The video above is from a 1992 UN Conference in Rio de Janeiro. It powerfully conveys the inspiration of my childhood.
Although I was born and raised in the USA, I lived with my grandparents in India when I was a toddler. Grandpa was as traditional as it gets. He taught me to read and write and would shake the heck out of me when I made a mistake. Yet he also loved me very much and would teach me many things.
My brother and I would sit and watch the gigantic ants many an afternoon. Ants present an incredible show. They model the power of persistence, tenacity, and teamwork for all of us. In fact, my first biology professor told his students that ants make up something like 90% of the biomass of all insects living. Regardless of the actual number, they are everywhere.
One thing about India shocked me when I first arrived there: the abject poverty of masses of people. I had never seen such things in the US. What made their plight so poignant though, was that they looked just like me! These were thousands and thousands of little Gouthum’s wandering the streets and begging. It hurt me immensely.
So I asked everyone, “Why are they so poor, why doesn’t anyone fix it?” I was told not to worry about it, because no one could. It was just that way. Naturally, this answer rung unacceptable to me; I promised never to forget. I felt in my heart that adults say thing like that all the time because they have not tried. Nothing was impossible.
This made for quite an interesting childhood. Unbeknownst to me, many of these memories lead to depression and hopelessness. For, it seemed that everywhere I went I saw pain and suffering. I know now that this was due to my perspective rather than the world. By very definition, there are more good people than bad, and less poverty and starvation than sustenance.
But that still leaves the little Gou’s starving in India doesn’t it? What is one to do? What should one do? Does one need to do anything? These are the questions that haunt us all somewhere within our psyche. Children just hold these concerns nearer the top of their awareness because they have no mortgage or kids of their own to worry about. Yet we still harbor the conundrums.
Each of us has special gifts, some more prevalent than others. Life is about choosing what we want to use them for. Neither is more right than the other. Some have discipline and strength of character and go to the Peace Corps, other to religion, some to the military. These are all choices.
I choose to help others through writing, treatment, and consulting. By helping people with philosophy and modeling my example, I assist the kids in India. My son may ask, “How Daddy?” And I will share, that there is direct action and indirect action, as well as teaching and training, and funding. Each supports our dreams in different ways.
We could directly open a soup kitchen in Bombay. Or we could hand out birth control. Others in the USA help indirectly by working for aid institutions in support roles such as phone or technical support. Others teach about nonprofits and some finance their operations.
Then again, we all help in one way or another: he project manager building huge dams or infrastructure projects, a school teacher teaching literacy. Statesmen bring people together to compromise. Even my Internet friends bring information to the masses. For me, my study of philosophy has shown me the balance of the world, and I hope that I can share that with others.
It has become cliché to dream of world peace, however noble the goal. I seek to help people find peace from the inside out. Only philosophy can do this. No external changes brought me the comfort that I needed. First change within, then the world changes without.