Einstein once said that the most important question we could ask of ourselves is the following, “Is the universe a friendly place?” Our answer helps us to decide how we live our lives. Do we spend our energies protecting ourselves against enemies real or imagined, or do we help make our universe friendly through collaboration, compassion and empathy?
Unfortunately, of late, the news has been filled with acts of violence that are often unimaginable. You would hope that history would not repeat itself, but it often feels that we are re-entering the dark ages.
It certainly feels that fear has become one of the constants in our society. The more we fear the less we trust ourselves and others. Yes, it makes sense to be aware of possible dangers that could impact our lives, but it also makes sense to not let go of what makes life worthwhile. We need to feel hopeful about life and what it has to offer, otherwise we can become anxious or depressed.
You might be thinking, “How do I do that when I’m surrounded with bad news and people who love to share it?” Well, it’s not easy, but it is possible. I have some people who can spend an entire conversation inundating me with how many things are wrong with the government, the economy, the neighbors, their weight and their relationships. By the time I get off the phone I want to jump off a bridge. Thank God, they are few and far between, but I am making a conscious effort this year to avoid them as much as possible. It’s not easy if it’s your parents or mate, or someone very close to you. But they will get tired of their lamenting if you simply don’t show a lot of interest. My ex-husband was a verbal vampire. When you finished a conversation with him, you knew you needed a transfusion. My mother had her Ph.D in pessimism. I finally figured out that if I simply countered with “Oh well, what can you do”? , they got tired of trying to rope me into their den of negativity.
It also makes sense to have people in your life that love good news or who are actively involved in altruistic activities. Spend some time with family or friends sharing those things that are going right in your life or the lives of others. Research has shown that even watching someone help a disadvantaged person influences our mood and our immune system. Gandhi made the following statement often “ You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. I think if we could embrace this philosophy our lives would be so much better.