(This article originally appeared in the Inner Peace column of the May 25, 2013 edition of Ashland Daily Tidings; thanks to Sally McKirgan for allowing us to repost it here.)
Hurrah! Graduation time! What a thrill for graduates, their family and friends to see dreams accomplished. We know life is a process of gains and losses; everything changes and nothing is ever certain in this world, but how we respond will determine our happiness and that will affect society. Will they graduate knowing how to attain inner peace in this unpredictable world?
His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, speaking at the University of Oregon on May 10 said: “Peace must come through inner peace. First, inner peace starts from each individual and not society. We change society when each one makes an attempt to change themselves — then society changes. The individual is most important. Individual freedom is important. Society must change to a peaceful society. Can self-centeredness be overcome? The practice of altruism and helping others makes one happy.”
He asked educators to help, saying, “The education system is very much oriented about material world — not sufficient. Now, today we can shift our responsibility to global warming and warm-heartedness, more inner values and care for others’ well-being. Pay attention about inner value.”
You may be able to see his presentation online.
In 2005, author David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008, writer and author of “Infinite Jest,” gave the commencement address to the graduating class of Kenyon College. The speech did not become widely known until three years ago when a video was created using his message. It can be found here or Google his name. He, like the Dalai Lama, challenged the educational system to teach compassion to students. Unfortunately, he suffered from clinical depression, but that makes his speech more poignant because he urges us to look beyond the seeming appearances that our eyes see and judge to realize that everyone is fighting a hard battle. He encouraged understanding, compassion and to cease making critical and harsh judgments of others.
Do schools, colleges and universities teach anything that might resemble understanding or kindness? If not, kindergarten or first grade would be a good place to start and continue throughout the education process. However — Warning! The world might come to a complete stop. We would stop being selfish; stop bullying and manipulating; stop interfering with other countries; no hatred; political parties may stop arguing; no fearful cultures or strangers to worry about; maybe we would stop buying stuff we don’t need; no more projecting our faults onto others or being addicted to news drama on TV 24/7. We might stop suffering and start being kind and love everyone equally like God does.
What do we gain in feeling separate, lonely, angry, hateful and fearful? Would we suffer if we saw the spark of eternity in everyone? In singer/songwriter Katy Perry’s song “Firework,” that most teens know, there is a phrase, “Did you know that there’s a spark in you; you just gotta ignite the light and let it shine, just own the night like the 4th of July.”
Everyone has the spark, the light. Nothing exists or ever did or still to come, that does not have it. Imagine how our society would be if we began projecting, or seeing “that spark” and light in everyone. That would be to make a conscious choice to either see their spark or draw the veil of judgment. If we look lovingly on them, they will know that they are part of you and you of them.
Why are we here? What/who am I? Thinkers and writers from all ages have grappled with these questions. One thing for sure is: We are here. So we can make good use of the time we have and realize our identity, our spark, our inner beauty, our kindness, and know we always did our best. The bottom line: we all want to know we are loved and we are forgiven. That’s graduation with inner peace.
Sally McKirgan facilitates an A Course In Miracles study group in Ashland and the Tidings Inner Peace column. Send 600- to 700-word articles to InnerPeaceForYou At live Dot com.