I am someone who longs for world peace. Perhaps you are, too. But every single day our world spends more than $4 billion on war. The last hundred years have been by far the bloodiest in human history.
I support human rights and human dignity. I want every child to grow up healthy and strong. No doubt you do, too. But today, like every day, 20,000 children will die of hunger and poverty. Even in the world's wealthiest country, the U.S., nearly 25 percent of children live below the poverty line.
I believe in upholding the brotherhood and sisterhood of all people. I believe in the inherent worth of every human being. But we live in a time of grotesque inequalities. There are shoe companies who pay famous athletes $20 million to endorse their shoes, while paying their workers only 20 cents an hour to make them. The CEOs of some companies make more money in an hour than many of the company's employees make in a year.
Many of the world's spiritual traditions teach that inner peace is found when you love the world as it is, rather than faulting it for not living up to your expectations. But our addictions are not only damaging our spirits, they are also causing irreparable harm to the biosphere and to humanity's future.
I believe in holding a positive attitude toward life. But the rate at which forests are disappearing, coral reefs are deteriorating, the arctic ice cap is melting, and species are going extinct is undermining the capacity of the earth to support human life.
I draw strength from my kinship with animals. Some of my best friends have had four legs. Perhaps you, too, have had a relationship with an animal that has enriched you as a human being. But today, almost all of our meat and dairy products come from animals raised under conditions of horrific cruelty.
There are so many kinds of pain and loss in our times. There is illness and financial stress, there is growing unemployment and homelessness, there are oil spills and terrorists. It can seem that our little flickering candles of faith are no match for the hurricane winds of destruction and despair the world can so relentlessly blow our way. There are things happening in our world today that must make the angels weep.
Here's what I believe. If you are going to face the suffering and destruction of life, and if you want to find a way to be effective and positive in response, you must also be open to the life affirming powers of creativity and joy.
It can sometimes seem that we are on a planetary death march, and yet we are also living in an age of miracles. Some are so common we often take them for granted. There is the miracle of color and the miracle of music. There is the miracle of tears and the miracle of laughter. There is the miracle of breathing and the miracle of sunsets. There is the miracle of people continuing to strive for a happier world even in the face of devastation and grief.
At this very moment, people are learning new ways to communicate, to understand each other, and to resolve conflicts. Right now, people are learning to read, while others are writing poetry, and others are dancing and singing. With every breath you take, relationships are growing, new health-giving practices are being discovered, ancient feuds are being overcome, and people are finding ways to restore their connections to the living earth. At this moment, as in every moment, ever growing numbers of people are working for a better world for themselves and for all children, now and yet to come.
We are not done. Our despair is not meant to destroy us but to awaken new life in us. Our wounds can give us depth, empathy and understanding. Our hardships can be places where we meet others and grow.
Yes, there is ugliness, which is why it matters when we bring beauty. Yes, there is great suffering, so let us live with great compassion.
This is what I have to say at this time in history. There are forces at work in the human psyche that are destructive and unconscious. And yet there is also something in us that is wondrous, that touches the infinite and belongs to the sacred.
Let us stand for this. Our dreams and prayers are rooted in something greater than the forces of death. Our grief and fury at the world's brutalities are part of our awakening. There is something mysterious taking place in this world that is part of our healing.
With all its delusions and broken dreams, our world today is still a place where our hearts can meet and grow wings. There is horror and agony here, yes, and it is at times overwhelming. But there are also countless opportunities for the illumination of beauty and the awakening of love.
We are not done. There are sources of joy here, and we are here to protect them and cherish them.
We are not done. We can still make our lives into works of art. We can still create thriving, just and sustainable ways of life.
Bitter winds are howling. Let them howl. We can shelter each other and put our little flames together. Maybe we will yet find that the pain we feared would destroy us rather brings us back to what gives us life.
We are here to live, not merely survive. We are here to fully express and celebrate the gifts we each have to give to the world, and to receive the gifts that others have to give to us, as well.
Let us touch with love the inevitable suffering in our lives, and in the lives of those we meet. Let us tend with tender mercy that which is dying in us and in our world. And let us welcome the new life dawning in each of our souls.
We who are alive, with breath in our bodies and love in our hearts, have so very much to be thankful for. In all that takes place over the course of our lives, may we never lose track of our capacity for joy. And may we never forget the power of the choices we make.
For practical and down to earth steps you can take to live in accord with the values expressed here, read John Robbins' newest book, The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less. For more information about the author, please visit his website.