We forget that despite the superficial differences between us, people are equal in their basic wish for peace and happiness. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This is an interesting way of wording this sentiment. If we remember that today’s quote is not from a native English speaker, it makes a little more sense. We can restate this quote as “We are all the same, in that we all want peace and we all want happiness.”
Well, at least nearly all of us. There are some people who are suffering from various physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional maladies who are not all that interested in peace, or who have an interest in causing suffering in others. But I believe the rest of us are.
But regardless of the color of our skin, hair, or clothes, we are the same inside. We have the same basic wants and needs. We may chose different paths in our attempts to achieve these goals, but we’re trying to get to the same place.
Why are the similarities between all of us important?
Think about that for a moment. How silly have we become that I actually have to ask that question? Life has become, in my opinion, far more divisive than inclusive. We see ads that urge us to shun those who don’t use the product being advertised.
We have politicians focusing on what is different between “us” and “them”, ie the people who they feel will vote for them and those who will vote against them. It can be kind of depressing. Yes, it’s been like that for ages, but there had been some glimmers of hope, but they’re largely gone.
At one point in my lifetime, there were two camps in the world, the Communists and everyone else. When the Soviet Union fell, there was great hope that humanity could start to heal from that great divide. We hoped that peace could become more than just a dream, and happiness could extend into the most forlorn corners of the world.
But other artificial divisions have sprung up, both at the international level, and within countries all around the world. Life, like tides, has its ebbs and flows. I hope that we can begin to build on our successes and help humanity see (and seize) what opportunities exist.
Where can I apply this in my life?
While few, if any, of us have influence on the world stage, we can always start working on things locally. How about in your family or your circle of friends? How do we treat them? Yes, let’s start with ourselves. We should do that before we start to tell others how to behave, right? Do you treat them like they are equally interested and worthy of peace and happiness?
Even among groups of people who agree on our common goals, there are frequently arguments over the best way to achieve them. Indeed, it has been my experience that people tend to focus more over the proper-ness of the path, rather than agreeing on the proper-ness of the destination.
So, in your opinion, what is the best path to peace in your family or within your circle of friends? Odds are, despite some friction, you already have a pretty good idea as to what does or does not work in those situations, right?
Now, for something a little more difficult. How do you work on happiness within your family or your circle of friends? For this one, the friends might be the easier task, as you are probably only together with them for purposes of your common thoughts on happiness.
But what happens if you are getting together for a barbecue in the back yard, and there’s a sporting event on the radio. Even worse, one of your friends is rooting for the other team! Oh no! Peace disturbed. Happiness diminished!
Can you behave like a responsible adult, and allow them to root for the other team, as silly as that may seem? Sadly, there are some who could not. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a good-natured rivalry. But it has to stop when it threatens to breach the peace or destroy the happiness, right?
That doesn’t mean we have to agree with their manner or path of pursuit of their version of peace and happiness. At times we might find ourselves having to take a stand against them. But the first step should always be to discuss and persuade, right?
As long as we remember to recognize those other people, even in our family or circle of friends, as people first, we should have no problems. It seems to only become a problem when we start thinking of the other person as something less than human.
Then it is easier to ignore their humanity, and therefore our common bond. It also becomes easier to treat them poorly and deny them their basic needs for peace and happiness. Look at the worst of human history and see if you come to a different conclusion.
Once you’ve had some practice working in your family and circle of friends on respecting their pursuit of happiness and peace, perhaps you’re ready to try slightly larger groups of people. Just don’t walk into a sports stadium expecting to make everyone love and respect each-other. At least not on game day, right?