A War Inside Us

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All of us are participants in the continuous creation of this world. From our little corner, we add to its design and to its constant change. Through war, politics, commerce, by consuming and communicating, each and every one of us contributes every day in some way to it. We act in ways that contribute to a negative course of events, or we act in ways that lead to a more positive course of events. Or we don’t participate in anything at all, which also affects this world.

We, so called middle class, in the rich part of the world, form a completely unique group of people in the history of human beings. We are many. We are as a collective better educated than any large group has ever been. We enjoy greater material security. We are richer. Our lives are more comfortable, our nations more democratic, and we have more free time. So many have never been so free to say and do what they want to. Indeed, that is fantastic. Such a number of well-educated, qualified, free and rich persons completely lacks equivalent in the past. What makes us even more unique is the fact that we are so aware and know so much about the troubles and suffering in the world.

An intense drama is taking place around us. In our city, in our country and in other countries hardship, inequality, oppression, famine and war continues. In this world of ours, just like people of all times, we have to face difficult questions and choices: What is my business? How should I prioritize to allot my energy between my family, my work, my personal interests and such problems that are outside my family? Do I have a responsibility for something outside my sphere? Exactly where does this responsibility stop? How much could I reasonably manage to do? How bad does it have to get before I do something? And what would that be?

It’s a war inside us. We are so capable, and we know so much. And we are – just like people tend to be – equipped with common sense and a conscience. I may choose to pretend that we as individuals not are in a position to contribute to a better world and I may use that as an excuse for my passivity, but that only creates a feeling of unease somewhere in the stomach region. It’s simple maths: knowledge minus action equals frustration.

I guess it is possible for us to just keep on, letting our inner war run its course. We could do that. Or we can’t, and if that is the case we will have to let it surface. How many can live with the inner conflict, and for how long? How many cannot and what will they do? It is not unusual that oppressed people eventually revolts against an oppressive state. How do oppressed emotions treat their tyrant?

Parallel to our ever-growing insight in all the world’s problems we live our private lives, absorbed by dealing with sorrows and ails, sickness and crisis. Bitterly, we acknowledge that not even peace and prosperity could cure these things.

One might ask how well fit a human being really is to have insight in all the world’s conflicts. Are we not designed to merely solve those problems in our absolute proximity? The past century’s improved technology for mass communication has each year brought us greater and greater knowledge of problems located so clearly outside our private sphere or community.

Nobody asks why we should be aware of virtually everything. I assume it is good to be informed. But if this continuous and truly extensive enlightening that goes on for hours every day will be used by us, the enlightened, for nothing more than to wisely use our voting right once every fourth year – I cannot help to question if it’s really proportioned in regard to its usefulness.

We know a lot. We even know so much that we already understand that “we didn’t know” won’t be viable excuse if – hypothetically – someone in the future would ask questions about our inaction. Nobody would believe us. Rather, we will have to choose between “I didn’t have the energy”, “I didn’t have the time”, or “it wasn’t my business”.

Not being bothered by the pain in the world is probably comfortable. Complaining about those who doesn’t seem to care is probably not effective. To start thinking about how one can live life without sustaining problems – wherever they may be – is probably valuable.

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Come And Sit Here For a While

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The Power of Presence

Did it ever come to mind that something as basic as Your Presence could be a powerful weapon against many shortcomings and problems in this world? Your presence can bring relief, understanding and guidance. It is slow but effective. Some problems can be solved by us humans, some not, but the suffering that a problem causes can be reduced by Your Presence. Really.

Your Presence will bring relief to burdens.
If you help carrying a burden, the relief is obvious. If you just come and sit here for a while, your presence will still ease the burden – just by your sheer presence. All of us become a little bit happier just by knowing that we’re not alone, by seeing that somebody cares. You see me. You hear me.

Whether you really help carrying something or just show up, your presence will ease.

Your Presence will bring understanding. You see, just by being here, you cannot desist watching and learning a little about what we do here, why we do it and what we look like inside. And of course – I will understand a little bit about you.

Understanding is the antidote to fear, which is the mother of intolerance.

Your Presence will give guidance. Burdens are heavy to bear. People we never met are difficult to understand. And making decisions and choosing a direction without anyone to talk to is difficult and simply no fun at all. The need for each and every one of us to comprehend what we’re doing here, and to decide about the thousands of small things and the hundreds of big things, is part of life. Since decisions have an impact on our life, they are important stuff – and having to make them all alone is not only boring, it is difficult, and it runs the risk of making me feel insecure even about my best decisions.

The sheer presence of your built-in wisdom and your experiences of life gives me support to find my own path.

The absolute fantastic thing about being present is that it requires no knowledge, no training, no money. Just you and your time – so come as you are.

But. Your Presence has become a scarce supply.

I like to think of presence as a matter of both physical presence and personal responsibility. Due to our civilization’s gravitation towards delegation of individual human responsibilities and obligations, you and I have simply become less present. Rich as we are, we can now enjoy the fantastic possibility to buy our peace of mind and time off by delegating what’s difficult, boring or just plain awkward – to service providers and machines, to systems, organizations and governments. Or to whoever. Sure, it feels convenient. But it also makes us less present.

If we go too far and manage to escape everything that is potentially challenging it will distance us from natural activities, from other people, and it will seduce us to lose our hardwired sense of responsibility for being a human. Slowly, it makes us less capable as fellow human beings. And herein lies the the paradox of presence: Being present and taking responsibility is hard work, but not doing so may turn out to be even harder work.

We leave to the school to make citizens out of our children, we leave to service staff to entertain our aging parents and we leave to the government to solve immigrant integration (we even have unmanned aircrafts drop our bombs).

The purpose of letting someone or something else replace your presence, carry out your awkward to-dos or shoulder your accountability may be to get peace of mind and release time to attend more meaningful activities. But in the long run you might find that the reward is the reverse, since the action of avoiding or delegating away your human chores makes your life feel less valuable to yourself. It might appear as if you got rid of some pain since you no longer have to see or be close to emotionally or physically demanding situations, but inside there is a subtle sensation, an itching conscience.

I believe that increased personal presence can help people in stagnating civilized societies to reconquer meaning, and I believe that it can reach even further and contribute to challenge the vast inequality between rich and poor worlds. It is true that our civilization process has brought with it many good things, especially to us in the rich countries – but it is also not a lie that the very same civilization has widened the gap between those who have and those who do not have. This may lead our politicians to first scratch their heads, and then to create yet another smart system, technology or policy in order to bridge the gap. But that doesn’t work. Every time we try to persuade ourselves that a machine, a law, a company, money or a new system can replace our personal presence and responsibility – that gap grows.

I wish that all the wise men and women – who know that attitudes and behavior are forces much stronger than both money and war – will formulate their ideas in a way that everyone can understand, and start spreading the word that our personal involvement and behavior is crucial in order to create good change.

The beauty and versatility of the human mind and soul has not yet been possible to replace by any system, policy or technology. This is what makes your presence such a powerful tool. Your presence can ease burdens, bring understanding and give guidance. Not using it will bring you further from the real world and allow the gaps between people to keep growing.

So, don’t make it complicated. Come as you are.

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