Sometimes it all feels pretty hopeless. The world, according to how it is presented to us every minute of every day makes it seem as if we are living at the worst time of humanity’s existence! Every news report is about murder, mayhem and misery. Maybe if you are lucky there may be a short story of hope at the end of a news segment, but, chances are, the poor brain is so flooded by the fight or flight chemicals of adrenaline and noradrenaline, that chances are that snippet of good news literally goes in one ear and out the other!
I am overwhelmed by the state of the environment and how uncaring we have been to this living, breathing planet and I wonder how carrying around a bag full of special bamboo TRAVEL cups and metal straws is really going to help?
And actually………… question if it’s worth risking looking like a wanna-be-yuppy, tree-hugger because will this really matter in the grand scheme of things?
The riots springing up all over the roads I need to travel on to get to places, make me feel that things really are unravelling. The food I am eating is apparently so full of toxins and poisons that I will be an Outlier to escape getting some kind of chronic illness or disease. So my food is not safe, my immediate environment is not safe, the earth is teetering on oblivion. Added to that terrorists are apparently running around bombing or shooting innocent people all over the world. But is this the full picture? Statistically – and yes all stats need to be looked at within a context – but you have to admit the following is most interesting and worth thinking about: on US soil, 3172 people died from terrorism in the last 20 years. That is and average of 159 people per year. In the US you are 50 times more at risk of being killed by a drunk person – car accidents or homicide. (Factfulness, H. Gosling pg 121). So if this is a tiny statistic that challenges the daily deluge of bad news, perhaps it worth looking a bit deeper at the dynamics of things happening around me?
Yet another common narrative is: sharks eat people therefore swimming in the sea is a risk. Well, the numbers say: 2 people are killed annually, worldwide, by sharks. Consider how many people use the ocean every day all around the world. Yet did you know that 220 people are killed annually worldwide by elephant? Think of the media portrayal of sharks and elephants i.e. Dumbo vs. Jaws, and who are you more afraid of? Read more about how these narratives grow in the insightful books: Freakanomics. Dubner & Levitt
The media puts the fear in me when I see horrific visuals of planes that have crashed. Yes, they are horrific and the loss of lives is tragic – that can never be denied. But in my mind, fed by images and news reports, cause me heart-palpitations and checking my will as I say prayers and blessings on everything from the wings, wheels, engines and myself for my safe return each time I book a flight!
Yet I drive on my road every day and dodge taxi’s, potholes, log trucks and crazy drivers…… My chances of being killed by car accident are far greater than by plane crash. My special angel-friend was killed on our roads a few years ago and yet every time I fly I have anxiety. Where is the logic?
I am told cancer stalks everyone and aided and abetted by Big Pharma. Rapists, murders and robbers are out to get me. How can I, anyone, survive this onslaught of insults on the psyche! Threat and risk around every corner! But…. Is this the truth? Or just part of the truth…..
Overwhelming! News feeds me my daily diet of horror and fear and keeps alive the panic within me. Fear of everything, of everyone. And if I am not getting it from my few minutes of news reports every day, then I am sure to have my fill on whatever social media platform I am on. And if it is not being topped up with security and crime reports then it is the images of a few people living the life and results in me feeling why I am so unlucky in life, destined for a fear-ridden, hard-working life!
Yet…… yet….. and….
This is not the truth.
Well it is not the whole truth. There is so much more. There are amazing parts of the story that are left out every minute of every day. And I make a concerted effort to go out and to find these incredible stories of humanity that are overlooked. I am not an optimist – that word makes me sound naïve and ignorant, two things I have been accused of being over the years! I have found a new word for me…. I am a POSSIBILIST, a name I have borrowed indefinitely from Author Hans Gosling. I believe in the possibility of humanity. I am not alone in this mind-set, no……. there are thousands of people and movements and groups who seek out and expose just how remarkable our planet and her inhabitants are. Yes, there is still a lot of bad stuff happening and much needs to change.
However, there is a lot of progress and we are not always aware of this progress…… According to the Steven Pinker the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature, we are living in the most peaceful time of all of humanity’s history. (I know, just one book, but there are others out there….find them!)
I mean just stop for a minute and really think about that! The news makes us believe that the world is more violent than it has ever been, but is it? Think about how the history of mankind has been fraught with group raids, wars, pillaging villages, lawlessness, duels in the city centre, shoot-outs in dusty streets.
Or how many of us think that we are living in a time that poverty is growing? According to Factfulness and the statistics on Gapminder.org here is something I found intriguing: in 1800, 85% of the human population lived in abject poverty. What do you think that number is today? 9%! Don’t believe it? Well go and look at the numbers, do the research. But please, be informed, have an educated answer or at least a reasonable theory and understanding. We have no excuse today to not know. We have information at our finger tips. The question is who do you trust? What news do you trust? Begin a journey of exploration and be excited about what you may find out about our world and her people. I invite you…..
The key here is à AMBIVELENCE. This is the foundation of maturity and wisdom. It is about being able to hold 2 seemingly opposite or contrary ideas at the same time and learn to be ok with that. It is being able to say “Yes, there is still bad stuff that happens and there is a lot that needs to be done” at the same time as being able to say “but wow there is some amazing progress that has been made, or is being made”. Being Ambivalent is also about being uncertain, unsure and hesitant and the reason that this is a good thing is because it means we are open to hear new ideas, different theories and accept that ideas and information changes.
When we fail to see the progress we lose all hope in humanity and the possibility for ourselves and our remarkable planet. When we take on the concept of possibility, we invite the beauty and wonder in. We awaken our interest and curiosity. And the net result is we do not feel so hopeless and disempowered, so helpless.
And if I have a sense of AWE and wonder I actually rebalance my own brain chemistry too! Meaning: a release of oxytocin (see previous article “All We Need is Love Baby” on www.dominiquegarnett.co.za), less illness, more wellness….. just saying…. POSSIBILITIES are endless!!!!
There are so many resources out there but here are a few that are easy to read or listen to. Enjoy….
- Freakanomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
- David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
- Factfulness by Hans Gosling
- Radical Remission by Kelly Turner
- The Better Angels of Our Nature: History of Violence and Humanity by Steven Pinker
To listen to:
- Revisionist History Podcast
- Freakanomics Podcast
- Rich Roll Podcast