Are we in the Dark Ages again?

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 21, 2014 – 12:00am

Humanity seems to be going through some sort of Dark Ages. Some people who speak in the name of their religions have completely gone berserk. In the name of God, many men, women and innocent children are being bombed, killed, and yes, beheaded. For the life of me, as much as I try to understand the roots of conflict in different parts of the world, I cannot wrap my head around any justification for such barbaric behavior.

We are in the 21st century. Humanity has seen many periods in history, which I would imagine should have taught us valuable lessons. Apparently, I am mistaken.

The events in the news are simply crazy, unjustifiable and inhuman. Sometimes I wonder if we are we losing it as a species.

Throw in old issues that remain unsolved and unaddressed. People of the world, climate change WILL do us in at the rate we are going. It is already beginning to do so. It will not be just the low-lying islands that will experience catastrophic consequences, ALL of us will see within our lifetime an earth less and less conducive to life, and all in just a matter of decades. And yet, we continue to do business, feed our unsustainable economic systems and consume as we do oblivious to all the signs that tell us we must stop doing it.

Hunger stalks many parts of the world. There is still a lot of poverty that needs to be wiped out. Terrorism is on the rise. New diseases are plaguing us. Wars have broken out in many parts of the globe.

It feels like the balance of things has tilted somewhat to a darker side. I find myself confused, demoralized, and very sad about the state of affairs of the world.

I try to imagine what it must have been like to have lived through the Inquisition, the Crusades, the many wars over religion and politics, the Black Plague, the big World Wars, the Holocaust, Pol Pot’s rule, etc. when the world seemed cruel and insane. Imagine the horror of it especially for those who refused to silence their consciences and fight back. While many otherwise sane people marched with the lemmings of darkness, the mobs of insanity, prejudice, false righteousness, there were those who did not lose themselves.

These were the people who stood against the tide of negativity. They must have mustered every strength they could to resist the madness. Through the hardship of it all, they managed somehow to keep their humanity intact sometimes by their own lonesome selves. Thank God, world history eventually moved on somehow and saw itself go through periods when mankind bloomed and the world looked more promising.

But all is not well again.

Sometimes I wish I could join a spontaneous gathering of people who feel the same as I do and just have a collective cry, and feel assured that on this side of humanity, we have not gone mad.

Sometimes, I ask myself if ordinary people can do anything. My common sense tells me that it will be incumbent upon everyone to contribute to the solutions needed. We all hold a piece of the peace, and we must put them together.

So, what can we do? A lot. We may not hold the levers of power, money, military might but we are not entirely helpless. In the spaces we occupy, in our own lives, we can be responsible enough and guarantee that we will hold the peace as best we can. How? Let me count some ways.

1. Let’s be kinder to everyone including strangers that we meet. The simple act of smiling, or giving way during traffic, the kind words we utter etc., may be enough to give anyone we meet a lift for the day.

2. Let us be respectful and tolerant. Let us not lord our religious beliefs on people who do not share our values. Let us not fight or name-call. When the heat of discussion is too much, let us not fall into our ego’s need to win. It is ok to walk away. Let us know the wisdom of knowing when NOT discuss religion, politics at all.

3. Let us clean our surroundings. Pick up garbage in front of our homes. Do not litter anywhere. And let’s be mindful about what we do that contributes to waste, pollution and degradation.

4. Let us always be mindful of the large gap between the haves and have-nots in the world. When we can (and we can most of the time), let us share things, give away stuff that may be useless to us but useful to others. Or better yet, give away some valuable stuff. Sometimes, it is not giving until it hurts. Maybe we can contribute to scholarship programs that get more people educated, or a feeding program to get kids healthy enough to study and concentrate the whole day in school.

5. Let us get out of the culture of blame and simply do what needs to be done and fix what needs to be fixed. If anything festers and no one is doing anything about it, maybe we are being called to do it.

6. Let us imagine the ordinary to be sacred. It may start with imagination but sooner or later, it becomes a realization that there is nothing ordinary about anything. Everything is laden with poetry, enchantment, and the Spirit that animates the universe. When we awaken to this, the quality of all our experiences is elevated.

7. Make it a practice to look at our enemies, people we despise as whole human beings. It is easy to demonize. We may disagree with them, or even find them repulsive but let us not forget that they are humans like us. This view does not preclude justice. It still must be served but with less vengeance and revenge, and more of hope that they reform and feel atonement.

8. Lastly, we serve the world when we are happy. Happiness, passion are our mission in life. Find the inner space where your wellspring of happiness resides. Drink generously from it and spread the happiness around.

By doing these, maybe we can drive away some of the darkness that seems to envelop the world, or at least light up the dark spaces in our own lives.