Nothing.

[Mic drop.]

I was seriously tempted to end this post with just that one-word reply.  Nothing.

Something to simply reflect on.  To really take in.  It’s worth doing, I think.  So I encourage you to do just that, for the next minute or so.

Pause.  Breathe.  Proceed.

See what you come up with, in your heart of hearts, when you ask yourself this question from the old song lyrics written by Nick Lowe and popularized by Elvis Costello, amongst others.

As I walk through this wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself, “Is all hope lost?”
“Is there only pain and hatred and misery?”

And each time I feel like this inside
There’s one thing I want to know
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?

Nothing, really.

There’s nothing funny – nothing wrong – with peace, love, and understanding.

There is so much fear and anger in the air these days.  So much blame and hate on the airwaves.  So much threatening and bullying.  So much “us-versus-them” and “win-at-all-costs” thinking.  It’s all over-riding our better selves.  It’s drowning out peace, love, and understanding.

We can mindlessly take it in, literally breathing in all the information smog and pollution surrounding us without even realizing it.  Without paying attention, our brains can become poisoned by the pervasive hostility rising in our society. Emotions are contagious, every bit as much as viruses.

We can insidiously slip into a brain fog of fear and loathing that creates a downward cycle of negativity.  Left to fester, this vicious cycle leads to more fear and anger, more defensiveness and counter-attacks, more violence and despair.

And worst of all, our children are innocent victims of the trickle-down effect.  They are growing up inhaling the toxic second-hand smoke of our adult “blame and shame” games.  They are suffering at the hands of our ignorance and arrogance.

Growing up in a digital world where discourse is increasingly rude, crude, ridiculing, condemning, hateful and hurtful, our children are becoming ever more inclined to “fight or flight” reactions themselves.

We can succumb to this negativity – actively or passively becoming a part of the problem.

Or we can listen to the inner wisdom of our souls, and consciously become a part of the solution, again.

We can return to the implied truth of the poetic question, “What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?”

Nothing!

So let’s see that in ourselves and others.  Let’s give voice to that vision.  Let’s act out that reality.

Understanding.  Let’s first pause, with mindful awareness, to recognize our pain and suffering.  Let’s recognize the pain and suffering of others around us – especially those we most disagree with.    Let’s find the common humanity underlying our differences, and strive clearly, consistently towards an honest understanding of one another.  Without shouting or threatening or talking over one another (radical concept, I know). Let’s also recognize our many strengths and our capacity for resilience in the face of hardship.

Love.  Let’s take that understanding and act on it with loving-kindness.  Love is not weak.  Love is strong.  Love trumps hate.  It can, if we make it so.  When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.  Choose love.  This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way, and still keep re-learning.  This takes humility. This takes patience and perseverance.  Compassion is empathy plus action – seeking to alleviate suffering with loving care.  Let’s see all beings with eyes of compassion (including ourselves).  Let’s see what benefits that could bring.

Peace.  With open-minded understanding and open-hearted love, we can find peace again.  We can celebrate our differences, rather than fearing and fighting them.  We can find the complimentary strengths our differences offer our families and communities.  We can practice the middle way, acknowledging BOTH the strengths AND limitations in any personality or policy, and choosing to live peacefully with that reality.

What do we all want in life, most fundamentally?  To live in a peaceful, happy family.  A peaceful neighborhood.  A peaceful country.  A peaceful planet.

True, lasting peace comes through love and understanding.  Not through threat, intimidation, and violence.  You might be able to temporarily overpower your opponent (colleague, political rival, child) with force, but it doesn’t buy true peace. It buys a temporary truce, with fear, loathing, and contempt brewing beneath the surface, sure to erupt again at the next opportunity.

Let’s re-awaken to a world that honors peace, love, and understanding.  Let’s practice what we preach.  Let’s act on these values as being more important than our smaller petty fears and grievances.

I believe it’s imperative and possible.  I believe it’s vital to our children’s well-being and to our very planet’s existence.

Nothing funny ’bout that at all.