We are the world. You and I. How we treat each other; with respect or hatred, how we work things out together and compromise, this will determine the future of humankind. Can you see this? We are the world.

Humankind so far hasn't been doing too well. *"huge numbers of Eastern Orthodox Armenians were murdered by Muslims at the turn of the century. Much of Europe's history has been a nightmare of Christian-on-Christian killing, including the 30 Years' War, in which an estimated 7.5 million people--one-third of the European population at the time--died owing to Catholic-versus-Protestant slaughter. England's history is full of Protestants murdering Catholics; France's history is full of Catholics murdering Protestants; Spain's history is full of Christians murdering Jews. Pretty much all of Europe is to blame for the Crusades, in which Christians murdered Muslims. This inventory could go on at considerable length. King Olaf Tryggvason's declaration from about the year 1000--"all Norway will be Christian or die!"--sums it up."

(*From "Would the World Be Safer Without Religion?" By Gregg Easterbrook.)

But you and I have a chance to end all of this stupidity, right here and now. All we have to do is agree to respect each other, and each other's religions, and be open to new ideas about religion in general. Then we can have a mature discussion. Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam might be nothing but myths and children's fairytales, or they might be everything. We could find out by having an open-minded discussion about religion. Or not. If we are inflexible, we will all soon perish. I have no doubt about that.

The problem is, we have identified ourselves with an ideal, you and I, a belief, and our ambitions regarding our ideals look past people. Then the ideal becomes paramount, whether that ideal is Christ or the Buddha, or The good 'ol US of A. And the problem with an ideal is that it is never real, only something concocted in our minds, like religion, or nationalism, or family.

Why do we do this? It is simply because we are unwilling to face what is real, what is happening in this precise moment and instead superimpose a fantasy. Can we see this? Can we see it in our unwillingness to consider each other when we speak, and merely go on about ideals?

Family values are hyped to be the thing in America, but the reality is (according to a recent article posted on Searchwarp.org), that 74 percent of people are not happy with their family situation. That's three out of four people you meet on the street.

Karma is a wild card, and one never knows exactly what another will do. This can throw the best-managed families into a chaos. Kids raised in perfect circumstances with undying attention can end up quite differently than parents expect. And the kid will wake up every morning and repeat their actions, until they, themselves decide to change; if they do. Many don't. No one can change them but themselves.

This is true of parents as well. Old karma can hit at any age, at any time, and when it does, big upheavals can result. This is sometimes no one's fault, in this world, only the result of past life karma pushing them in one direction or another. It's all part of life.

*"The Americans for Divorce Reform estimate that "Probably, 40 or possibly even 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue. The Barna Research Group survey found:

11% of the adult population is currently divorced

25% of adults have had at least one divorce during their lifetime"

Religion % have been divorced

Jews 30 %

Born-again Christians 27%

Other Christians 24%

Atheists,Agnostics 21%

(*From Religious Tolerance.org)

There are so many questions, i.e., what is the truth about families? Are men instinctually drawn to family life, or have they been convinced by society and government that they are born that way? Do some men naturally prefer freedom, only remaining with their family because of legal restraints and monetary considerations, which would foster resentment? Unmarriedamerica.org claims that single adults are on the verge of taking over married couples in the population. Is the nuclear family the complete answer, or is a communal family more in line with some preferences? The statistics reveal that something is dreadfully wrong with part of our present arrangement with almost half of our marriages eventually failing, and many related people actually killing each other.

Would getting beyond ideals and facing the realities of our situations make the world a better place? This would involve huge changes in perception; visionary changes that would be viewed by most people as crazy, but then if the changes weren't viewed as crazy, they wouldn't be visionary, would they? Maybe what is crazy is the violent world - that we are presently experiencing.

So how do we get down to brass tacks, so to speak? How do we change the course of a humanity that is so full of anger and headed down the road of nuclear war soon because of religious and societal differences - a war that could wipe out all of our families?

If we want to save our families from nuclear war, we must take extraordinary steps. Since war is based on divisions - geographical, religious, idealistic, ethnic - we must blur these borders. That means we cannot hold fast to our ideals and beliefs. The idea that we can hold fast to them and still find peace is a delusion. Buddhists call it ignorance of what is. Can you see that? Holding fast creates divisions, or to put it bluntly; religion and idealism kills.

So what is the answer to all of this violence and misunderstanding in the world? I contend that it must begin with you and me, and our differences. It must begin at this grass roots level. To look beyond you and me is merely escaping reality and living in concepts.

I don't know how to go about this, but one thing I do know from direct experience is that meditation and deep contemplative prayer can shift one's consciousness so that one becomes acutely aware of what is real and what is illusion.

It is only you and I that are important. We are the only ones here in this precious moment. Only you and I have the power to change things and make a difference; we can't wait for the government or someone else to act, because the government and someone else is no one but us.

What do you think? Is it all up to you and me? Our families are counting on us. Shall we begin by changing ourselves?

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com