(Note: The message here does not only pertain to just the college atmosphere. It also can be applied to living in the city, or any other seemingly massive community. With such a universal message, knowing how to live within and without in any environment will just keep you even more leveled.)
Campus life for a majority of college students is just about to get started. In this incredibly thrilling time of our lives, we are exposed to massive changes that occur straight before our eyes, some consciously and other quite subconsciously. However, it seems that one change that we fear the most is the adjustment to the rollercoaster that is campus life.
Whether we are hitting the campus of 50,000 or the campus of 500, it becomes very easy to be only a single body in the mass. This often can lead to extreme isolation and social deprivation, despite the overwhelming system of support of others. We may feel as though we are immersed into our resources, but sometimes we feel just as like we still haven’t found our niche or best placement.
This can especially be seen in the works of Scott F. Fitzgerald in his illustrious novel, The Great Gatsby:
“I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets… I saw him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without.”
Quite often, college will feel like the experience that Nick Carraway, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, in his wild and fascinating variations on life. BUT, F Scott Fitzgerald notes that despite Nick own personal story taking place in the middle of Manhattan, he was still “within and without” in his own story.
So do we do about this ‘within and without’ business and make sure we have a real connection to whatever student body we wish to be a part of? Simply…
When most of us hear this phase, we are transported to a time when involvement simply meant signing up for a new club or trying out a new activity. If someone attempts to join a new organization without having any physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual connection, then they will continue to feel as though they are a part of the shell of the group, and always wonder if they should be somewhere else on campus.
The state of being, which in our case is involvement, is all truly about creating meaningful connections AND profound associations. When this is done, every interaction is appreciated and every gesture is a sign of gratitude. Instead of creating artificial bonds that seem to all but dissolve by the light, strive to make a few deeper ties into your own reality. By removing this synthetic zone of fixation on what we could be doing, we allow ourselves to become fully engrossed in what we are doing. Without worrying about trying to have ‘the best story on campus’ or the ‘most notorious reputation’ we allow ourselves to be involved in much other rewarding activities that don’t question our social status, but rather our spiritual elevation. With such rooting in the self and the soul into everything that is joined or experienced, life itself becomes an even more enjoyable process.
And THAT is when college becomes the wonderful experience it is cut out to be. It is your choice, to be within and without, or to be completely involved with every part of your being in this fascinating new experience. Your call, your choice, your college dreams are ALWAYS your choice.
(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at Lauren@TheGlobalConversation.com)
With the ending of summer, teenagers everywhere are focused on getting in the last minute trip to the beach, back to school shopping, and savoring the final days of pure laziness. But as we focus on these activities, we often forget the most important of them all: having a direct conversation with God. Period.
As for those of us already immersed in the God-being experience, this post should serve as a healthy reminder to remain connected to the highest source possible. There is always another mystery, another light, another piece of knowledge to be understood. So, if you understand, please continue to expand and explore your relationship to the Universe and to Divine Oneness.
But for those who think that this sounds strange…
Now, I know that some of us out there have doubts about this whole ‘talking’ idea. Most of us, through whatever religious vehicle that our parents have driven into us, think of God as something inaccessible and far, far, far above our limited understanding. Further, some of us even think that only other highly spiritual people, such as Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, and Neale (obviously), can possibly participate in such a sacred activity. But…..That is a lie. Period.
The honest truth is….
ANYONE AT ANY POINT OF THEIR LIFE CAN TALK TO GOD AT ANYTIME.
Do I need to repeat that for you?
We don’t need a median. We don’t need a prophet. We don’t need a preacher. All we need is an enlightened mind, an energized body, an earnest heart, and an elevated soul (thanks again Neale). But don’t worry. It IS easier than it sounds.
If you are too instilled in religious anthropomorphism of ‘God’ as ‘The Old Man Judging Us In The Sky’, then think of it as a conversation with the Universe, the Over-Soul, the Infinite Being, the Complete Oneness, or what you feel the deepest connection with.
If you don’t feel a connection on the spiritual level, you are going to have a problem.
So it sounds a little (or extremely) intimidating. We often wonder what we would say to God if given the chance, but what will we do when we actually do? Will we say the wrong thing or embarrass ourselves? Will we ask too much and be disappointed? And most daunting…
Will we be judged for what we asked, and thought of as a lesser being?
Nope. Not at all. Nowhere even close to that.
ASK GOD ANYTHING. Really, it’s okay.
Talking with God – about ANYTHING – is talking from your highest intentions and listening from your sincerest gratitude. There is no judgment, there is just what you choose to create on the deepest and most intimate level possible. Besides being a way to resolve all tension, distress, and worry in your life, it talking to God also simply recreates the all-too-forgotten that there is meaning for everything in the Universe. But to make it easy, let’s take a look at this from the two levels:
+ Talking from Your Highest Intentions: The true Dictionary Definition of the word ‘communion’ is “the act of sharing one’s thoughts and emotions with deep understanding in intimate converse”. There is nothing to fear, there is nothing to hide; it is all a part of infinite consciousness anyways. Unveil your deepest intentions, to God and also to yourself. When the individual consciousness in you speaks directly with the collective conscious of the universe, it is all in the deepest and purest mutual understanding on the most intimate level possible.
+ Listening From Your Sincerest Gratitude: In order to effectively communicate in ANY setting, one must also listen just as deeply as they speak. Open yourself to the universe – even if it means that your current way of thinking may be exposed to be erroneous. To enhance the harmony of life, we must listen for the melody that underlies it all. Being willing to stop our own internal chatter, we also recognize our own gratefulness for everything that the universe has provided us. Whether it was challenges to stimulate our spiritual development or the experience of love in its highest form, we are always in a state of enduring awe. As we communicate with God, our awe for life itself grows ever more apparent.
So go out there, and have your communion elevated to the highest level. For the majority of people, (Neale and myself included), the easiest form of communication is through writing. Literally, with the salutation, closing, and all the rest. Just try it and see what happens when you start writing back. One thing I have observed from my own Conversations…
“Writing this weekly column is God living through me, but writing to God is God living within me.”
Though both experiences manifest our creative talents into the universe, they each let us understand a very different part of ourselves. With artistic expression, we are not always honest with our intentions. With spiritual expression, we remain forever open and truthful with our highest purpose. Make sense?
I know this site has been founded by the book series Conversations With God. BUT too many of us still read it and think only of how lucky Neale was to have access to this experience. When we go beyond simply just thinking ‘That’s a wonderful idea…for others to experience’ to ‘This is something that I consciously choose to experience as a part of my daily life’, then that’s when we CHANGE. That’s when society CHANGES. That’s when the human race CHANGES.
To ONENESS, to BEINGNESS, to LIGHT, to LOVE, to TRULY UNDERSTANDING WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT.
And really, for the deepest questions in life, who else would you ask?
(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at Lauren@TheGlobalConversation.com)
As the entire world has observed, religion took a fascinating and wonderful turn this week with the declaration made by Pope Francis. As His Holiness stated, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”, a new turn has been taken to create a more accepting, more open religious world. And since that utterance on July 29th, celebrations all over the world have taken place to commemorate this wonderful event.
With such a change of heart from the Pope himself, the question for us remains: who are we to judge anyone’s highest intentions?
While a person’s highest intentions may include their homosexuality, it ALSO includes their own faith. As love comes in many different forms, beliefs do as well. In the essence of both love and belief, some forms just work at a higher level for others. In accordance to an individual’s own experience, knowledge, and understanding, their intentions are manifested by who they are and what they choose to believe.
The core of the problem with all major religions, sciences, governments, and economic systems is the central belief that there can only be ONE right way. And, more importantly, everyone who does not follow that single way is living the WRONG way. Throughout the course of religion, (and even spirituality, in some aspects) different sects have displayed some very unflattering views to other beliefs. But there one thing we forget too often…
Each faith, in accordance to its highest understanding, attempts to create a meaning to life and a connection to God (or the Universal Being).
Spiritually, we may not morally agree with the teachings of Islam, the rituals of Hinduism, or the sacraments of Catholicism. As many visitors of The Global Conversation have become aware of their own spiritual path, it becomes very easy to for us to shun organized religion completely. But is we are to truly move in the direction of Oneness and Beingness, we must understand that theirs is not the wrong way, but rather just another way. Just as we have empathized acceptance for homosexuality, we also apply this to religion. As our world grows more and more open to the diversity of lifestyles, we need to open and expand our minds more and more as well. For when we accept, we appreciate, and when we appreciate, we learn far more about ourselves than we would have before.
A great example of religious belief and acceptance would be from none other than Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s sensational and inspiring musical, The Book of Mormon (hey, no judgments here!). The musical follows the journey of two Mormons, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, on their two year mission in Uganda. As the original Mormon text does not connect with the Ugandan people, Elder Cunningham decides to twist the scriptures so that it relates with the all-too-real plights of Uganda.
While it hardly resembled Latter Day Sainthood in the end, this new faith that these two Elders created brings more happiness, hope, and love of life to the people than they have ever felt before. Though the Elders were highly judged and criticized, they lived out their highest intentions (with comedic effects) to fully and honestly help the people. Though the musical itself is highly controversial, it truly speaks for own ability to judge less, and accept more.
Ma ha nei bu Eebowai! Or, Thank you God!
So whether you’re a Latter Day Saint or His Holiness himself, we could use some more acceptance on our paradise planet. The Pope and The Book of Mormon had the same message – for more love and less judgment on the religious level. The less we look at people’s beliefs from the “right vs. wrong” perspective, the more opportunity we have to understand Who They Really Are. And that is when the REAL change occurs.
When we see the highest intentions in both ourselves and in others, we can ALIGN those intentions into a greater or deeper purpose. This fact seems elusive to many, but becomes very evident once these intentions are explored further and further. In respect of our differences, we CAN share our intentions instead of shun them for their differences. As the root of all belief, religious or spiritual, is to create a personal connection to something bigger than ourselves, we CAN do it together. Tomorrow IS a Latter Day, and there is nothing stopping us from creating a better world today than our judgments of intentions as lower than what they truly are.
As Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” So, who are we to judge?
(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at Lauren@TheGlobalConversation.com)
At one point of our lives, we all dream of changing the world, making it a better place, and being a hero for our planet. Whether it was becoming president, finding the cure for cancer, or feeding starving children around the world, we all had it in us at one point or another to really make a difference. But at one point, we discard these dreams. Either we’ve become focused on other things or run out of time to chase after those dreams, we seem to fail to hold onto our belief that we can make a difference. And so the majority of us have given up.
However, as I look around me, I see more and more often just how many people are deciding not to give up on these dreams. One person’s dream, and the one story that goes with it, stands out in particular. Colin Beavan, author of No Impact Man, had a dream of full blown Environmentalism: to have zero impact on the environment while still living in a New York City Apartment. As with the full title of the book implies, No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes about Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process, the journey was just as much about the self-understanding as it was about being selfless.
What Beavan found is that the ‘the normal routine’ that fills our daily life was incredibly dissatisfying. He noticed that “while getting a new cell phone or a new car or a new house [does] give us a burst of pleasure, the pleasure did not last. If we wanted to feel the same spike of happiness, we would have to get another fix – yet another phone, yet another car. They call this mode of pleasure-seeking the ‘hedonic treadmill’.”
It’s so comfortable to come home after a long day and just flop on the couch to watch some less than thought-provoking television and gobble through the greasy bag of potato chips. But until we stretch our conscious boundaries, we will forever be living in this permafrost layer of desperation, also known as the content of the masses. Besides this activity wasting our precious planet resources, it is also wasting our precious personal wellbeing. By thawing out our consciousness, we begin to see just how unhappy we are with the current model of the world, or with our own hedonic treadmill.
And once we become aware of it, we CAN break this cycle. To end the vicious cycle, Beavan tried a new lifestyle, that was focused on “life lived with less emphasis on acquisition, with the effect of leaving more time for richer, less resource-intensive life rewards, making both the planet and the people happier.” By reducing his need for disposable products, mindless media, and needless transportation, Beavan created a localized lifestyle that gave him time to enjoy his family and life itself.
Right here, is a truly wonderful manifestation of the Be-Do-Have Paradigm. By doing fewer activities focused around having more stuff, one has more free time to be healthy, happy, and loving. Without constantly thinking and doing things to get the newest car or have the latest smartphone, there happens to be a lot of mental, social, and physical time and space left over for wellness and oneness driven activities. By simply having new time and new energy dedicated to the presence of being rather than the acquisition of stuff, we waste less resources and we waste less life. Doing less running around for that stuff certainly leads to more being in tune to the natural vibes of the world soul.
Beavan did recognize his ability to be more, not only for himself, but also for his dream of being a positive impact on the collective. As described in the final moments of No Impact Man, “It is the workers at the organizations I volunteer for who confirm for me that environmentalism is not about trying to use less but about trying to be more. It is not about sucking our tummies in but pushing our hearts out. Environmentalism is not about the environment. It’s about people. It is about a vision for a better life – for people.”
If we are to truly live out our dreams of being this better collective life, then we need to start having a better vision. To go in the direction of such wonderful growth, is to go beyond sustainability. For in it’s simplest definition, sustainability is merely continuing to keep a way of life going. Do we really just want to sustain this path of doing that we keep stomping down? As sustaining is focused only on maintaining, I know that we all can be far MORE than that. Here are a few ideas on being better:
- We can DESIGN better societies, not just sustain the ones that still aren’t working for us.
- We can CONSTRUCT better cities, not just maintain the remnants crumbling down.
- We can GENERATE better ideas, not just preserve the worn fragments of dysfunction.
- We can CREATE better understandings of Who We Are, not just follow our Old Cultural Story blindly.
Of course, we don’t need to be any of these manifestations. But, by being them, we can make an incredible difference in ourselves and in our paradise planet. All in all, BE a kid again. BE those dreams you once had, even if they weren’t about environmentalism or reducing our consumption to zero. Discover yourself in your dreams. Be more of that bigger, better, brighter vision. The only way you will ever figure out what works or not is if you try.
Note: Before reading, know that this article is not a question of ethnicity, age, or any other demographics. It’s a question of respect. I am NOT here to point fingers, to make my case, to voice my verdict of innocent and guilty. What I am here for is to have a conversation on OUR reaction.
With the close of the Zimmerman Trial, many people are jumping to their own conclusions about justice, sentences, and motivations. To make it simple, here is what I have discovered from the case itself:
All we have here are two angry, lost, and confused people. Trayvon Martin, age 17, and George Zimmerman, age 29. No one is truly sure what happened in Florida the night of February 26th, 2012. But what we are sure of is that someone has tried to exploit it and make a profit. And we see that in the creation of the Angry Trayvon App.
The developers of Trade Digital, Inc., created the above named game, in which a teen in a hoodie takes his baseball bat across the country and violently attacks people out on the street. Under the description of the game, it stated:
“Trayvon is angry and nobody can stop him from completing his world tour of revenge on the bad guys who terrorize cities everyday. Use a variety of weapons to demolish Trayvon’s attackers in various cities around the world. If you want to dominate the leaderboards across the world, then make sure you collect the money the bad guys will drop once you kill them.”
Why does it always seem that people are able and willing to profit out of misery, suffering, and despair? Instead of putting the pieces back together, companies and developers are further ripping them apart by exploiting these tensions. Even within our smartphones, the festering wounds of pain continue to be wretched open by those operating seemingly outside of our morality.
Fortunately, there are enough people out there to see through the lies and the exploitation of Trayvon Martin. On Change.org, a petition was created for the removal of the Angry Trayvon App with the following statement:
“This application unnecessarily promotes violence and exploits the unfortunate death of Trayvon Martin. The death of this young man is NOT A GAME. This developer is using the Google Marketplace to exploit the death of an unarmed teen for profit while simultaneously promoting violence. Given the unfair depiction of a deceased minor who perished as a result of gun violence, we are asking that this application be moved from the Google Play marketplace immediately.”
And yes, a small victory was earned when Angry Trayvon was removed from the Google Play Marketplace, showing that we, the people, can create change in the world. But this profiteering does not limit itself to the affairs of the Zimmerman Trial.
In this week’s edition of Rolling Stone Magazine, the front cover is not of Jay Z or Robert Downey Jr., it’s of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger brother behind the Boston Marathon Bombing. With an attempt to gain the ‘full story’ of Dzhokhar, Rolling Stone has created a piece that cries sensationalism. As for their so-called justification, here it is straight from the article:
“The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.”
The fact that the online edition of the article is simply called “Jahar’s World” is seemingly an insulting oversimplification, both to the American public and to Dzhokhar himself. When getting beyond the front page and reading the rest of the article, Dzhokhar is portrayed to first be a sweet compassionate boy to then being an outright Islamic extremist his entire life, depending on how the editors wanted to frame his story at the time in the article. The only thing complete I found about this article was just how absurd journalism (or what they are passing it off as) truly is. No Pulitzer for you, Rolling Stone.
In this modern age, we can create super heroes and super villains at the click of a mouse, the flash of a camera, or the dial of a phone. The fact that people are so willing and able to contort the images of Trayvon and Dzhokhar makes us truly aware of just how vulnerable teens are in the media just for a few more dollars. Good guy, bad guy, it’s not our choice what colors we are painted in the history books. It’s theirs.
Will you stand for this any longer? It may be a rude awakening, but understanding what is going on is crucial to understand how and why it’s happening. So awaken yourself, and awaken your society. It’s now or never.
Part 2: Simply Together
In the past months, we have focused an immense amount of energy and attention onto the evolution and growth of the conscious self. But as we have been growing in the ‘inside world’, we also begin to emerge into the ‘outside world’. Filled with the intricate and elaborate webs of connections, networks, and relationships, understanding the myriad topics of the ‘outside world’ is its own colossal challenge.
In the ‘outside world’, the concept of ‘being together’ continues to be one its most intriguing topics. And, from anybody who first enters a dating relationship, ‘being together’ is a wonderful feeling. And it is little surprise why.
Simply stated, ‘being together’ means ‘being together’. In the triage of our states of being – Be, Do, Have – being is the highest expression. And when it is with the presence of another, the feeling only gets exponentiated. Presence, both in time and location, is truly crucial for living in the depth and beauty of the Now. being present together can enhance not only the status of the relationship, but also the individual self. On the level of the mind, the body, and the spirit, the self is enhanced by the extra presence in the following ways:
-On the most basic level, the body’s physical reactions to another significant presence create an entirely different reaction. Sometimes by the mere presence of another in a stable relationship can cause the body to relax and to release its stressful buildups. By being in the state of being, physical wellness can be experienced in all seven chakras.
-On the level of the mind, the psychology of being together is also very transformative. In the association of another, the ego’s self-centeredness loses its grasp. Knowing that there is more than just the single mind, the ego’s self-importance diminishes, as it becomes less and less about the self, and more and more about sharing thoughts, feelings, and ideas.
-On the deeper spiritual level, this is the highest state you can be with another. It means fully enjoying the presence of another at the highest level possible. When being conscious of another presence, the energy linking thoughts and feelings meld into unity. Being aware is truly the core of wellness and oneness, and being aware together, can only accelerate that process.
As the state of being together can be extremely fulfilling, the states of having together and doing together can be a little less enjoyable. Having a relationship means that the relationship itself must be constantly maintained to keep the relationship alive. By fixating on the material means of a relationship (such that it is something to have), it becomes less and less about enjoying the other person’s presence and more and more about the angst, bitterness, and jealously that normally fills a soap opera drama. Furthermore, doing things in a relationship can also be just as unfulfilling, as the couple is relying on external events, such as movies, concerts, and expensive meals, to provide their sense of happiness with each other. Though it is a great to go out to events and do things in your relationship, it can possibly also lead to emptiness when doing those things becomes overdone or overrated.
Being present together, absorbing and emitting a shared energy, is one of the most creative forces of the universe. Living in the sense of unity, peace, and oneness, from beyond the individual and towards the collective, is root of change on the external plane. When we bring the same ‘beingness’ in ALL of our relationships (not just dating relationships), we bring that same creative energy into every interaction and connection we have. So, understanding, experiencing, and knowing beingness, from the shared presence to the collective presence, is what relationships ARE truly about. So just be in a relationship. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s all you need.
Part One: I’ll Tell You What I Want!!
Oh My God. He just broke up with her after three months! She’s already got a new boyfriend! He’s just as moody as Robert Pattison! Now they’re back together again! Aww…they’re celebrating their fourth month together!
If this drama sounds familiar to you, then you are a teenager. With over 89% of teens claiming to be dating or have dated, it seems as if no one is safe from the drama of relationships. Call it angst, anguish, or agony, for all seem to have described the state of most teenage couples. So, why is there so much unnecessary drama within relationships? Why does it seem that there is no easy way?
Well teens of the world, I have good news for you:
There is an easier way.
I know, it’s shocking, so I will say it again. There is an easier way. There is a way to be with your boyfriend/girlfriend without pain, without guilt, and certainly without suffering from either party. It may take an entire series to explain, but it can be done.
When looking at relationships, it is very easy to know that they “have gone wrong.” Unfortunately, what’s not as easy is to know where things went wrong and why things went wrong. To solve this problem, we have to go back to square one: our own intentions.
So right now, with whatever relationship you are in (or wish to be in), ask yourself the following question:
What do I want from this relationship?
Don’t worry, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer; it’s all based on your personal desires. In the most general sense, two people enter a relationship because they want something from the other person. This could be something physical, such as money, sex, or a yacht; something abstract, as in attention, security, or intimacy. Though this may sound very egotistical, but we must recognize our intentions. Whether the reason is mental, emotional, or even spiritual, we desire to have our needs satisfied.
As we begin to explore our own answers to this question, we understand the ‘why’ behind the relationship. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we form these expectations of what we want from the other person before the relationship begins, and even before we even know who the person is! When we form our ideas about the relationship, we set benchmarks for when we want our needs fulfilled. Even further, we judge the relationship as ‘failure’ or ‘success’ by the speed or capacity of our wants being fulfilled by that time!
For an exaggerated example, think that as if you wanted an increase in status in your relationship with the high school quarterback, you would expect to eat at the coolest table in the cafeteria by the end of the first month of the relationship. However, if after that first month you still only eat at the 4th coolest table in the cafeteria instead of the 1st, then your wants were not fulfilled in the right amount of time. Thus, because you didn’t advance socially as far as you wanted to, your relationship (and its purpose) was a ‘failure’. Now do you understand the drama?
Though it would be very easy to say that we still are ‘above this egotism’, we all still have intentions, and being conscious of our intentions is one of the most powerful tools that we can access. So, with a little self-reflection, we understand where we stand in our relationships. By recognizing our intentions for what they are, we can change them to fit our grandest version of the greatest vision of Who We Are. If you have answered this question and are displeased with your answers, then it is very possible and very easy to simply have your desires rooted in a higher intention. If you realized that your desires had more to do with having then being, then just transform your intent to ‘know unconditional love’ or ‘experience compassion’.
After understanding our own intentions, we also have to recognize our boyfriend/girlfriend’s intentions as well. Identifying their wants, and having a REAL conversation about what they are, is essential in any healthy relationship. With this recognition, we can decide how to live out both intentions in a harmonious matter. By being ‘attuned’ to each other, we can be ‘in tune’ with each other. IF we decide to. This leads us to our other fundamental relationship question:
What do I choose to be in this relationship?
As always, the importance of Be Do Have influences everything, including our teenage love sagas. Understanding right from the beginning what you choose to be in the relationship WILL make life easier. Choosing to be compassion, empathy, joy, are all options. Your call. Your choice. Your happy ending.
Home is a four letter word. Representing a four walled structured. Built to withstand the four seasons. With (sometimes) four family members living under its roof.
And it can be ripped away from you in four seconds.
In an official June statement, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), reported that nearly every four seconds, someone is displaced from their home, their community, or their country. So that means that each day over 23,000 people each day flee their home in search of somewhere safe.
It’s not a reality that most of us are willing to face. But it’s very much a reality for more than 7.6 million new refugees in this year alone. Whether it be war, genocide, or rebel forces, the main cause of displacement is simply that millions across the globe don’t feel safe anymore.
And there is not an easy solution. The UNHCR has made their attempt at their solutions, and took their best shot at Voluntary Repatriation (returning to their homeland), Resettlement (finding a new country of temporary residence), and Local Integration (legalizing residency in the host country).
Yet still, with over 45.2 million refugees abroad, these solutions simply aren’t enough. We don’t need a solution that simply shifts people around, but a solution that actually addresses the causes of the problem itself.
In Neale’s ever appropriate style, When Everything Changes, Change Everything shows us that with so many people moving, shifting, and changing, we can’t just sit still on the sidelines any longer. We can’t just stay comfortable in our Old Definition of the World. What we need is a massive overhaul of our beliefs (and humanity itself) that let these hostile environments grow and survive.
If we want to help these people, and I mean really help these people, we need to change our definition of our most basic ethics. And we can start off with the concept of Just War, or Jus ad bellum (to give you an idea how long this has been a part of our dysfunctional belief system). Latin aside, Jus ad bellum is the justification of warfare IF warfare can be justified. Straight from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, war can be justified if the following conditions are met (with my scathing sarcasm):
1. Just Cause. Because, of course, a war must be fought for the right reasons, which could include ‘self-defense’ (fear of losing power) and ‘punishment for wrongs against the country’ (revenge).
2. Proper Authority to Declare War. Only if the authority is approved in the country’s constitution (assuming the document itself is not corrupt) can the country be legitimately engaged in warfare.
3. Right Intention. As long as a country has the right intention of its warfare, (even if it is against its own people) it can still be given the A-Okay.
4. Last Resort. When a country has exhausted every other option (except direct communication and conversation with the opposing party, of course).
5. Probability of Success. There must be a chance that the conflict has a resolution (and won’t lead to years upon years of civil war, genocide, millions of refugees fleeing the country…oh wait, too late on that one).
6. Proportionality. As long as the ‘good outweighs the bad’, (with the fighting government judging the scale), then the war is considered be worth it.
The top five nations of exodus – Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria – were all at one point considered to be a hot topic of foreign policy seminars. But, with debate through the UN, war in these countries became ‘justifiable’ at one point or another, especially seen with the case of Syria (whose refugee numbers begin to climb faster and faster). Within the international community, we just accepted that these countries had problems, had violence and we said fine. They are justified.
Unfortunately, that’s not even the worst part. We have even created justifications for the CONTINUATION OF WARFARE, known as the evil stepsister Jus in bello, which is accepted on the following terms:
1. Discrimination. As long as the right people are being punished, (and never the innocent villagers), war can continue.
2. Obey International Law on Weapon Usage. If the country is following code (set up by no one else but the UN itself…remember Syria’s usage of biological weapons?), war can continue.
3. Minimum usage of force and brutality. If a country uses the most peaceful warfare possible (and not grant itself massive amounts of power to make more destruction), war can continue.
Can we really live with these ridiculously outdated beliefs? Apparently we can, and apparently our governments want us to. The main focus of the United Nations IS to oversee international affairs. But monitoring can only go so far. When will the UN finally realize that they can solve the refugee problem by never giving it the conditions to happen in the first place?
Until we can stop living in our delusion that ruthless violence should be accepted anywhere, we will continue to have more people without somewhere to call home. Until we can live in a society where peace, compassion, and oneness are at the core of its belief system, we will continue to have more people trying to run away from suffering. Until we can be together living in a world where the love of thy neighbor is greater than the fear of thy neighbor, we will continue to have more people who are just as lost and confused with the purpose of life as we once were.
So as people’s lives are torn from right under them every four seconds, you CAN help with four little words. Believe in something different. Know that there IS a spiritual solution to every problem. That is the seed in which society will thrive. And in every four seconds, people will be running towards this new world.
When I first heard about the National Security Administration’s PRISM surveillance program, I thought it only extended to under covering the records of the phone giant Verizon. But, with a bit more investigation, it was also found that the ‘Big Nine’ Internet Networks (Yahoo, Google, Youtube, Facebook, Skype, AOL, Paltalk, Microsoft, and Apple) were infiltrated by PRISM’s backdoor access. And for many teenagers, this strikes VERY close to home. With the government having direct access to our messages, contacts, and even our GPS location, how will we teens react?
Last week, Neale brought up a very refreshing idea about the court order for Verizon to hand over their phone records to the NSA. The idea of total transparency is very uplifting, and is something that we should all aspire for in our own lives and relationships. Cultivating Trust, understanding, and total acceptance is a great way to pave our New Cultural Story.
Unfortunately, this idyllic transparency is not the first priority on Uncle Sam’s agenda. This action by the government and the NSA shows not a fear in us, but rather a fear in one of the most prized institutions of all history: our democracy. We may want to live in an open society – but clearly, our governments still don’t want us to. In an article from BBC, dated June 7th, 2013, it states that “the PRISM program has become a major contributor to the President’s daily intelligence briefing and accounts for almost one in seven intelligence reports.” Nearly 15% of President Barack Obama’s daily agenda has been entirely concealed from the American public. And it’s all about us.
Granted, this information really isn’t about us. It’s about our identity – our story, but it’s the choice (or lack thereof) behind this decision that is worth focusing our awareness on. As teenagers in the fine United States of America, one of the most valuable things we have is our freedom of choice. As noted in some of the responses, there is an extremely large gap between choice and coercion. This was pointed out quite eloquently by mewabe, as “Surveillance is the mode of operation of a POLICE STATE. Transparency is the way of life of a FREE PEOPLE.” The challenge here is not for citizens to create a transparent society, but for our ruling body to create one. If government is supposed to maintain the highest morality and social ideals for our country, then they need to set examples that push it towards openness and oneness – not the other way to secrecy and duplicity. We can choose to have a free and open society, but until our highest authority makes that decision, we will continue to live in this state of fear.
As the times keep changing, our most valued institutions see that their own values are challenged. We saw this earlier with the Religious Institutions, in the dramatic conflict of the Church and the Boy Scouts over sexual orientation (Speaking of rigidity, the Southern Baptist Convention has now overwhelmingly voted to denounce the Boy Scouts of America). Now, the same struggle reincarnates itself with the struggle of Government and Social Media. How many times have we heard of government promises, in the name of security and welfare, that have led to nothing but more dishonesty and less freedom? Even here, we see that giving the government more and more power over our own lives has led to making our own lives powerless. With control, comes power, and with power comes a large invested ego. With the nearly limitless freedom of the internet, the government is fueled by its need of control – and its basic desire to stay in control of those freedoms. Generally, the older the institution, the harder they will they will struggle to hold their power. Even if it means that we are a part of the wreckage.
This fear-sponsored action does not only happen in our domestic government, but also abroad, displaying that institutions across the world fear losing their power in a time of technological leaps and bounds. A June 12, 2013 article of The Christian Science Monitor has already confirmed that Canada, Great Britain, and the world’s largest democracy, India, has used surveillance technologies similar to PRISM to monitor their own citizens. There is also much speculation occurring over government surveillance in Turkey’s Gezi Park Protests, once again showing that these institutions have decided to be inflexible. We can only image how such surveillance can and could be used against the peaceful sit-in in Gezi Park, where it was police brutality that made the peaceful sit-in escalate into an all-out riot that’s affecting everyone from lawyers to the destitute. Why have direct communication when you can wiretap?
Maybe I’ve read George Orwell’s 1984 a few too many times for my own good. But as for Edward Snowden, the whistleblower behind the NSA’s PRISM, he did realize that he “did not want to live in a society that does these things…in a world where everything done is recorded.” But it doesn’t have to be this way. As the real use of a prism is to refract light to show the spectral colors, perhaps this PRISM’s greater purpose is to show the ‘true colors’ of our Old Cultural Story. We CAN create a society where the people do live freely – and the government is truly free of its burden for power. Will you see the light?