On 23 May, I heard the news from the night before of the bomb attack at Manchester Arena after a concert by Ariana Grande. That tragedy and the more recent London Bridge and Borough Market attacks were heartbreaking. Yet all this unrelenting news about acts of terrorism and violence is desensitizing us towards the horror of the lives lost.
A couple days ago, my friends and I were talking about the state of the world and how there seems to be so much violence around us, although we are living in the most peaceful period in global history. Some of us believe that the world is getting better, while others believe that it is becoming worse, leading to an interesting discussion on our planet and its future.
Is conflict and violence the norm? Will we ever see a conflict-free world?
History provides a testament that conflict is as old as humanity itself. Human existence has had a bloody past. Innumerable lives have been lost in wars over territory, race, religion, ideology, and greed. We have incredibly complex and powerful minds, and I believe we use our minds to create our own reality. Everything that we see around us, we have created. The good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly; all was once created in our minds before it was manifested in reality.
If humanity can conquer land, sea, sky, and even the moon and other planets, and we can obtain any information at the click of a button, surely we can also make inroads into a conflict-free world?
External conflict is nothing but a reflection of internal conflict. Sadly, we are constantly at war with our inner selves. We are in conflict with our desires, our values, our projections, our ideologies, our belief systems, and our expectations. These inner conflicts agitate the mind, and an agitated mind is the cause of external conflict. The answer to questions such as “why there are so many conflicts in the world?” and “will they ever end?” therefore lies within us.
If we desire a conflict-free world, we need to establish a conflict-free mind. A mind that is at peace, is a mind free from agitation and disharmony. A mind centered and connected is one that understands that divisions based on caste, creed, color, and nationality are all just creations of the mind. The duty to reduce conflict, violence, and terrorism therefore lies with us, we need to change our thinking habits. Our thoughts, words, and actions will determine the kind of world we live in. With every thought we think, every word we speak, and every act we undertake, we are partaking in the creation or destruction of our world.
Negative events put us in a state of fear, and irresponsible media outlets add to that fear. We feel divided and conflicted. We allow ourselves to be swayed by competing ideologies that come blasting in via various information channels. We are in a constant state of distraction and agitation. We believe what we see and what we hear. We allow ourselves to be influenced by the outside world to the extent that we don’t even acknowledge our inner world. But it is in the inner world that creation happens.
We need a mind free from fear and free from constant thoughts of “not-enoughness:” not good enough, not rich enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not educated enough, and so on. Allowing fear to exist in our minds and barring the truth have partitioned us into different factions that cannot be reconciled. If I am right, someone else is wrong; if I win, someone else needs to lose. The Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest has permeated our psyche and too many feel that their survival is based on the destruction of another.
Terrorists and perpetrators of political and/or religious violence lack self-confidence, self-love, and self-empathy and therefore look for validation from outside. If we don’t get what we are looking for, we become angry and when someone comes along promising us acceptance, belonging, and love, we feel validated. We feel accepted and welcome, but reject the world outside of our group, and then it becomes a question of us against them.
If only the strong can survive, I need to show strength. And by wanting to appear strong, we forget that the only thing that matters is humanity. We forget to see the interconnectedness of all living beings. By believing in territorial, racial, ideological, and physical boundaries, we make ourselves smaller than we really are, and in our smallness we create conflicts of mind and body.
One way we can contribute to dimishing conflict is by meditating on love, peace, and forgiveness—fogiving ourselves and others. We need to understand that a person who causes pain is coming from a lot of pain. That person is looking for an outlet and the only way they know how to numb their pain is by losing or distracting their sense of self via drugs, alcohol, brainwashing, or fanaticism. These people need our empathy, but if we can only give our wrath and hatred, this becomes a vicious cycle of destruction of human lives and human spirit.
The pain of losing someone to an act of terrorism is unfathomable. And even though we might be miles away, we are all in a state of shock and pain as we are all connected. As long as there is pain and suffering anywhere in the world, we will all continue to suffer.
Thus, each of us has a moral obligation to create a brave new world. Our world is technologically advanced, yet we have some way to go in terms of psychological and moral advancement. We need to live in a world in which we see ourselves for who we really are. The sooner we start looking at ourselves and erase the seeds of violence, the sooner we can start creating a world that we really desire. A world where there is hope, love, compassion, empathy, and forgiveness.