TELEVISION HAS BROUGHT the furthest corners of the world into our living rooms, and while this is indisputably marvelous, it has also trivialized things. Constantly, we witness wars and conflicts going on live, we see people actually being killed, or dying of starvation and disease, we are exposed to brutality and crime, and gradually, imperceptibly, we become inured to it all, to the point where it loses its shock value, and no longer moves or affects us. Reality is reduced to the level of fiction, as in the movies. We get overdosed, not being able to fully comprehend; we lose our sensitivity and become dull. It is quite true that too much of something good may easily become bad in its effects; TV is a prime example of this.
Our complacency and false sense of security are sometimes profoundly shaken by unexpected and unpreventable natural disasters like earthquakes, storms, droughts, volcanic eruptions, etc.; our lives may be turned upside down instantly by such things and our nicely constructed plans for the future brought to nothing; pride of technology and ingenious achievement is humbled, and the prospect of having to start rebuilding what took us so long to build before is daunting, and fills us with despair.
We do not know all the causes of Nature's ferocious outbursts, and will certainly never be able to bring them all under our control, so we must reconcile ourselves to living with them, and accept them as part of the price we have to pay for being alive; as long as we live on this planet we shall be subject, in some degree or another, to the various disasters that may strike us without warning from above, below, and around; they have gone on for infinitely longer than Man has been here, and there is no guarantee that we shall continue to swarm over the Earth like ants indefinitely; our existence is precarious, and we could easily be terminated by one of any number of causes, as have been countless other species before and during our time. Moreover, the ease and comfort that we have developed has lulled us into a state of indolence and complacency, and weakened our physical and moral fibers; we have become addicted to it all, as upon some drug of dependence, and are unwilling to give up any part of it for the sake of saner living.
Nations that were once virile and energetic have lapsed into lethargy and decadence, and their places in the vanguard of things have been taken over by more youthful and vigorous nations. Thus, the Law of Change plays its eternal game with us, moving us now high, now low on the ceaselessly turning Wheel of Life.
We have been led to believe (and most of us need little convincing about this, but are eager to accept it), that with money, we can do anything. And so the motto on the currency of the U.S.: "In God we trust," is seen to be missing the letter 'l', and should more appropriately read "In Gold we trust," for without a doubt, money is the religion with the most adherents in the world, no matter what they call themselves. We cannot deny that money is important, and has been ever since it was invented; no-one can give up using money without being a burden on others. But to place such emphasis on it as we do, and measure people's worth and success by how much money they have, encourages the growth of antisocial qualities such as unchecked greed and envy, and leads to all manner of excesses and crimes.
Disaster is not just something that comes to us from Nature, but is engendered, more so, by human beings. The suffering that Nature causes us is much less than that caused by other people. A severe earthquake might kill fifty thousand people or more, and cause immense property damage, but one of man's stupid wars might cause ten times more deaths and do just as much damage―or more―to buildings, roads, and other infrastructure. A volcano can cause considerable, but usually temporary, climatic changes, while man in his ignorance and carelessness has also brought about such changes, the effects of which are only just now starting to become apparent and which might be permanent and irreversible; we have yet to learn to what extent our lives and our planet will be affected thereby. And in spite of the fact that millions are dying of starvation, due to natural and artificial famines, people in other parts continue to blithely reproduce prolifically, unaware, it seems, of the consequences of their unrestraint, and encouraged to do so, in many cases, by benighted theologies which unashamedly proclaim contraception to be unnatural and therefore evil.
So, while natural disasters―still termed "Acts of God" by some insurance companies―go on, the biggest disaster is Man himself, and it is ironic that while there is little we can do to prevent earthquakes, droughts, tidal waves, and so on, it is quite within our capacity to lessen and somewhat control the major disaster that is Man and his impulses. Yet, in our age of increased and unprecedented education and literacy, multiple means of worldwide communication, jet travel, and other wonderful forms of technology, it is as if we insist on remaining basically ignorant concerning our humanity―prejudiced, aggressive, and destructive. It's really quite amazing!
Ask anyone, anywhere, if they like to suffer, and almost no-one would answer in the affirmative. But so many of us actively cause and promote suffering in various ways, either at home within our immediate family, and/or around us in society; we are a troublesome species, and many of us are hard at work disturbing or hurting others, unaware that they are just like us in their desire to be happy and free from suffering. Don't like suffering, we say? It's not true! We are actually very fond of it, not in ourselves, of course, but in others. Yet if we clearly understood how society―any society―is made up of individuals just like ourselves, all contributing to the whole of which we are parts, we would see that whatever affects one affects all, and hence, to cause suffering to another is also to hurt oneself.
We cannot all be doctors or teachers, it is true, nor do we all need to be, but
we can all tune into the common life that we all share and try to act in ways
that are beneficial to one and all, instead of harmful. It is not very difficult
to understand this; we don't need a Ph.D. to grasp it; all we need to do is
consider first our own interests, and then to consider those of others, for they
are very similar; remember, we are of the same species. And thus, the disaster
that is Man might be brought under control, and the energy that he hitherto used
for negative purposes could be turned to positive ends.