At times of suffering and destruction - such as we are seeing in the Middle East today - many people feel helpless and ask, "What can I do?" Others take sides, and blame one side or the other, as if this somehow justifies the atrocities - forgetting in the process the maxim that "in war the first casualty is always the truth."
Yet, if we indulge in feeling helpless, this simply encourages more helplessness, and blaming others simply begets more blame. So, what can we do? The very first thing, according to the Toltec approach towards life, is to recognize that, as human beings, we all - whoever we are - have immense abilities and powers. History has shown time and time again that, although the human spirit is capable of being waylaid in destructive actions, its true nature is far more open to and capable of amazing feats of upliftment, endurance and power.
Secondly, it is important to acknowledge that our thoughts and actions are not separate, affecting only ourselves. Our thoughts and actions ripple out into our lives and our communities in ways that are powerful and have concrete results - results that can be either extremely uplifting, or highly destructive. For example, most of us have experienced the effect that just one purposeful and inspirational person can have on a group of people - be this a family, a meeting, a city, or even a country.
These people are no different to you or me; they have just taken the decision fully to believe in themselves and to stand up for all that they believe in. Simply through believing in themselves and taking a stand, their thoughts and actions are having an enormous effect - both on all those immediately around them, as well as throughout the world, through the medium of the web of life - since at bottom, everything in life is interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent. Through their thoughts and actions they are playing their part in helping to create the world in which we live.
So the question that faces all of us is, "Do we want to live in a world that is life-supportive and if so, how do we achieve this?" For the reality is that most people are simply not involved in "going out there" to save the world. And yet, it is not necessary to go "out there" to make a difference. Each and every one of us has our own life to live, our own sphere of influence, and our own challenges to face and overcome. If we can act impeccably in our daily life to face and meet our challenges, the positive effects will be enormous - far more enormous than, for example, simply giving money to charities.
If we look at the world today and ask, "What is the solution?" we find the answer is that the solution lies in the hands and lives of each and every one of us. To think that the solution lies only in the hands of other people, or the UN or various governments, is folly. For the only real solution lies within each of us and our actions. Governments govern - they cannot bring about peace or lasting change - in the same way that they cannot bring about racial harmony through legislation. The attainment of peace, true change and racial harmony begins and ends with every one of us.
Since all of life is interrelated, interconnected and interdependent, it is not surprising that similar principles should apply to those who wish to blame or to justify. Blame and justification - as opposed to taking action within our own lives - are equally the refuge of the powerless.
When we are faced with things we do not like, we act and we address them in our own life. One aspect of doing this is to bring whatever we see back to ourself. This approach is not new - it is, in fact a fundamental tenet of most major religions and belief systems. However, in order to serve the interests of fanatics, it has mainly been forgotten. Yet, if we take, for example, the Christian religion, we find that Christ was quite clear when he stated; "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou clearly see to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
Therefore, if someone sees aggression, duplicity and violence in the world, he acts in whatever way is necessary, but he also addresses these within himself, rather than playing the blame game with those around him. For the truth is that none of us are so pure that we can stand in isolation to life. So, the question to ask is, "In what ways am I perpetuating aggression, duplicity and violence in my own life - in my hidden thoughts; in my actions; in my beliefs?"
Through taking responsibility, and through taking action impeccably in our own lives, we are indeed doing something important - we are not only making a difference in our immediate world, but through the interrelationship of life we are creating a powerful effect that reaches far beyond and influences the whole world.