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The world is perfect. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess.

I see the news and like everyone else, am continually exposed to violence, inequality and injustice occurring in the world. It’s challenging to avoid being overcome with anger, fear and sadness as the world seemingly implodes. By nature, I want to help. I want to fix it. Control things. Make things better. Protect myself and my loved ones. Create a more harmonious existence for everyone. What can I do?

Outwardly, the options are vast. I can speak out, support a movement, contribute time, money or resources toward a cause; mobilize, protest, boycott, volunteer, enlist, write my congressman, organize, march, inspire, lead, take action, blog, post on social media, re-tweet, get angry, vent; express love, understanding and compassion, preach, volunteer, be a positive force; and influence others to change, creating a peaceful and harmonious world.

I pulled my favorite Joseph Campbell quote from the bulletin board and got a contrarian view. “When we talk about settling the world’s problems, we’re barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives. The warrior’s approach is to say ‘yes’ to life: ‘yes’ to it all.”

Campbell reminds us to consider the journey within as an important element in our path to personal peace. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t take action and be compassionate, positive and proactive in our world; far from it. However, when it comes right down to the essence of our existence; the journey we face as spiritual beings in human bodies, all we can really change and all we are ultimately responsible for is ourselves.

Introspection, self-reflection, authenticity and our personal journey of spiritual growth may be the compelling reasons for our visit to this life. Combine compassionate self-love, astute self-awareness, advanced emotional literacy and effective communication skills with positive actions and deeds in the world, and maybe there’s a chance of making the world a “better” place. 

Even still, Campbell will remind us that “better” is a fallacy, because the world is perfect just the way it is; a metaphysical framework for the lifetime learning and spiritual growth of billions of people.

This month, to coincide with the spiritual season, we explore approaches that can help us with an introspective and contemplative inward journey through prayer and meditation. Teacher Michael Beckwith is quoted in Richard Davenport’s feature article sounding like shades of Campbell, saying, “All of life is conspiring for our freedom, liberation, wholeness and health.”  And in our Wise Words department, Sharon Salzberg shares her perspective on daily mindfulness.

Enjoy the journey. After all, don’t we all want to feel good, live simply and laugh more?

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