach covered with washed-up, dying starfish. As he continues to walk, he notices a boy throwing them back into the ocean, one by one. The man says to the boy, there are so many kilometres of beach and thousands of starfish, and that he’ll never make a difference. As the boy throws a starfish back into the ocean, he says, “I just made a difference to that one.”
Remember, it is never too late to begin. Instead of acting as if we had the responsibility for all bad things and the power to fix it all, we need to find a truer, wiser perspective, the view of the wise gardner.
The fact is that you are not in charge; you are part of a splendid living tapestry which was there before you came into being and will be there afterwards. When you act with compassion guided by empathy and kindness, you plant seeds of change. You may not even live to see the fully-grown tree and the fruit they give. We are just the planters of seeds, the carers of the garden, tender of the trees. When the seeds of our actions are caring and sincere, guided by compassion and kindness, they will bear a nourishing harvest for all beings.
We are human and we will sometimes, even oftimes fai,l but that is not so important because no matter what has passed, we can begin again. We can only begin now, where we are. It is all that we really can have or can experience. In this now, in this very moment we plant the seeds for the future.
We cannot solve all of the world’s problems, but we can make a positive difference: one person, step, one moment one at a time.
This is the long-term attitude of the wise gardener, for his garden, for his trees.
So what seeds will you plant today and what will the fruit produced be? Will it be wholesome and nutritious?