Seeing what is

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The world is a shitty place, so long as we judge it by what it’s not.

It’s not entirely just. It’s not entirely peaceful. It’s not entirely compassionate or kind or collaborative. The list goes on and on. The world, in fact, is often unjust, warlike, cruel, and excessively competitive.

And if we choose to judge the world for what’s it not, it’s imperfections, it’s deviations from what we hope and dream it will be, we will always be disappointed. We will always feel that humanity itself is defective and unworthy. If we form expectations in our mind of what the world should be, then it will inevitably fall short.

This is seeing what is not. It is seeing what’s absent. It’s imagining your ideal partner and turning down everyone who doesn’t hold up. It’s a foolproof path to loneliness, sadness, and despondency. It’s creating an imaginary world, so you can avoid and dismiss the real one.

The world is a brilliant, wondrous place, so long as we judge it for what it is.

No, it is not entirely just, peaceful, or compassionate. But it is genuinely remarkable what levels of justice, peace, and cooperation on a mass scale we’ve been able to accomplish. With over six billion of us, every day we organize ourselves into systems that allow families and cultures to grow and flourish. We regularly identify and rehabilitate the guilty, and exonerate the innocent. We send water, electricity, and medical services to billions of people every year. We regularly find peaceful solutions when in the past we resorted to violence. The 150+ nations of the world regularly convene and cooperate with one another on shared goals.

We are, of course, by no means perfect in these regards. All of these systems are deeply flawed – inequitable and unsustainable. There is much that we can and should improve upon. But the fact that we accomplish them to any degree is evidence of a remarkable evolution.

Don’t forget, not so long ago we were regularly enslaving one another. Not long before that we had a life expectancy of not much more than 30 years old. Before that, we’d spend the majority of our days looking for food, suspicious and competitive with all those around us.

Just let it sink what we’ve accomplished since those days. If we don’t take it for granted, we can see that this required unheard of levels of ingenuity, compassion, cooperation, and everything we admire in others.

When we choose to see humanity for what it is – and not what it’s not – all of a sudden the world becomes a remarkable place.

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