“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
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We experience what we express. If we wish to increase love in the world, it’s up to us to bring it.
It was the 16th century Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli who coined the term: “the end justifies the means.” He championed power as an end in itself and argued that the means used to achieve it are immaterial. A modern interpretation might be “winning, no matter what the cost.”
As we witness the accumulating costs of this strategy in the world today, we may come to the point of saying, “Enough. It’s time for fundamental change.” And we could describe that change with a rework of Machiavelli’s statement into “the means determine the end.”
It’s obvious to every chef that the ingredients they use affects taste. Substituting salt for sugar will make the cake taste different! What prohibits us from seeing this simple truth, for instance, when it comes to our international relationships? The eight-year Iraq war is reported to have cost 1.1 trillion 1 dollars although that number is often contested and amended, higher or lower depending on the analyst and their political leanings.
Considering the results – which includes inspiring a whole new generation of vengeance seeking terrorists – one might ask what this money could have achieved had it simply been given to the Iraqi people? Instead of bombing their homes and cities and killing their children, what if we had just given them a trillion dollars? It’s a stunning thought.
Outlandish ideas like this are never taken seriously. Similarly, insane ideas like fighting for peace are rarely questioned. To simplify the issue, imagine proposing that turning a green wall blue could be achieved by applying more green paint. Or, disputing the idea that a hungry person would benefit from food!
What blinds us to simple truths? Our own brilliance. We are blinded by the light of our self-illuminated human minds. Human cleverness is impressive… until one looks at side effects and long-term consequences. If you remember the movie, The Graduate, you may also recall a piece of cryptic wisdom offered young Benjamin by a family friend: “Plastic.” 2 The reference was to a profitable product worth investing in early. Good idea. But, today, “Evidence is mounting that the chemical building blocks that make plastics so versatile are the same components that might harm people and the environment. And its production and disposal contribute to an array of environmental problems.”
The means determine the end. If we shift to that fundamental belief, we would obviously evaluate every “good idea” to see if it would remain good, generations down the line. “Many people are familiar with the Seventh Generation philosophy commonly credited to the Iroquois Confederacy but practiced by many Native nations. The Seventh Generation philosophy mandated that tribal decision makers consider the effects of their actions and decisions for descendants seven generations into the future. There was a clear understanding that everything we do has consequences for something and someone else, reminding us that we are all ultimately connected to creation.”
Indeed, we are all connected to creation … and we are creators. We create every moment of every day in some way. Imagine if we took this long view and mediated our creativity with a sobering vision of long-term implications. It’s likely we would stop doing some things, do other things differently, and invent new strategies with inherent value and little contrary damage.
Blinded by the light? Perhaps we have been. But here’s a simple remedy. Instead of shining light in each other’s eyes, competing to see who can be the most impressive human, we could shine light on the path forward, to illuminate a future created one considerate step at a time. Who could do this? Anyone who comes to understand that we do experience what we express and understands that if we care about the world changing in positive ways then we must bring the required change through the way we choose to live.
We may dream of becoming more enlightened but what really matters is to be “enlightening,” to light up our lives and the world around us with the brilliance – not of our disconnected human minds – but with the Divine light that shines through all creation. We have the capacity to receive and transmit and herein lies a great promise for our world.