The Only Path to True Peace is Love

One of my favorite mental pictures is of Bilbo or Frodo Baggins starting off on a grand adventure – walking through the gentle paths of the Shire off into the greater world of Middle Earth and into the vast unknown.  I’ve taken many different paths in life as well – some easier than others – but in every path is a lesson and a new experience; and perhaps just around the next bend is something totally unexpected that will change your life forever – you just don’t ever know.  I like paths for the symbolism that they represent, as a metaphor for life itself.  Paths may be relaxing or treacherous, but with all paths you need some kind of map or idea as to where it leads you or you’ll probably never reach your destination in life.

Often in our world today, people and organizations are in a reactive mode – reacting to the symptoms of a situation and never identifying the root cause or addressing the real issue at hand.  Like a meandering path through a field of wildflowers leading into a distant forest, if you don’t know the root cause of an issue you’ll never solve it – or take an excessive amount of time chipping away at the edges with no guarantee that you will reach the core of the issue to solve the problem.  A reactive world is not a productive world, because time, energy and resources are wasted on the symptoms and not on solving the issue or problem at hand.

So it is that when I hear politicians discussing the world’s problems and describing the path to peace, the road to peace or the peace process – I see an attempt to chip away at the issue and few results to show for their efforts.  The simple answer and truth is that the path to peace both begins and ends in the hearts of all people.  The lack of peace in our world – at all levels – is directly related to the lack of love in the hearts of those who are at odds with one another over any issue that comes between them.

This is as true for families and neighbors as it is for countries, and it is only through love that the problems of the world can and will be solved – because the lack of peace in the world prevents almost all other issues from being solved as well.  To do almost anything successfully in this world first requires an environment of peace in order to allow for a cooperative and combined effort in all other possible areas: clean water and sanitation, food production and agriculture, medicine, justice and the rule of law, education, technology, economics, transportation, communication, science, exploration, travel, entertainment and the arts, etc. – the list is endless.

So when you hear politicians discussing the path to peace and don’t hear the word love mentioned, you know that they are only treating the symptoms of the issues that divide people and nations – and not addressing the true cause – which is a lack of love in the hearts of man.  One of the reasons politicians fail to address love as the only path that leads to true peace, is because they may not understand the true nature of love themselves.  For love is a process where one steps outside of oneself, and blends what was one individual nature with that of another.

In romantic love it is the case of two individuals becoming one in a union of souls. Love for God is the immersion of oneself into both the Nature and the Will of the Creator of the Universe who first loved us. Love for communities and nations is a blending of oneself with the hopes and aspirations of all other like-minded individuals, who have now become a greater union of common respect and understanding – treating one another as we would also want to be treated – the essence of the, “Golden Rule” which is found in different versions in almost every religious teaching.

So if there is one primary issue in the world that needs to be solved, so that all other issues in our world can also be solved – the primary issue and task at hand is to bring peace to the world – and the only path to true peace is love.  So let us all work together in the world today to spread love to one another – and perhaps one day soon – we’ll realize that peace has indeed arrived in our world through our love for one another…because only love can bring true and lasting peace to our world.  🙂

Cheers,

Mark

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Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from our family to yours, and may you experience Joy, Peace and Love in abundance in 2011!


Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year for 2011 from our family to yours!


May the world come to know that the only peace that is true and lasting is the peace that comes from Love…and Love was given to the world through the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.


1 John 4:8-10 NIV (Used With Permission) – “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”


Merry Christmas!

Cheers,

Mark

“All for One and One for All”

I’ve always used the motto of the Three Musketeers, “all for one and one for all”  as the informal motto of our family; because there are three of us and it was another way of saying, “we’ve got each other’s back in case anything ever happens to us.”  So it’s fitting that while I was brainstorming ideas I decided to use this phrase in order to design a process that prevents anyone from slipping through the cracks and facing financial calamity alone.  I’ve always thought that if I think hard and long enough (thinking is free after all) that an idea of mine will eventually, “stick” to the wall like a perfectly cooked spaghetti noodle, long enough to attract someone’s attention so eventually we could all change the world together – and take care of everyone in the process.  So here goes:

I stumbled across the idea of using a, “reverse lottery concept” as a type of group insurance policy to protect anyone from financial calamity in today’s society – without relying on the government.  Typically, lotteries are successful because millions of people put in a single dollar so a single winner can, “win it big” – for the saying goes, “you can’t win if you don’t play.”  What if we simply reversed the concept and instead of a chance to win the jackpot, we were able to keep families from losing everything due to a financial calamity in their household?  We all know that the single loss of a paycheck, an accident or a storm can cause complete financial disaster for our neighbors – whether in Maine, Florida, Iowa or Oregon.  In some cases traditional insurance can cover the shortfall and repair the damage, but in other cases there are few outside avenues of support.  Typically, families and relatives are sometimes limited in the support they can or will offer; bank loans are not always approved; unemployment benefits run out after a certain period of time; insurance only covers so much; charities can offer only temporary aid; and disability benefits can be hard to obtain even with legitimate reasons behind them.  So how can this plan help anyone in a different or better way?

My concept is a modern adaptation of the early Christian concept of, “communal living” where everyone worked to be able to eat and everything was shared in common among the 1st Century Christians.  I don’t suggest that we all go back to living a 1st Century Christian lifestyle, but instead create a 21st Century modern adaptation where everyone pitches in to help their neighbor – even if your neighbor is a thousand miles away in another state.  The concept doesn’t replace any traditional insurance mechanisms that are in use today, but instead provides a layered or tiered plan of coverage which acts as a last chance safety net – and doesn’t rely on government support.  My plan would require a membership organization where risk is spread across many policy holders; the more members the less risk is involved for any single person or family.  The goal of this organization would be to protect its members from financial calamity, so protection would be layered in-depth to cover as much risk as possible for everyone. Members would pay monthly policy dues on a graduated scale so that members of all financial backgrounds would be able to obtain coverage; because to, “opt in” to this plan means that you accept the premise that assisting others is a  higher calling than just covering yourself and your own family.

The next step would be to ensure that all members owned traditional insurance policies for medical, dental, life, accident, flood, home, auto and umbrella coverage. The first line of defense for any member would be their own personal insurance policies to deal with the immediate issue at hand in the best manner possible for a complete resolution of the problem.  This first layer of defense provides a traditional insurance defense that covers most situations that a member might find themselves in; but we all know that there are circumstances where traditional insurance policies fail to protect families from financial calamity – holes in the safety net that entire families can find themselves falling through.  Members of this organization would pledge to support their fellow members through their combined membership dues, assisting any member that finds them self in a financial situation that goes beyond the traditional insurance policy.

If a household loses an income – or two – and unemployment insurance runs out; if an accident, natural disaster or disability occurs that is not severe enough to trigger an insurance or disability payment; if a medical issue arises that requires the financial resources that few people could ever expect to pay in a single lifetime – then the group would be able to step in and aid that family in their time of need so that they don’t succumb to their financial difficulties.  Through monthly membership dues and policy premiums members would commit themselves to, “back stopping” each other so no member family would need to suffer financial calamity alone.  In this way all plan members, “would have each other’s back” and create a membership community where the saying, “all for one and one for all” was more than just a slogan or an advertisement; but a way of life and a commitment from one person and one family to another – leaving, “no one behind.”

Now take the membership concept and expand it to cover our entire nation coast-to-coast, covering every single person in the country; with the attitude of, “all together, win together” – with members accepting a graduated payment scale so a single mother in Chicago with four children can opt-in for coverage at an amount that she can actually afford.  This way our nation, and potentially the entire world, would have the opportunity to see the end to the types of misery and suffering that financial calamity can cause within a single family or community – and we can change the world for the better because we actually live the saying, “all for one and one for all.”

Cheers,

Mark

Empathy – A Gift of Love to Mankind

Empathy allows us to have compassion for others and gives us the ability to connect with them and their circumstances in a way that can make their issues and emotions our own.  Just as a structure built from interconnected triangles provides tremendous structural strength and stability, a society that encourages and nurtures empathy between its citizens is able to create bonds of shared experiences and emotional connections that strengthens and unites families, neighborhoods, communities and nations.

We start with a quote from Wikipedia on Empathy – “Empathy is the capacity to share the sadness or happiness of another sentient being through consciousness rather than physically. Empathy develops the ability to have compassion towards other beings….Empathy is an ability with many different definitions. They cover a broad spectrum, ranging from feeling a concern for other people that creates a desire to help them, experiencing emotions that match another person’s emotions, knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling, to blurring the line between self and other.”

Empathy is actually a gift of love given to us freely from God that unites two or more people in a way that they are able to share a common bond of understanding.  This gift of empathy to mankind only requires our hearts be open to receiving God’s love which is available to everyone – whether they believe or have faith in God or not. God senses and knows the openness of someone’s heart, and gives them empathy as a way to nurture their qualities of kindness and love towards their fellow-man, while building a relationship with them based on love.  If someone closes off their heart to kindness and love they won’t be open to God or to His free gift of empathy that He offers to us in love.

Our very souls yearn to be with God in Heaven because they know and understand intuitively that Heaven is where they belong, and that this physical life of ours is only transitory.  The greater our awareness of this tug of desire that occurs in our soul to be with God and to return to God, the more God responds to our yearnings for Heaven with His grace – carried to us by the Holy Spirit to nurture us through His love. Just as God cares for us individually, He cares for mankind as a whole as well; and through His gift of empathy, God provides us with the ability to have concern for others just as He has concern for us.

We are not all aware of our relationship with God and the workings of the Holy Spirit in this world, and the more we turn to God and comprehend our spiritual nature the more empathetic we are able to be; and the converse is true that the more we are in and of this world the less empathetic we allow ourselves to be as we seek our existence in things in and of this world – and not from God.  By thinking of and taking care of others, we are assisting God in taking care of His people in this world; and to enable us to do this work God provides us with His gift of empathy – as we strive to help make this world a better place for everyone.

Cheers,

Mark

Change Hearts and Change the World…One Heartbeat at a Time (Part Five)

I’ll use two examples of selflessness to show ways people have helped improve their society – defining the concept of, “Altruistic Democracy” that I envision for society as an approach to replace the standard conservative, liberal or moderate versions of democracy – ensuring that everyone is taken care of both today and well into the future.  The first one is the best example of selfless concern for others that I have heard of in a long time.  It is the story of a Canadian couple that realized that all they needed was each other – and gave away almost all of the $11.2 M lottery winnings that they won earlier this year:

http://news.aol.ca/ca/article/nova-scotia-lottery-win-give-away/19703150

The second example that I’d like to use here is how Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are encouraging the world’s billionaires to donate at least half of their wealth to charity – and have done the same themselves:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Giving_Pledge

In order to ensure that everyone is taken care of in society and around the world, there needs to be a sense of teamwork between citizens and their governments – working together to take care of everyone in society.  Although examples of selfless actions can often be found in the news from time to time, as long as there are homeless people and families living in shelters, cars, tents and on the streets – more can be done.  As long as there are children and families that go hungry – more can be done.  As long as there are refugee camps and disasters like the earthquake devastation that occurred in Haiti – one of the poorest nations in the world – more can be done.  The difficult part of this concept is trying to convince people that thinking of others is the highest calling of our humanity, and worth the effort – even if it means that in the process of helping others – we can do with less.

It is important that we take care of ourselves and our immediate family, so no one else has to take on that responsibility; but after we have enough for ourselves, we can make a big impact in the lives of others if we just give a portion of what we have so that others can improve the quality of their lives too.  I envision a teamwork approach that uses the incentive of income tax deductions for donations towards the support of others; assisting the government in the process of supporting all of our citizens to a level which allows everyone to follow their dreams and maximizes their potential.  The number I used earlier as an example of a minimum level of support was $20,000 per year for an individual, or $80,000 a year for a family of four in the midwest region of America, indexed regionally based on the cost of living.

This doesn’t mean that people just sit around with their hands out waiting for others to support them; it means that if they are unable to support themselves to this minimum level, then the cumulative support that is provided to them by their family members and friends would count towards the total needed to reach this minimum level of support that is set by the government.  If people do require government support, then there would still be a system that requires them to look for and apply for jobs – and an incentive for employers to hire them.  Support provided to them by family and friends would be tax deductible as long as there are records of the bank transfers to account for their donations of support, which would then lower the gross income of the gift giver for tax purposes.  The more you give towards the support for others, the less you would pay to the government in taxes; which helps society by reducing the amount of people the government needs to support.

For people who don’t have anyone who will contribute to their support – and there are many people like that in our world today – the government would make up the difference between what they are able to earn on their own and the minimum level set by the government.  So for example, John Doe earns $12,000 a year, and one person contributes $1,000 in that year towards John’s support while another person contributes $4,000 in that same year towards John’s support.  The government would make up the difference of $3,000 to help John reach the minimum level of support for an individual of $20,000.  Since my concept would make gifts to other people the only tax deductions that were available to them, it would provide an incentive for people to give money away to others throughout the year – and help everyone in our society achieve their dreams.

In the end if modifying the tax code to provide maximum incentives for charitable gift giving helps people to change their hearts, then all the better.  The survival instinct provides incentive enough to take care of ourselves and our families, ensuring that nothing happens to us; and it can be very difficult to part with our things and our money for the benefit of others.  If we can somehow convince people that taking care of others is taking care of ourselves – because not only have you improved the lives of other people – you have improved the society in which we live; then we can build a society where helping one another is considered the norm, where complete strangers offer their support to meet another person’s needs, and no one has to wonder where their next meal will come from or how they can afford to put a roof over their heads. Perhaps the day will come when people change their hearts, and in doing so they will find they are changing the world…one heartbeat at a time.  🙂

Cheers,

Mark

Change Hearts and Change the World…One Heartbeat at a Time (Part Four)

In Part Three, I outlined my concept of an, “Altruistic Democracy” – a free and open democratic society that creates a framework that is supportive of everyone across society, so that everyone is allowed to reach their full potential in life and no one slips through the proverbial, “safety net.”  I explained that in our democracy today, everything works out just fine in you are one of society’s winners; but the middle-class hangs on a thread – and for every winner there are as many and more economic losers – who struggle just to survive.  Unfortunately, more often than not it is single women with children that are the biggest losers – with little or no way to seemingly ever improve their economic plight.

So how would an Altruistic Democracy be any different from conservative, liberal or moderate versions of democracy?  I really don’t know, but by the end of this article I hope to sketch out at least a rough draft of how it might look.  The initial difference with an Altruistic Democracy is that the nation’s citizens would have to elect candidates that ran on an Altruistic political platform that promised to enact such a government.  Their platform would be best described as, “No Citizen Left Behind” – and really mean it.

No matter how you look at it, the difficult part for anyone who governs is the enormity of the debt that our nation has built up over close to a century of government spending by liberal and conservative governments alike.  Much of our nation’s debt is the result of America’s selfless spending to preserve freedom and security around the world over the past century: WWI, WWII, the Marshall Plan, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, The Persian Gulf War, and the current ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan against terrorists.

National spending to preserve democracy has been the primary drain on western democracies since WWI – in particular on the engine of democracy – the United States of America.  The fact that America has been the selfless defender of liberty around the world, when our country had every reason and excuse for not acting or responding – is one of the greatest chapters of freedom in the history of mankind. However, now the amount of our National Debt puts a limit on what we are able to do in the future; which only reinforces the fact that diplomacy should be working overtime to work for peace in our world – as the only realistic option for everyone to prosper in the future.

The first place to start in governing from an Altruistic perspective, would be to pass a law requiring Congress to pass a balanced budget on time every year – or stay in session until they have passed one – and remain in session until the President signs or vetoes it, and a veto would continue the budget process until completion.  This would ensure we have a serious Congress that doesn’t put off making the hard decisions until the next year – or forever.  The new budget law would also spell out that the annual payment on the National Debt would have to be set to a certain percentage of the year’s total budget – to be applied directly against the Federal Debt; ensuring that our nation’s debt begins to shrink every year instead of growing as it is now.

The next part of the puzzle really requires people to change their hearts, and develop the altruistic ideals that it is better that everyone benefits and succeeds together – rather than have only a few winners in society.  Tax rates would be automatically adjusted by law – higher or lower – to bring in the correct amount of tax revenue to cover the government’s expenses after an annual budget has been passed.  That way, there would be no fudging the numbers and saying one thing while passing a budget; and later delaying tax rate adjustments needed to zero out government spending at the end of the year.  Having these guidelines and protections in place and mandated by law would reduce the amount of grandstanding by either party, ensuring a serious approach that forces compromise and teamwork in reaching a workable budget.

The Tax Code would be the next aspect of government to be adjusted, and it seems that a flat tax rate is the best system to adopt.  The other key aspect of the Tax Code would be to simplify the entire tax system in order to make it fit on a single piece of paper – like an EZ Filing Tax Form.  For example, a national flat tax rate of 15% on adjusted gross income would apply to everyone except for the lowest 25% of the population – who wouldn’t have to pay any taxes.  The only allowable tax deduction that could be used to lower the gross income would be through gifts made to others during the calendar year.

Tax deductions would be allowed for bank transfers to family members towards their direct support, and for bank transfers to anyone else that is not a relative – including churches and non-profit charities – towards their direct support.  The rationalization is that in an Altruistic Democracy, taking care of people is the highest priority of the government after security, and by encouraging citizens to contribute towards the support of others means that the government doesn’t have to – and more citizens overall are taken care of when we choose to take responsibility for each other.

An example of a flat state rate would be 10% on adjusted gross income, and a flat local tax rate of say 5% on adjusted gross income would complete the tax picture. This example amounts to a total overall adjusted gross income tax rate of 30% – and the more you deduct through assisting other people – the lower your adjusted gross income would be.  In this system there would be no sales tax or other forms of tax revenue, which puts the burden on Congress to limit spending primarily to the two top priorities of the Federal Government: security and people – and the more we can promote peace around the world the less we have to spend on security.

Many of the current departments of government could be cut back to an advisory role or completely eliminated in order to streamline and reduce the size of today’s federal government.  In addition, the process of, “earmarks” would be banned; if a spending measure warrants approval then the entire Congress needs to vote it up or down.  Of course this is all hypothetical until Congress gets serious and puts the Federal Government on a spending diet – controlling the size, growth of spending that has grown increasingly out-of-control in recent decades.

The final adjustment to government spending that I’d like to see enacted, is that all future wars would first require a declaration of war enacted by Congress; and then must be, “pay as you go” – requiring a new tax authorization (meaning higher taxes) in the current fiscal year as the war is being waged.  What this means is that future wars wouldn’t add to the Federal Debt, and would require serious action by Congress to enact a declaration of war to proceed – and require real-time tax increases to pay for it.

Given the basic budget requirements of the Federal Government and new rules that limit the amount of spending by Congress, how would an Altruistic Democracy prioritize domestic spending – taking care of people – after taking care of security interests?  That’s where I’ll start off in Part Five which should wrap up and conclude this series.  The major focus is for people to literally change their hearts and choose love and peace – putting our focus and priorities on helping each other so that everyone can succeed – and build an Altruistic Democracy to take us all into a prosperous future together.

Cheers,

Mark

Change Hearts and Change the World…One Heartbeat at a Time (Part Three)

Most people would say that the world has never been fair or equitable, and it never will be – so look out for, “number one” and get what you can – because no one else will take care of you.  Society reflects the, “winner-take-all” and, “dog-eat-dog” system of democratic capitalism, where life is simply, “the survival of the fittest.” They may also point out that there is a natural progression of responsibility in our society, ensuring that the individual breadwinner and his or her immediate family are taken care of first, while extended family members and friends benefit second in a two-tiered hierarchy of spending priorities.  After taxes, retirement accounts, investments, vacations, and college expenses – there are usually few financial resources remaining for charitable purposes or anything else.  It’s just the way of the world, and works just fine – as long as you’re a, “winner” – that is.

The problem is that for every winner in society there are just as many or more losers, while the middle-class often hangs on a thread; where on any given day an emergency could move them into society’s, “loser” category.  The simple death of a spouse, loss of a paycheck, health care crisis, weather related catastrophe, personal accident or injury can cause hopes and dreams to implode and financial security to completely slip away.  With the high rate of divorce in society today, even spouses can experience the uncertainty of not knowing if their future is secure – wondering if their spouse is planning to leave someday – and with them their family’s emotional, physical and financial security.  In many respects, the American dream is either hanging in the balance or non-existent for much of society today.

We know that while this two-tiered system of financial security works well for some, a great many people today are not privileged enough to be in anyone’s top or second-tier of financial priorities; and as a result they struggle just to meet their basic needs for survival.  While America is one of the most generous countries of the world in both national and individual charitable contributions to individuals, charities and other nations; much of our modern world is simply structured in a way that seems incompatible with the needs of society as a whole.  So how do we build a society that provides for long-term growth, excellent benefits for all of its people and protects the environment – while at the same time creating and maintaining quality infrastructure that allows for an advanced and enlightened future for mankind?

Within the traditional framework of democracy there are three traditional approaches: conservative, liberal and moderate.  Conservative values can be framed in the context of, “rugged individualism.”  Liberal values can be described as, “social-progressive.”  Moderate values are sometimes described as a, “middle of the road” approach – that stays close to the middle and avoids extremes on any particular issues.  But what if we designed a different version of democracy, one that focuses primarily on people?  We could call it: Altruistic or “People Focused” democracy – or, “Altruistic Democracy.”

I had not heard the term, “Altruistic Democracy” prior to thinking of the concept, and when I Googled it I found out that it is in fact an established term – most often used to describe a type of journalism.  I think the term comes as close as possible to my concept of creating a free and open democratic society that creates a framework that is supportive of everyone across society, so that everyone is allowed to reach their full potential in life and no one is allowed to slip through the proverbial, “safety net.” A society where the focus is on ensuring that everyone benefits, while allowing people to still achieve their full potential – but where no one struggles just to survive.

When thinking of the concept of, “Altruistic Democracy” I think of the following famous sayings: “All Together, Win Together;” “A Rising Tide Floats All Boats;” “All For One and One For All;” “A Win-Win Solution;” and, “No One Left Behind.”  My concept of an, “Altruistic Democracy” is a state of mind where all citizens ensure that everyone succeeds together.  It is a throw-back concept to when communities were self-sufficient, where neighbor helped neighbor; and the family, church and charitable organizations were the only line of defense to help someone in dire need or an emergency.  The closest example of the concept today, would be the Amish tradition of barn raising; but how could this concept that is used within a small, close-knit and closed society work for a nation of over 300 million people – let alone for the whole world?

Before we continue further to explore the topic, I found a Wikipedia article on, “Altruism” which describes the term as:

“Altruism is selfless concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of ‘others’ toward whom concern should be directed can vary among religions. Altruism is the opposite of selfishness.

Altruism can be distinguished from feelings of loyalty and duty. Altruism focuses on a motivation to help others or a want to do good without reward, while duty focuses on a moral obligation towards a specific individual (for example, God, a king), a specific organization (for example, a government), or an abstract concept (for example, patriotism etc.). Some individuals may feel both altruism and duty, while others may not. Pure altruism is giving without regard to reward or the benefits of recognition and need.”

When I started this article – even this entire series in fact – I had no concept of what I wanted to say or how to define it; I only had the notion that people’s hearts needed to change if society was to ever embrace peace and love on a scale where everyone was cherished, and no-one was left out of the fruits of democracy.  Now I have a term that I can use to describe my concept, and in Part Four I’ll attempt to define how I see, “Altruistic Democracy” as an opportunity for society to evolve, prosper and flourish in both America and around the world.

Cheers,

Mark

Change Hearts and Change the World…One Heartbeat at a Time (Part Two)

This is the most difficult topic I’ve ever pondered and thought about.  It’s difficult because I believe there is a simple answer out there to solve it and I’m dedicating myself to finding the answer to the question of how to change the hearts of mankind away from selfishness, greed, hate and violence – to instead embrace peace and love with generous and loving hearts.  Yet to even begin to solve this dilemma leaves me unable to grasp even the starting point to solve something that could literally be accomplished in the time it takes to complete a heartbeat.  So Part Two of this series leaves me literally with no starting point from which to begin, yet begin I must – because there has to be an answer for choosing love and peace over violence, hate and war.

It would be easy for me to say that everyone should just accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and be done searching for the answer.  The fact is that plenty of people in history have demonstrated that they can be peaceful and loving human beings without professing faith in Christ. More disturbing is that history has also shown that professed believers in Christ, and people of other faiths, have committed terrible crimes of violence throughout history – often in the name of religion – which is just the opposite of love.  So morality and the difference between right and wrong seems to be able to be completely separate from any belief or faith in a practiced religion while living in this world.  So it must be possible on purely moral grounds alone, to argue for peace and love apart from faith and religion.

While personally I believe the answer to true and lasting peace and love lies only in Jesus Christ, I have to believe that Jesus gave us the ability to work together to build a world focused on peace, love and harmony for everyone to participate in while living in this physical world.  The Holy Spirit is always at work in our physical world to call and lead individual hearts to Christ; and the hard work of this world – that has been given to us by God to do with our own hands together – still remains incomplete.  Our world is filled with war, terrorism, violence, wrath, pride, selfishness, greed, sloth, lust, envy and gluttony of epidemic proportions.  Even today’s entertainment, literature and film is often full of horrific graphic violence and lust. Selfishness, greed and entitlement seem to rule many people’s lives today.

Yet, despite living in a world full of problems; peace and love have been and are being embraced by millions of caring and loving people every day – showing us how the world could be if only we all chose to be loving, selfless, sharing, generous, charitable, thoughtful and peaceful human beings. So why this great divide between peaceful, loving people; and the violence that is found throughout our society?  This is the great quest and Holy Grail of humanity since the dawn of human history. I pray that Jesus leads me to an answer that can inspire the world to choose peace and love for the sake of our entire world. I personally give no opportunity or power to the Devil to stand between myself, the answer and the truth and love of Jesus Christ – because the Holy Name of Jesus Christ causes the Devil to be impotent and retreat back into the shadows from where he came.

In Part One, I began the discussion of changing hearts in order to change the world…one heartbeat at a time.  It seemed that to change a human heart – away from selfishness to love and peace for the world – first required an exchange of contents that were held within that individual heart.  The difficult part is to replace, “wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony” – the Seven deadly sins; with the Heavenly virtues of, “prudence, justice, restraint, temperance, courage, fortitude, faith, hope, charity, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  The really difficult part is to convince the entire world to do this together and change our violent world into a peaceful, caring and loving world where everyone is more concerned for the needs of others than for even themselves.

The frustration is that this could be done in a single heartbeat world-wide, yet our world continues to be a violent and selfish world where some people live in extreme abundance while others live in extreme poverty.  Ours is a world filled with crime and war, gangs and terrorists – all side by side with caring and loving people doing the selfless work for their fellow brothers and sisters.  Why the paradox and polarization of attitudes and actions?  It’s a cop-out to say that evil is all the work of the Devil – because I don’t credit him with any power to conceal the answer from discovery and implementing a solution.  I’d like to say that once everyone finds and accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior everything here on Earth will be peace and love, but the reality is that here in our world today there are plenty of people from all faiths and no faith at all that have demonstrated that they can be loving, caring and peaceful people.  So why doesn’t everyone in the world renounce violence and dedicate themselves to being loving and caring people in a peaceful world?

The reality is that we’re the very reason the world isn’t united in peace and love – all of us – and I start here with myself.  All of us are to blame for not doing what we are called to do as members of the human race to unite everyone in the world in peace and love through selfless and generous hearts.  I’ve seen with my own two eyes the deepest poverty in the eyes of people, and I’ve also seen the homeless, faceless and disadvantaged people living in our world – yet I haven’t worked to solve this problem for them.  I’ve thought about the injustice and inequities of the world since I was a young child, yet I haven’t worked to solve the issues of violence, lack of caring and unfairness that people have to deal with every day of their lives.  Christians world-wide remain separated and segregated in a denominational crossword puzzle of theological finger-pointing, that focuses on the differences of our individual beliefs – rather than the common faith in Christ Jesus that we all profess to have – yet I haven’t contributed to helping bring everyone together.

I’ve come to believe in the time that it has taken to write this article, that the answer to why we haven’t changed the world into a loving, caring and peaceful world has nothing to do with the opposition of the Devil; for the Devil has no power before the Trinity of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  It is people who give the Devil what little power he has, by doing nothing in this world to bring peace and love into our world – that we all share together and call Earth.  If we don’t even try as the people of God to do His work in this world, then the Devil wins by default and continues the status quo of violence and selfishness.  To continue this is insanity – when we all have the power to do God’s Will in bringing peace and love into His world with our own small hands – working together.

When God made Earth and gave free will to mankind, He gave us every tool that we needed to create a loving and peaceful life on Earth.  We are all thinking human beings, beautifully made in the image of God; with the power to think for ourselves that was bestowed upon us by our Creator.  It is within us all to build a loving, caring and peaceful world in our own day; because God gave us the ability Himself – as the stewards of His creation.  It doesn’t do any good to point out all of our faults and failures as His stewards of this world, either individually or collectively as members of the human race; but it is profitable for us all to give some real thought and effort towards solving the problems of our world – and then working together to implement a solution for choosing love.  There is really no greater issue before us, and I will do my best to help find the answers for the entire world to embrace love and each other – one heartbeat at a time – or all together in a single heartbeat of love.

Cheers,

Mark

Change Hearts and Change the World…One Heartbeat at a Time (Part One)

I’ve often discussed the fact that in order to change and improve the world, we need to find a way to change hearts…one heartbeat at a time.  But how to do it is the difficult part of the process.  It seems simple enough, but so far it has never been accomplished in a way that is universal and has lasting effect.  We know that individuals can change their hearts and become loving and caring people virtually in an instant, but no one has ever determined a way to convince the world’s people to do this in unison – to renounce violence and personal selfishness – and embrace love. Changing hearts and embracing love is the most pressing need for our world today, as it has been from the dawn of human history; so this series of articles will attempt to visualize a way to change hearts and change the world…one heartbeat at a time.

Since I believe the answer to bringing peace to the world is through changing people’s hearts, the first step in finding an answer has to focus on what the human heart is able to hold within it.  In order to change a single human heart, it seems that the heart must first be emptied of the contents it currently holds – and replaced with the contents that will lead the heart to embrace love.  All of the world’s religions seem to embrace at their core some version of the, “Golden Rule” to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves; yet that concept seems so hard to practice in reality. What is it that the heart holds that keeps us all from loving one another in the purest and most noble of ways?

A quick Google search in Wikipedia offers a detailed article called the, “Seven deadly sins” which provides various lists of the negative aspects of what the hearts of mankind are capable of containing: “wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony;” that may then become manifested through our behavior – because our heart contains the essence of what is our very nature.  As humans our true nature can be masked for a while, but it is our true nature that eventually rises to the surface.

Another Wikipedia article details the, “Seven virtues” or, “Seven Heavenly Virtues” – which are: “chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility.”

The same article in Wikipedia on the, “Seven virtues” goes on to list the specific Catholic catechism’s list as: “the four cardinal virtues of: prudence, justice, restraint or temperance and courage or fortitude and the three theological virtues of: faith, hope and charity.”

Yet another Wikipedia article titled the, “Fruit of the Holy Spirit” lists from, Galatians 5:22-23, NIV: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

I reference Wikipedia here because it is both an acceptable neutral reference for most people, and it has already consolidated the information that I want to emphasize here. There are many other references that can be used as well to describe the human heart, in both secular and theological terms, but the ones that I’ve listed here will be my starting point for this discussion.  The pressing question is how to replace the negative traits of the human heart with the noble aspects of humanity?  The nature of mankind applies equally to those who profess faith and to those who are atheists or agnostics, because examples throughout history can be shown to support either side as: loving and peaceful or evil and hateful.  Part Two in this series will continue the exploration of the human heart in an attempt to find a way to replace hate with love, anger with kindness, and selfishness with selflessness.  For the sake of all the hearts of our world, let’s find a way together to fill the world to overflowing…with love.

Cheers,

Mark

Creating an Extrospective Approach and Perspective for Democracy (Part Five)

So what is a realistic expectation for taking care of all the people of the world?  Our idyllic student model from earlier in this series provided on-campus students with a creative and stimulating environment where they could pursue their hopes and dreams without having to struggle to meet their day-to-day survival needs – to secure clean water, food, clothing, healthcare, housing, employment and transportation for themselves – and this is what we need to do as well for all the world’s people.  But how?  For the sake of this discussion we’ll start off with a generic family of four, with an annual household income of $80,000 in the Midwest portion of the United States; taking into account that the cost-of-living varies greatly both within the U.S. and around the world, so our figures would have to be indexed for an area’s cost-of-living and inflation if we are to be realistic.

If our baseline is $80,000 per year for a family of four – which is by no means an excessive lifestyle by today’s standards – then we’ll say that the minimum amount of support for a family of three would require $60,000, a family of two would require $40,000 and a single person would require $20,000 per year for the purpose of this discussion.  The 2009 Federal Poverty Guidelines are considerably lower than my baseline: a single individual requires $10,830, a household of two people requires $14,570, a household of three people requires $18,310, and a household of four people requires $22,050; so in effect my goal is to provide almost double the assistance to individuals in the United States and more than triple the level of today’s assistance for a family of four.  If everyone in the world were able to be supported in a decent manner as in this example, then individuals and families would be closer to the goal of realizing their hopes and dreams, because they wouldn’t have to struggle just to meet their basic needs on a daily basis.  But the key question is, how can we as a world manage to, “float all boats on a rising tide” and lift everyone up to a decent lifestyle – when so many people live in impoverished situations and communities today?

In today’s world the greatest cost and setback against achieving this level of commitment for the world’s people is the physical and financial cost of conducting war as well as the huge cost of today’s military budgets, along with the disproportionate and uneven distribution of the world’s assets in certain countries and geographic areas of the world.  The primary solution of course is for the leaders of the world to do their primary duty and responsibility to choose peace through love for their citizens and for the world – and to convince the uncooperative few remaining countries that it is in their own national interest to choose peace through love as well.  With that task accomplished, governments can disarm to a, “defensive only posture” and save tremendous costs by reducing the size of their military budgets – which is essentially what the governments of most western nations have been doing since the end of the Cold War – while allowing the U.S. to guarantee their protection.  There are only a few countries of the world with major military expenditures remaining today, so this goal is closer than it might seem at first glance.

So how can we afford to raise everyone’s standard of living to the equivalent of an annual income of $80,000 for a family of four?  A great reduction in military budgets world-wide is the starting point to actually be able to accomplish this.  If we were then to formalize a transfer of wealth from rich nations to poor nations around the world based on, “equity” – everyone would say that the dreaded, “one world government” is raising its ugly head – which is not the point here at all as nations should stay independent and make decisions for themselves, but also take into consideration the morality of their decisions as they make them.  The real key that I want to describe in detail now is how to do two main things: convince people to reach out and make independent decisions to help support others outside their immediate family, and to write into the tax code a way for families to earn credit for helping others outside their immediate family without penalty to themselves or those that receive the assistance.

In this discussion everyone would receive a baseline of $20,000 in support from the government as a way to keep them from falling below the subsistence level.  If you earn $20,000 or more for yourself and your family on a per person basis, you begin to earn credits from the government because you are not a burden of support to the government, so every dollar you provide in turn to another family for their support is a dollar that the government doesn’t have to provide to support them either, so you then receive a dollar for dollar tax credit for doing so – yes taxes will still exist on let’s say a rate of 10% federal, 5% state and 5% local basis – with the only tax deductions available being the direct support of others, tracked through wire transfer deposits into the other person’s account.  In this manner, the burden of helping out those people who are struggling today does not need to be met by the government alone – but through each other as well – as we see and meet the need in others around us in our extended family, in our community and overseas where the need remains the highest. Our family has been helping where we can to support a struggling single mother of two for decades now, as well as for our adult son who still lives at home while working and pursuing an Engineering degree; and in the Christian spirit of practicing what I believe – we have increased our level of support while the economy has continued to suffer.  I know that other families also do this around the world as well, and I truly believe the era of, “more for me” has begun to swing to a new philosophy of, “less is more” and, “us together.”

A century ago there really wasn’t a concept of, “retirement” or, “Social Security.”  Everyone knew they had to work in order to survive, and if they couldn’t work, were disabled, elderly or sick – family, neighbors, churches and/or charities stepped in to assist them if possible – because nursing homes and medical care were not often available.  Multi-generational living was the norm, and it wasn’t uncommon for three or more generations to live under the same roof.  In those days people were forced to get along and compromise, and after a century of rising expectations where houses have continued to get larger every decade with fewer people living under one roof – people are beginning to choose a new way.  Only in the past year or so with the recent recession and economic slow-down, have people begun to look back on the way it has always been; often deciding that, “more is not always better” and in many cases, “less is actually more.”  Families have begun moving back together under a single roof – with grown children moving back home  often as single parents – because of the cost of supporting a separate household has become so expensive today.  Families are also discovering that a garden full of vegetables is nice to have in the back yard – or front yard – instead of a manicured lawn, because you can actually eat the vegetables you grow yourself.  So in many respects this trend of multi-generational living is really a, “back to basics” approach to begin living as we once did prior to continuously rising expectations, and because it can be much more rewarding as well to share with each other what we own.

If we now put on our, “rose-colored glasses” and peer a short way into the future, we will be able to see that: peace through love has arrived in our world; countries are disarming and reducing their military budgets around the world; multi-generational families are choosing to live together under one roof and support each other as well as total strangers – because their generosity is rewarded through changes in the tax code and a new realization that it is the right and moral decision to do because we are in fact our, “brother’s keeper.”  What part of this puzzle still remains to be solved then?  The distribution of infrastructure and capital around the world today remains uneven and concentrated in what we call the, “developed” nations of our world.  How can we help to provide assistance to the, “undeveloped” and, “under developed” countries of the world then?

Governments, charities and individuals today are contributing to these under developed areas around the word, and so much more needs to be accomplished – but how?  First of all, renewable energy resources like wind power and solar power can help to bring electricity to these areas without major investment in modern powerplants.  Technological improvements should assist in bringing under developed areas into the 21st Century with one major key hope – the discovery of untapped resources and commercial ventures in these under developed areas.  Many of these areas are discovering gas, oil and minerals; while others have a wealth of, “eco-tourism” potential that needs to be developed; and yet others only need the threat of war and conflict to be removed for them, to be able to quickly develop their countries themselves in a state of peace and prosperity.

There is so much promise in our world that has never been as close to being attainable as it is today.  The people of the world community cry out for peace and prosperity, the end of war and conflict, and the morality of hearts choosing to do the right thing – between people, between communities and between governments.  Peace is achievable in our day, and the only true and lasting peace is the peace that arrives through love – love for who we are as people, love for each other as neighbors, love for each other as friends, and love for each other as communities and members of the free nations of the world – as we all traverse this amazing solar system on such a perfect and hospitable planet that we all share and call Earth.