The Biggest Problem Facing Mankind

A friend and I were chatting recently about the passing of Queen Elizabeth and how he had spent some time watching her funeral. He asked me if I saw any of it and I said that I hadn’t. I noticed that I never watch TV anymore, except for entertainment. The news gets me particularly depressed, angry and fearful. War in Ukraine threatening to escalate to a nuclear holocaust, global warming bringing us forest fires, floods, droughts, melting the icecaps, COVID and diseases, pollution, famine and starvation, all competing on the news for which is the deadliest problem facing us all. Who needs that?

But it got me to thinking about those issues. What if most of the problems facing us are consequences of a deeper problem, one hidden from our view because of ignorance or because we don’t want to look? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that most if not all our concerns have a common cause. Try this on: the biggest problem facing mankind is resolving conflicts between one’s feelings and one’s thinking.

Do no harm. Everything by agreement. Be your word. I didn’t invent these virtues. I doubt that I would find many if any people who would disagree with them. They’re part of how we all think life should be handled. Surely there is not a leader of any nation today who disagrees with this. Misters Biden and Putin have never declared that they like hurting others. Yet they are. Our leaders are dragging us into wars that no one wants – through their feelings.

Feelings of pride, of anger, of greed, are trumping doing what we know is right: to wage peace. I know it sounds simplistic, but is it anything more than that? When I talk to many of my friends these days about what’s happening in Ukraine, the conversation seems to be an expression of their anger or fear, not the deep thinking that might be there.

What is not happening is an unequivocal resolve to do no harm. Starting at the top, the leaders of the countries involved are not holding the line on this. They are all running the same variations of “Yes, but…” where what follows “but” is some stream of rationalizations that justify going to war rather than doing what is right.

On a personal scale, I’m reflecting on a current problem that I face which is getting this blog written and posted. What’s been giving me grief are my feelings, I’m not up to it, feelings of uncertainty about what to say, about whether I have anything of value to say, what difference will it make anyway, I’m not a writer, what if it’s awful, and so on. I start finding other things to do. I’ve got lawns to mow, emails to write, shopping to do. Before I know it, another week has gone by and nothing got written. Feelings of doubt trample my intention and will. Keeping my agreement with myself loses out, leaving me annoyed and disappointed with myself. I do myself harm.

What is there for me to examine is whether I let my feelings call the shots or my thinking. This intention to write a blog and post it is an agreement that I have with myself. My choice is to honour that agreement or not, to break my word. Clearly there is no emergency or other extenuating circumstances confronting me. There are only negative feelings to be dealt with.

Although the magnitude of the issues differ, I am saying that what Misters Putin, Zelenskyy and Biden are facing are the same. All know that it is wrong to harm human beings. All have feelings of animosity that are calling the shots and harming others, murdering them. Until we begin speaking about such matters in these terms we will continue to commit these actions of unspeakable inhumanity to each other.

Rational thinking would demand that world leaders sit down at a negotiating table and refuse to leave until a peaceful resolution was reached. If it takes weeks, months to reach such an agreement, so be it. What method of thinking would allow another outcome that permits the intentional destruction of each other?

While the talks were being conducted, the rest of us would go about our business in peace, knowing with comforting certainty that we have left our fate in the hands of leaders who will stop at nothing until a peace accord has been reached.

Feelings rule. Thinking rules. Choose.

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