Now we know

Do you know that feeling when you wake up from a deep sleep, and you are a bit annoyed because you actually just want to continue sleeping, but it now seems impossible? You keep your eyes closed, but all your other senses are now switched on and on full alert. You can hear and smell and taste and feel. You are aware. You become aware of your environment. You can hear the voices of other people in the house. You can hear people talking, and your attention goes there, and soon your mind becomes involved, and you latch onto the conversation. Depending on the topic under discussion and how strongly you feel about it, you may even become so worked up that you get up and join the conversation. If it involves you directly, you will most definitely join the conversation to state your case. By then, you are fully awake, and going back to sleep is impossible.

That, in a nutshell, is what is happening on the planet right now. Humanity is waking up. And thanks to the media and social media we can hear voices coming from even the farthest corners of the planet. Whether it is about racism and riots in America or people starving in Venezuela or climate change, we are finally realising that we all share one planet and that we can no longer avoid these topics. Although we are not all triggered by the same topic, and even though it will take a specific sound or noise to which we are sensitive to wake us up, wake us up it will. Once we become aware of something, our attention goes there. The interesting thing about becoming aware is that we cannot undo it. We can try to ignore a particular sound or a specific topic, but we cannot undo our awareness of it. In fact, the more we try not to hear it, the more we will become aware of it.

There are certain topics and issues on the planet that we can no longer ignore. The curtains have been drawn back, the light is shining on every corner of our human existence, and the conversations are in full swing. It is impossible to roll over onto our other side and to keep our eyes tightly shut, while hoping that it will soon all quiet down again, so that we can continue sleeping.

Some may argue that we have seen this movie before. We have seen people rioting and looting before. The debate on racism is not new. We have experienced the crash of the financial markets before. The problems of poverty and pollution have been around for a long time. We may try to reassure ourselves to just watch this space, because we know from experience that, at some stage, the debate will subside and the media’s attention will move on to other issues; things will return to normal and we can continue with our lives. It will be business as usual.

Not this time.

Why? Because our favourite escape route of rationalizing everything won’t cut it anymore. Over time, we have become masters of finding an explanation and justifying why things are a certain way by using the analytical mind. We have always applied logic and reason to explain everything and to find solutions. We have gotten away with this for so long because, for the most part, we have managed to keep our hearts out of it. We have focused on the facts. We have endlessly discussed and debated the facts. We have consulted the experts and found the latest statistics, and turned the burning issues of racism and poverty and climate change into academic conversations. We have remained anchored in our logical mind, while steering clear of any emotional evolvement. We have talked about people not with them. We have become adept at dehumanizing the problem. We have closed our hearts. We have bought into the idea that some of us are lesser beings, and that it is therefore useful if we allow the great mind to neatly sort us into ‘us’ and ‘them’. And we have even appointed politicians to remind us to which side we actually belong. We then conclude that the problem has been solved, so that we can roll over and continue sleeping.

Not this time.

When we look at each other with the eyes of the heart, things change. This is not about racism or poverty all over again. This is not about an issue. This is about human beings. This is about us. This is the dawning of a new era on the planet. After eons of doing the most horrible things to each other, the time has come for us to wake up from the nightmare, and to reconnect with one another’s heart, and no longer to focus on the exterior. There is a loving heart beating in all of us, and that heart speaks a language we can all understand. It is our mother tongue. It is the language of love. For too long, we have focused on the wrong things. For too long, we have allowed ourselves to become distracted.

“I can’t breathe” may just be the wake-up call we needed to start healing. It calls on all of us to have the compassion and the humbleness to say to each other: “I’m sorry. I didn’t know, but because I can now see your heart, I now know. Please forgive me.”

As the Dalai Lama reminds us: “All suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction.”

No more ignorance.

“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance,” said Benjamin Franklin.

Now we know.