How (Not) to Change the World.

{Photo: Dorothea Lange ~ Migrant Mother, 1936}

 

According to real time statistics, there are currently over seven billion people inhabiting this planet… and that number is rapidly rising.

If the thought of overpopulation causes already a tight feeling in your chest combined with sweaty hands and the first stages of a panic attack you probably shouldn’t click on this worldometer.

We have created 196 self-governing political entities – known as states or countries. This figure does not include nations or ethnic groups that are stateless (such as Kurds, Roma or Nubians, to name but a few), refugee camps or dozens of other territories that don’t quite fit into the criteria of statehood.

Around 2.5 billion people presently live on less than US $2 a day, and 1.3 billion have a daily income of no more than US $1.25. Combining these two figures, a total of 3.8 billion people have to live in poverty—that is 54% of the world’s population.

Given these heart-wrenching iniquities, mankind has consoled itself with roughly 730 more or less different religious views, which can be further subdivided into 3,200 sects, in addition to millions of personal spiritual beliefs and philosophical standpoints. These divisions have led to a death toll of nearly one billion people in religious wars.

Our togetherness is shaped and constructed through various positive, neutral and negative forms of interconnectivity that our conscious as well as unconscious ego often tends to neglect.

In other words, we ironically indulge in and strive for the blossoming of our very own individuality while remaining gruesomely addicted to any kind of love, recognition or connectedness. This is not to say that being addicted to love is necessarily the cause of all problems, as long as we opt for the giving and not receiving end.

While feeling lost in these schizophrenic mindsets about the meaning of love, we have created global, regional and domestic territories in addition to our very own personal boundaries.

In doing so, we strive to perfect our gregarious sense of community and lifestyles while polishing our specialness through the exclusion and marginalization of the other—who, in fact, is more similar to us than any identical twin as we all share the exact same fear: Death.

Hence, we fight wars, make love (or the other way around), incessantly exploit the earth’s manifold resources, speak approximately 6,600 different languages, compose magnificent songs, write captivating books, overcome chronic diseases, cause pain, relieve pain, ignore and combat poverty, take astounding photographs, make entertaining movies, narrate our daily stories in newspapers, mass rape and torture our species, prepare lifesaving food, get lost in rushes of adrenaline, dance until our feet hurt, sleep in countless positions, and raise our babies in a world of constantly contested sets of values that our ancestors already wrestled with over and over again.

And then, in the midst of this simultaneously miraculous and horrific feast, there is this one essential question that keeps pressing so hard on our chests that it burns through all layers of skin and deep into the flesh of our hearts:

What’s the point of it all?

There are probably no less than a zillion answers. Nihilism would imply that we have already lost a battle we never started to fight. So what else remains?

I argue: Let us not get lost in the pure rationality of vocabularies that are only going to be published in boring books! Rather, join me in my discovery of change as the purpose of it all.

This is what we owe to the 54% who make our lifestyles — the privileged ones — seem so convenient. If you are one of the few who won the lottery in ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’ and can enjoy the momentum of self-actualization but still feel lost in the purpose of it all – let me remind you of Heraclitus thought:

The only constant is change. Thus, Change—not the Constant—is our anchor.

Frankly, if it were the other way around, wouldn’t life be utterly boring, monotonous and feel like a ride on an assembly line conveyor belt? I’d rather go for the roller coaster ride and accept that there are no ups without downs.

Yet, for 54% life remains mainly a yawning chasm and I strongly feel it is our responsibility to change the rhythm of that song. And if that’s the purpose of it all I am happy to compose a new melody together with you all and rewrite the refrain.

Change, however, is often feared, sidelined, gently placed on a substitutes bench, or hidden in the dense undergrowth of our daily woes.

No doubt, change can be a very uncomfortable companion. It can throw overboard what we took for granted. It can challenge the way we view the world, our lives, and ourselves. It can imply that we have to share our fortunes, our successes and our loved ones. Change gently asks us to dedicate everything we do to a higher purpose as opposed to thrilling our egos with short-lived ecstasy.

 

 

The reason change requires an enormous amount of time is that it has to come from within. It necessitates careful cultivation within governments or governing bodies, communities, districts, neighborhoods, families, and ourselves.

This may sound like the world should be a never-ending corny Austrian Heimatfilm. Honestly, I never was and never will be into campfire songs, giving hugs to or holding hands with strangers, or mass camping to celebrate a community sense of self-expression such as “Burning Man” (although I admire all my friends who are).

Still, there is something about Gandhi’s hackneyed but famous message:

 

 

So here comes the most difficult part: In order to make that change happen, it has to be mainly felt and not just written.

 

*****

 

More Change-Making: 

>> The Recycled Orchestra: Music made from trash.

>> A culture of torture: Stop Female Genital Mutilation.

 {Walk the talk.}

 

 

 

Simone Datzberger

Simone Datzberger

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!” (Alice in Wonderland). I dedicate my life to puzzles. Be it in my work as a researcher in which I try to break down the complexities inherent in peace-building and development processes or during my yoga classes when my mind starts to question the blurring boundaries between the real and seemingly unreal. I like to socialize around the world and find pleasure in discovering the new in the old and the old in the new. Every single second and encounter can be a new source of inspiration. Life can keep you insanely busy. So yes, I stress – therefore I yoga. Connect with me on Twitter.


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