Recently, I decided to simply witness the arrival of the New Year.
I wanted to refrain from making the clichéd comments that many people make every year – about resolutions, goals, intentions and success – in order to listen carefully to what was ‘said’ by others and to view, as honestly as possible, the true state of our world.
Yep – I even watched the news to see what was going on in my beautiful home country, Australia, and in the world I share with billions of others.
Here’s what I saw and heard.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un pointed out that that ‘the entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat.’
His US counterpart hit back with a ‘we have them too and ours are bigger’ kind of retort.
That’s good news!
Pope John Francis said another year that had the potential to be “whole and healthy,” has been wasted up by human beings, who have “used it up and wounded it,” through “lies and injustices.”
He went on to say, ‘Wars are the most flagrant sign of this persistent and absurd pride. But so are the small and large offenses against life, against truth, against fraternity, that cause so many forms of human, social and environmental degradation’.
Some may argue that even he has made his kingdom in this world living a life contradictory to that demanded by Jesus Christ and one far removed from that of the people he leads who find themselves clinging to their faith in some of the poorest places in the world.
I must point out that that my own personal spirituality has been influenced by the works of some of the exponents of the liberation theology movement of Latin America.
That said, his observations are accurate.
In my own country, perhaps the luckiest in the world, gangs of violent youths are on the rise.
A drug called ice continues to have far too strong a grip on far too many. It would seem none are immune to its impact. It reaches the wealthy, the poor, the athletic and youths from all classes and cultures throughout Australia.
Australian Aboriginals continue to suffer from geographical, social and economic disadvantages which have considerable (negative) impacts on the quality of health, well-being and life opportunities experienced by Aboriginals.
And it would be fair to say our treatment of Asylum seekers continues to be a controversial issue and one watched closely by the outside world.
Perhaps one of our greatest modern crimes is that many children of today will never get to experience the playful freedom that should be a childhood.
Our education system is perceived as failing by many through its obsession with grades, achievement and testing – often in the pursuit of funding – rather than focusing on the development of good, humble human beings who value the oneness and connectedness of all humanity and the environment over all else.
Our children are being thrown into a world of ‘busyness’ and over-scheduling that is destroying even the mental health of adults – are we really surprised so many young Australians choose suicide or substance abuse over life, having asked, ‘what’s the point?’.
Recently, Australia said ‘yes’ to equality by voting positively for same-sex marriage.
Great news, but it was a debate fought with bigotry and personal abuse – from parties on both sides.
I asked myself how a fight for equality could possibly be fought with bigotry. Doesn’t true equality make a respectful and loving space for all views and ideas?
I would have thought so.
It brought the concept of selective equality to mind.
My suspicions were confirmed when not long after controversial comments by a Catholic priest were met not only through (quite justifiable) opposition that addressed his comments but through vicious attacks on religion and the religious in general. People even made such comments as ‘close all Catholic schools immediately’.
I wondered what happened to equality. And where were the ‘love is love’ and ‘I stand for love’ mantras that had flooded social media recently.
I concluded standing up for religious freedom is probably not as cool as standing up for same sex marriage rights.
Hence selective equality.
Anyway – this may seem all doom and gloom.
Far from it.
I have taken 46 years to fully embrace my own personal darkness and to view myself and all of my flaws – many of which continue to haunt me – with love and compassion.
I have never had a problem bringing love and kindness to every person I meet – my problem has been convincing myself I actually had a right to exist.
Now, I could never have reached the wholeness or completion I have today without that love and that love could never have been revealed without me having the courage to observe the truth.
Seeing these aspects of our world does not disappoint or scare me. It is what it is.
There are also many unsung heroes throughout my country, and the world, in schools and hospitals doing their best to make the lives of the vulnerable and suffering better – often in institutions that make this more difficult than it should be.
There are people who choose to work and volunteer for community projects. People who spend their days with the poor and drug addicted and the sick, disabled and dying because they are needed.
They don’t aspire to fame, greatness and wealth or use theft and deceit to create a fraudulent reputation.
They do not put their own needs before the needs of others. They work tirelessly, and their efforts often result in great personal suffering for themselves, in order to make the lives of those in need better.
They are the truly enlightened.
They are the true warriors of love whose tools of the trade are love, sacrifice and service.
They view the world through spiritual truth and not the hijacked variety of spirituality that invites the individual to ‘have it all’ for themselves.
With people such as these in the world how could my faith in love, sacrifice and service as the true foundation of humanity be damaged?
Far from being negative, I feel our world is perfectly placed.
Because if an authentic, humble and compassionate version of unconditional love was ever going to rise up and save our world from itself – it is now.
What would my hopes be for 2018?
I hope for a less boastful and self-righteous world where people are less concerned with their own fame and fulfilment than they are for the wellbeing of every brother and sister who walk on this planet and the planet herself.
I hope for a world where we strive to become a people who count our blessings before we count our dollars, cents and material possessions.
I hope for a world where our decisions are made with the greater good in mind and where large corporations act in a way that profits all of humanity before their own company.
I hope for a world where there is less noise, less marketing, less obsession with ‘success’ and more action born in simplicity and humility that will add substance and truth to some of the boastful claims of the self-righteous.
If you believe in equality – then fight for it. Even when it doesn’t suit you!
That’s the world I hope for.
I feel no need to share my hopes for myself personally, not because they don’t exist, but because they pale in comparison to my desire to see love take its rightful place as the guide of all that we do as a species.
It is important to note a world that views itself through the eyes of love does not create a boring and impotent world devoid of unique, interesting and beautiful expression.
Quite the opposite – a world viewed with unconditional love makes space for all.
It is the self-righteousness so prevalent today that is the greatest threat to the true and authentic expression of a world made up of billions of individuals.
I see all that is happening in this world – the good, the bad and the ugly – only through eyes of love.
And yes, the world is perfectly placed for love to stand tall and overcome the many problems we face today, in order to steer humanity away from a path from which there may be no return.
My hope is that we choose love. Not the kind restricted by personal tastes but the one reserved even for our greatest enemies and for our beautiful Mother Earth.
I sit in my hometown of Cootamundra at my mum and dad’s house, writing this into my phone. I began at 5.00am, the second my eyes first opened.
This morning, my mum, who struggles with arthritis will pick up ‘communion’ from the local church and take it to people of faith who are unable to leave their homes.
After that, she may pick up people who are immobile, and take them to the main street so they can get the things they need to survive at home.
What does she ask in return?
Nothing, of course.
It’s also worth pointing out she is not the lone ranger. There are many doing beautiful things such as these to serve their community and the people in it.
She knows that her quiet and humble way will bring joy, dignity and peace to people and places that may not otherwise be touched by these things.
I hope our world turns more to the deeds of people like my mother for inspiration on how to live rather than look to individual visions of personal grandeur and material success.
Oh, you may be blessed with these things by carrying out your duty, but the source of your work – the source of the work of us all – should be the greater good of all humanity and the planet.
That is the truth!
And what do I hope for, not only in 2018 but for the future of humankind?
I hope for a world that becomes more motivated by love as each day passes – a love expressed through truth and compassion.
As I do each and every day – not just at the beginning of each year.
Love is a timeless truth.
And it sits ever ready and waiting for us to choose it, as individuals and as humanity as a whole.
It really is over to us.