In 1968, I was 12 years old. I was captivated by the idea of traveling in space and followed the Apollo moon landing program very closely. At Christmas that year, Apollo 8 made its historic journey to the moon and back. This was the first time human beings had gone there and traveled around the far side of the moon. I was riveted by every pop and hiss of the radio communications and the pictures of the surface of the moon. The most iconic image of that time is that of the earth. And it stunned me on a level that has never left me in the 40+ years since I saw it.
It shows the continent of Africa surrounded by the seas with swirls of clouds seemingly placed randomly. But what stunned me was what it didn’t show. Borders! There were no lines delineating the countries that were talked about so frequently in the news. No places where one type of people clearly began and another ended. I realized, at the tender age of 12, that there were no countries existing in reality the way a rock or lake or dog or human exists. This was a revelation! What appeared to exist was land, sea, clouds and air. And I knew that what actually inhabited the planet were individual plants, animals, and people. No groups, no countries, no cultures, no religions, no actual tangible reasons for wars.
I admit that there are complicated reasons for wars, culture, religions etc. and that the revelation of a 12 year old is not the final say on these matters. But to this day I am struck by the factual accuracy of that realization. We act and argue as if “the U.S.” or “China” actually exists the way a mountain does. When we do that, we leave ourselves open to all kinds of propaganda and emotional manipulation based on things that don’t actually exist. There is something not quite sane about this, even though I understand the idea of a country is an artificial geographic boundary in which people share values. The fact is that a country is an idea, not a physical reality. This idea is a representation of shared values. It is the values that matter, not the country. For me, what matters are my 3 Principles (see post) along with kindness, generosity, creativity, productiveness and of course, inner and outer peace.
Sometimes when watching the news and hearing comments about the behaviour of a “country”, I have experienced an immediate emotional reaction be it positive or negative. But then I remember that in actuality what is being discussed are the actions of individual human beings who are in positions of power. They will not be there forever and the “country” does not exist so cannot act in any particular way. This clear picture helps me be less agitated about the news item and refocus my attention on my inner state. This is turn helps me return to that quiet mind that is so easily clouded.