People must understand that they are neither as powerful as their fantasies, nor as powerless as their nightmares. There is a necessity to practice compassion, which flows outward, in a ripple effect, from each individual act.
You always have to figure out what your role in the system is. It’s very easy to be completely overwhelmed by a large, big, macro question like, “How do we affect what seems to be the world falling apart?” Most people can’t affect the question at that level of influence. And the worst thing to do is then to actually be paralyzed by one’s own powerlessness. So I would say the first thing everyone has to do is to understand they are not as powerful as they fantasize. Everybody from a person in the street all the way to whoever is the most powerful person on the planet today. You are not as powerful as you fantasize about, and you are not as powerlessness as your nightmares. Now what that helps do . . . everybody has to think about that; but what that helps a person understand is, “Oh, what is the real power I have to affect within my radar screen, within my environment, the world becoming a little better?” Not a lot better ‘cause that’s hubris. Not transforming the world, because people who try to transform the world wind up killing a lot of people even if they’re trying to transform the world in good ways. So it’s figuring out where you . . . we each can make a contribution. And that’s actually not small because, at least what my wisdom tradition teaches – but I think it’s true of all wisdom traditions – is each of us is a microcosm of the entire world; that one person is of infinite value. And that means that if you’re of infinite value . . . if you’re of infinite value, you are worth everything. And another person is worth infinite value. So when you affect, and upgrade, and enhance, and care for in a compassionate _________ one person, it does have a profound ripple effect. Now that’s not an excuse to escape from using our influence to maybe help two people, or 10 people, or affect, if we can, our businesses or our communities. It’s knowing your space; what you actually can affect; and then really being . . . It’s very, very . . . It’s very traditional being the very best person you can be in that space. And that’s hard, because that’s from when you come home in the evening after working a long day, and you walk into the house, and you wanna go see the mail first; but actually you maybe should say hello to your kids first; or maybe you should kiss your spouse or kiss your lover hello first before you do that; because if you don’t you create a kind of distortion and hurt which then, you know, carries over for the next 50 years. So it’s every single act. Sometimes I think of it this way. Imagine your life as a giant scale . . . you know one’s own life as a giant scale. And every single act from the smallest to the grandest tips the scale either towards life and compassion or a little bit away. Now I know murdering someone really takes it way; and being able to feed a million people really moves it towards life; but every single act tips the scale. And I think we all need to, in our own lives first, become a little bit more evolved and conscious about the power of individual acts.Recorded on: 8/15/07