The World Is Better Than We Think

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Do you feel like the world’s gone crazy?harlequin world

It certainly seems that way, doesn’t it? But another part of the picture is the outpouring of love we’re seeing. The coming together in a common cause. It shows how much we actually care.

There’s a lot of good if you look for it:

Though we’ve been told otherwise, crime in the U.S. is at an all-time low. Has actually been dropping for many years, per the FBI.

The Humane League reports that hundreds of restaurants and food purveyors across the U.S. have been working together to make food production less cruel to animals.

Though we don’t know what’s going to happen over the next few years here in the U.S., hundreds of countries are working to fix the climate change problem.

The World Giving Index records that at least twenty-five percent of the adult world population gives charitably and extends a helping hand, even to strangers.

The World Health Organization reports that half as many people die of starvation or related issues than some decades ago and we can expect these numbers to continue to go down.

According to the Homeland Security Research Program, there are fewer deaths attributable to war than at any time in history.

These are just a few examples that show that the world is better than we think. If we’re not aware of these things, it’s because we’re told too much about what’s wrong and not enough about what’s right or getting better.

But it’s in our power to change that. Not by sticking our heads in the sand, but by increasing our field of vision. What does that mean, you ask?

The poet Edwin Markham put it beautifully in his famous epigram, Outwitted:

He drew a circle that shut me out–
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

EdwinMarkham

As I wrote in this post, our picture of the world changes drastically when we draw a circle of attention large enough to include everything: The bad, the indifferent, but also all the good. We realize that even now:

There’s enough beauty, enough love, enough joy in the world to make us happy. 

Paying attention mostly to what is troubling isn’t actually being realistic; it’s being negatively biased. When we look at the whole picture we find that in addition to life’s pain and frustration there is stunning beauty, goodness, and honesty.

The most realistic way to see the world is “warts and all”.

Often times, the warts get all our attention. For us to also notice the good around us is not escapist or fantasy because goodness is a big part of our daily lives. The truth about the world is that it is dynamic—light, dark, black, white, and every shade and hue in between.

When we begin to notice everything, we see the good in addition to life’s pain and frustration, helping us be happier. And when we’re happy, we are not the only ones who benefit because, as human beings, we naturally like to pay it forward.

We enter a feedback loop: We notice the good around us and naturally contribute goodness to the world, feeling and creating happiness along the way. When we notice that the world is better than we thought, we almost unwittingly, become change agents who make the world better than it was.

Image by NASA

As we cultivate an eye for the good around us, we can’t help but discover that the world is better than we think. Developing an eye for the good in the world isn’t in any way like putting on rose-colored glasses or positive thinking because it does not deliver a false happy picture of the world. Instead, it creates a more accurate picture because everything is being noticed.

For example, noticing the good around you does not ask you to ignore what’s going on in our country right now. It’s only asking that you also give your attention to the good that is so abundant.

Once you begin to look for it, you’re almost surprised by how much beauty and goodness that had previously escaped your notice is right under your nose.

We have our disagreements, especially right now. And when we do, we don’t like each other very much.

But most of us are good people as these numbers show: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 over 60 million people in the United States, alone, did good by volunteering. That is roughly twenty-five percent of our adult population; you are likely one of them.RoR 2015 Cover final final for Nook

As I wrote in The World Is Better Than You Think, to the observant, it becomes obvious that we are good every single day. Because without our—without your—goodness, integrity, and cooperation, society as we know it would grind to a halt (it actually would never have gotten off the ground in the first place). Without our social contract of trust and cooperation, even a simple thing like buying cookies at the bakery would be a complicated endeavor of having to clutch our wallets, count the change, look in the bag to count the cookies. And without our social contract of trust, using our debit and credit cards, where would we even start?

Or, imagine dropping your children off at daycare.

Without trusting in the basic goodness of humanity, there’d be no way you could do it. It is true, on occasion something awful happens, but most of the time things go well between us human beings—we’re fair, we’re honest, we come through, we are worthy of each other’s trust. And most of the bad news with which we are bombarded is just there to titillate us so we watch the ads in between. Though there are some news sources that deliver it straight and are of tremendous use in times like these.

Especially now, let’s listen to more than our fears, our alarm and worry. When we do, we can hear our loving hearts beat with undying hope and faith in life and our future. When we expand our field of vision we can see that, right now…

…in uncountable interactions, every day, we do the right thing with total integrity.
That’s what makes the world go round: the countless actions we take and transactions we make, in good faith, with honesty and integrity, and very often with love.

No amount of difference can cancel out what we can—and do—accomplish together and what we have in common: the undeniable fact of our kinship. We don’t always do right. We make mistakes, go down a dark path. We become divided. But even so, we are always kin, to each other and to all of life. A quick comparison of the DNA of all life on earth shows us the proof.

And in those in which goodness seems buried, well-placed love can tap its well. Some are out of reach of our love. We can handle it. We’re strong enough. Resilient enough. Because we’re life. And life is one tough cookie.
We all have horns, but I reckon, we need something to hang our halos on.