When I was growing up in the 1980s, I remember people always seemed particularly festive and polite in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I recall standing in line at the grocery, and seeing how joyous people were. Maybe because I was a child, my perception was different, back then, but people really did seem to become happier around the Holidays.
Maybe the world was a different place back then. “Yuppies” were just emerging and everything was about “greed is good,” instead of “terrorism” or “climate change.” Madonna was just starting out and the Soviet Union was our arch-enemy. Bleached jeans were cool. So yes, times have changed.
The world now seems to be more of a scary place than ever before. Terrorism is a constant fear among many. The environment is in danger and yet many people are in denial over climate change.
Polar bears are drowning and clean drinking water is not a reality in many parts of the world (including the United States). The world economy is not what it used to be. People are angry. People are scared and yet despite all these passionate emotions it seems that no one is fully engaged in living.
Every day when I go out into the world, Christmas music is blasting, stores are decorated in full glory and yet almost every single person seems to be on audition for the role of Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Maybe it is just me, or maybe I just think differently than most people…but it seems that the majority of people seem to be listless. People look worried and scared. To see a smiling or happy person is a rarity.
And if you do smile and are happy looking (I speak from experience), people literally glare at you. Actually, I had one person ask me,
“Why are you so happy?”
“Well, for starters, I am alive and healthy..!”
Not the answer they were expecting, but it was the truth.
One of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths is that pain and suffering are realities of being a human being. No one is immune to that experience. Many people crave to be in a world where there is no pain and suffering.
The irony about life is that we often learn and grow from the pain and the suffering. Sometimes it is when we are down on our knees, in agony, when we finally think that maybe, just maybe, there is another way. People often have to hit rock bottom before they are able to have the kind of life that they desire.
In my life, I had to hit rock bottom in order to fully change my life around. I wish I could tell you that it was easy but it wasn’t. It was tough, really tough. But it was so worth it.
When you hit rock bottom, there is only one direction to go and that is up. We all have things in our lives that we may not love. We all have our dreams and goals. We all are living in a world where greed has become a god and human decency seems to be a rarity. Manners seem to be a distant memory.
Yet despite how bad things may get, there are blessings about being alive. Sometimes when a person has to fight for something that they believe in or when there is a goal that they are working hard to achieve, that is when the human spirit is at its best. I think there is something awesome about seeing someone who has some level of passion (and I am not talking sex).
Nothing, in my mind, is more attractive than when you see someone driven to achieve a goal; especially a goal that serves to better the world. In Buddhism, it is believed that to be born in a human form is a great honor.
All of us should be very grateful to be in human form. Whether we believe in reincarnation or not, is not an issue. What is of value is the fact that you are alive. Why in the world do you want to waste that gift by walking around as if you were dead? Isn’t that a waste of a gift?
Yes, the world has its problems but guess what? Those problems were created by human beings. Back in the Sixties there was a famous saying:
“If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.”
There is truth in that.
The problems in the world are rooted in greed, anger and fear. Many people are walking embodiments of those emotions. They are just perpetuating the problems. Greed and fear will not save the world. Compassion will.