Heaven, hell and Jeremy Clarkson

We are our deeds. It’s a popular heathen saying, and the title of a well-written heathen book by Eric Wodening. What we say, what we do is a reflection of our own self. How we behave is what defines us.

Our society is full of examples, however, of bad behaviour being rewarded, or being applauded. In Britain, famous television presenter Jeremy Clarkson was fired from the popular television show, Top Gear, because he had punched a producer in the face when he found out that there was no hot food available on set. No charges have been made against Clarkson’s assault, and indeed, he is making light of the whole situation, thereby condoning violence. In a recent spin-off live show in Belfast it opened with a video of him throwing a left-hook, as if it were right to punch a colleague in the face. Everyone cheered. When it was rumoured that comedian Sue Perkins would possibly replace Clarkson on the show, she had to leave Twitter because of all the death threats that she was receiving. Violence breeds violence.

What we think, what we say, what we do defines our self. When we live in a world that no longer seems to care about personal responsibility, about compassion, about just being nice to other people, it is even more important that we take up the reins and provide an example of how to be in the world in good, honourable relationship.

We are blessed with foresight. We can think about the outcomes of our actions. We have memories of the past to consider when making our actions. And yet some people still behave badly, willfully, out of spite and their own demons, or out of ignorance that there is a choice.

This is what it all comes down to: we always have a choice. We can choose to behave badly, remaining stuck in our bad habits, remaining trapped in our attachments, allowing our emotions to run riot over ourselves and others. Or we can choose to take up personal responsibility, to think about things that we have done and things that we are going to do, and how they will affect others. It’s not fun being mean to other people. It makes our hearts small. It tightens and constricts them until we become mere shadows of ourselves. We may hide behind comedy, delusions or the lies that we have told ourselves over and over again to justify our behaviour. Ultimately, however, we know on a deep level when we are doing things that are wrong, and we can choose to continue or not.

Take responsibility for your actions. Shrugging off bad behaviour doesn’t make it right, and you will eventually have to face it at some point in your life. Clarkson knows that what he did was wrong, which is why he’s making fun of it rather than face up to the fact that he was wrong. It’s all about saving face, about personal egos, illusions and delusions. How many other people do you know who are like that?

If nothing at all, these people remind us of who we do not wish to be. We can still have compassion for them, seeing that they suffer from their own demons. However, that does not mean condoning their behaviour. We can speak out against it, and still hope that they find peace in their own lives.

There is a Zen story about a samurai who asks a monk about heaven and hell:

Hakuin, the fiery and intensely dynamic Zen master, was once visited by a samurai warrior.

“I want to know about heaven and hell,” said the samurai. “Do they really exist?” he asked Hakuin.
Hakuin looked at the soldier and asked, “Who are you?”

“I am a samurai,” announced the proud warrior.

“Ha!” exclaimed Hakuin. “What makes you think you can understand such insightful things? You are merely a callous, brutish soldier! Go away and do not waste my time with your foolish questions,” Hakuin said, waving his hand to drive away the samurai.

The enraged samurai couldn’t take Hakuin’s insults. He drew his sword, readied for the kill, when Hakuin calmly retorted, “This is hell.”

The soldier was taken aback. His face softened. Humbled by the wisdom of Hakuin, he put away his sword and bowed before the Zen Master.

“And this is heaven,” Hakuin stated, just as calmly.

May all beings find peace.

Reblog: A Guide to Cultivating Compassion

Here is a reblog from Leo’s wonderful site.  Number six is the most difficult, but perhaps the most important.  🙂

A Guide to Cultivating Compassion in Your Life, With 7 Practices

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.– Dalai Lama

By Leo Babauta

I believe compassion to be one of the few things we can practice that will bring immediate and long-term happiness to our lives. I’m not talking about the short-term gratification of pleasures like sex, drugs or gambling (though I’m not knocking them), but something that will bring true and lasting happiness. The kind that sticks.

The key to developing compassion in your life is to make it a daily practice.

Meditate upon it in the morning (you can do it while checking email), think about it when you interact with others, and reflect on it at night. In this way, it becomes a part of your life. Or as the Dalai Lama also said, “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

Definition
Let’s use the Wikipedia definition of Compassion:

Compassion is an emotion that is a sense of shared suffering, most often combined with a desire to alleviate or reduce the suffering of another; to show special kindness to those who suffer. Compassion essentially arises through empathy, and is often characterized through actions, wherein a person acting with compassion will seek to aid those they feel compassionate for.

Compassionate acts are generally considered those which take into account the suffering of others and attempt to alleviate that suffering as if it were one’s own. In this sense, the various forms of the Golden Rule are clearly based on the concept of compassion.

Compassion differs from other forms of helpful or humane behavior in that its focus is primarily on the alleviation of suffering.

Benefits
Why develop compassion in your life? Well, there are scientific studies that suggest there are physical benefits to practicing compassion — people who practice it produce 100 percent more DHEA, which is a hormone that counteracts the aging process, and 23 percent less cortisol — the “stress hormone.”

But there are other benefits as well, and these are emotional and spiritual. The main benefit is that it helps you to be more happy, and brings others around you to be more happy. If we agree that it is a common aim of each of us to strive to be happy, then compassion is one of the main tools for achieving that happiness. It is therefore of utmost importance that we cultivate compassion in our lives and practice compassion every day.

How do we do that? This guide contains 7 different practices that you can try out and perhaps incorporate into your every day life.

7 Compassion Practices

  1. Morning ritual. Greet each morning with a ritual. Try this one, suggest by the Dalai Lama: “Today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” Then, when you’ve done this, try one of the practices below.
  2. Empathy Practice. The first step in cultivating compassion is to develop empathy for your fellow human beings. Many of us believe that we have empathy, and on some level nearly all of us do. But many times we are centered on ourselves (I’m no exception) and we let our sense of empathy get rusty. Try this practice: Imagine that a loved one is suffering. Something terrible has happened to him or her. Now try to imagine the pain they are going through. Imagine the suffering in as much detail as possible. After doing this practice for a couple of weeks, you should try moving on to imagining the suffering of others you know, not just those who are close to you.
  3. Commonalities practice. Instead of recognizing the differences between yourself and others, try to recognize what you have in common. At the root of it all, we are all human beings. We need food, and shelter, and love. We crave attention, and recognition, and affection, and above all, happiness. Reflect on these commonalities you have with every other human being, and ignore the differences. One of my favorite exercises comes from a great article from Ode Magazine — it’s a five-step exercise to try when you meet friends and strangers. Do it discreetly and try to do all the steps with the same person. With your attention geared to the other person, tell yourself:
    1. Step 1: “Just like me, this person is seeking happiness in his/her life.”
    2. Step 2: “Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”
    3. Step 3: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.”
    4. Step 4: “Just like me, this person is seeking to fill his/her needs.”
    5. Step 5: “Just like me, this person is learning about life.”
  4. Relief of suffering practice. Once you can empathize with another person, and understand his humanity and suffering, the next step is to want that person to be free from suffering. This is the heart of compassion — actually the definition of it. Try this exercise: Imagine the suffering of a human being you’ve met recently. Now imagine that you are the one going through that suffering. Reflect on how much you would like that suffering to end. Reflect on how happy you would be if another human being desired your suffering to end, and acted upon it. Open your heart to that human being and if you feel even a little that you’d want their suffering to end, reflect on that feeling. That’s the feeling that you want to develop. With constant practice, that feeling can be grown and nurtured.
  5. Act of kindness practice. Now that you’ve gotten good at the 4th practice, take the exercise a step further. Imagine again the suffering of someone you know or met recently. Imagine again that you are that person, and are going through that suffering. Now imagine that another human being would like your suffering to end — perhaps your mother or another loved one. What would you like for that person to do to end your suffering? Now reverse roles: you are the person who desires for the other person’s suffering to end. Imagine that you do something to help ease the suffering, or end it completely. Once you get good at this stage, practice doing something small each day to help end the suffering of others, even in a tiny way. Even a smile, or a kind word, or doing an errand or chore, or just talking about a problem with another person. Practice doing something kind to help ease the suffering of others. When you are good at this, find a way to make it a daily practice, and eventually a throughout-the-day practice.
  6. Those who mistreat us practice. The final stage in these compassion practices is to not only want to ease the suffering of those we love and meet, but even those who mistreat us. When we encounter someone who mistreats us, instead of acting in anger, withdraw. Later, when you are calm and more detached, reflect on that person who mistreated you. Try to imagine the background of that person. Try to imagine what that person was taught as a child. Try to imagine the day or week that person was going through, and what kind of bad things had happened to that person. Try to imagine the mood and state of mind that person was in — the suffering that person must have been going through to mistreat you that way. And understand that their action was not about you, but about what they were going through. Now think some more about the suffering of that poor person, and see if you can imagine trying to stop the suffering of that person. And then reflect that if you mistreated someone, and they acted with kindness and compassion toward you, whether that would make you less likely to mistreat that person the next time, and more likely to be kind to that person. Once you have mastered this practice of reflection, try acting with compassion and understanding the next time a person treats you. Do it in little doses, until you are good at it. Practice makes perfect.
  7. Evening routine. I highly recommend that you take a few minutes before you go to bed to reflect upon your day. Think about the people you met and talked to, and how you treated each other. Think about your goal that you stated this morning, to act with compassion towards others. How well did you do? What could you do better? What did you learn from your experiences today? And if you have time, try one of the above practices and exercises.

These compassionate practices can be done anywhere, any time. At work, at home, on the road, while traveling, while at a store, while at the home of a friend or family member. By sandwiching your day with a morning and evening ritual, you can frame your day properly, in an attitude of trying to practice compassion and develop it within yourself. And with practice, you can begin to do it throughout the day, and throughout your lifetime.

This, above all, with bring happiness to your life and to those around you.

“My message is the practice of compassion, love and kindness. These things are very useful in our daily life, and also for the whole of human society these practices can be very important.” – Dalai Lama

Touching the Earth

Imagine my delight when I read how practices I am currently doing in my Druid tradition are also being done by the venerable Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh (you will notice quite a few blog posts dedicated to his teachings on this blog!). In his book The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology  he provides some lovely daily practices (gathas) to honour the earth that we can fit into our everyday life. Some of these I was doing already in various forms, such as prayers before meals, washing hands/body, drinking water, etc, and some were new and equally poignant, to be incorporated in my daily practice. But what really struck a chord with me was the Five Earth Touchings that he described after the Earth gathas and how similar they were to my daily prayers.

He recommends to Touch the Earth each and every day, to establish our deep and abiding connection with the earth and to give thanks for all that we have, reminding ourselves of who we are, where we came from, our ancestors of the future and living a life filled with compassion and peace.

He states “The practice of Touching the Earth is to return to the Earth, to our roots, to our ancestors, and to recognize that we are not alone but connected to a whole stream of spiritual and blood ancestors. We are their continuation and with them, will continue into the future generations. We touch the earth to let go of the idea that we are separate and to remind us that we are the Earth and part of Life.

When we touch the Earth we become small, with the humility and simplicity of a young child. When we touch the Earth we become great, like an ancient tree sending her roots deep into the earth, drinking from the source of all waters. When we touch the Earth, we breathe in all the strength and stability of the Earth, and breathe out our suffering- our feelings of anger, hatred, fear, inadequacy and grief.

Our hands join to form a lotus bud and we gently lower ourselves to the ground so that all four limbs and our forehead are resting comfortably on the floor. While we are Touching the Earth we turn our palms face up, showing our openness to the three jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha), and the Sangha (the community). After one or two times practicing Touching the Earth (Three Touchings or Five Touchings), we can already release a lot of our suffering and feeling of alienation and reconcile with our ancestors, parents, children, or friends.”

The first Earth Touching is “In gratitude, I bow to all generations of ancestors in my blood family.” Here we honour our blood ties, the stories that brought us to where we are today, the generations of love and suffering in our bloodlines that help to create our story today. By opening ourselves to our ancestors we acknowledge all this, and can ask for their protection, love and support. In Druidry, we honour the ancestors, and in my own tradition I state “I honour the ancestors of blood, whose stories flow through my veins”.

The second Earth Touching is “In gratitude, I bow to all generations of ancestors in my spiritual family.” Here we honour the teachers who have shared their wisdom and insight, throughout the years, whether we have known them personally or not. We can see ourselves in these people. These are the people who can help us to transform our suffering and bring about peace, both in our own hearts and in the world. In my own tradition, I state “I honour the ancestors of tradition, whose wisdom flows through the teachings.”

The third Earth Touching is “In gratitude, I bow to this land and all of the ancestors who made it available.” Here we honour the spirits and/or ancestors of place, who have made this world that we live in. They are in the soil and wind, all those who have lived and died and now exist in another form. It is the energy of the land upon which we live, that we can feel humming in our bones, if we only open ourselves to listen. In my tradition, I state “I honour the ancestors of place, whose songs flow through this land”.

The fourth Earth Touching is “In gratitude and compassion, I bow down and transmit my energy to those I love.” Here we share the wisdom and insight gained from our practice and spread that out to all our loved ones in a form of prayer. The energy we have received from the earth is given freely, and so we too give freely to those we love. We can ask our ancestors for their protection and aid in this matter. In my tradition, I state “May there be peace in the hearts and minds of all those I hold dear, my family, friends and loved ones.”

The fifth Earth Touching is “In understanding and compassion, I bow down to reconcile myself with all those who have made me suffer.” Here we learn that the earth gives of her energy without discrimination or prejudice, and we can learn to live magnanimously in all that we do. We understand that people who cause us to suffer do so through their own wrong perceptions, and we pray that they find a way to relieve their suffering. We work towards not holding any anger or hatred towards these people, instead trying to understand in order to better work in the world. Again, we can ask our ancestors for help in this matter. In my tradition, I state “May peace be in the hearts and minds of those who cause me and others around them to suffer, may they know loving kindness.

The similarities between what I currently do as a Zen-minded Druid and these Buddhist practices absolutely delight me, and could to transform much of the world’s suffering if done with mindfulness and loving kindness. Try to take some time each day to recite the Earth Touchings above, or something similar – it could change your life, or at the very least ease some of the suffering and provide a path to peace that is yours and yours alone to walk.

The Novice

noviceWhilst on holiday in Brittany the past week (blog and photos to come!) I read Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s novel, The Novice. It is his first novel, that tells the story of a young woman who has become a legend in Vietnam for paving the way for women to be nuns in the Buddhist tradition. It’s a short book, eloquently written and filled with wisdom throughout.

Kinh Tam is a beautiful young woman who has always felt a calling for deep learning through Buddhist enlightenment. As there were no temples for nuns at the time, she felt that her only option was to do what women did back then – marry and have children. However, her marriage failed as her in-laws falsely accused her of trying to kill her husband one night. Kinh Tam goes back home then, cuts off her hair and disguises herself as a boy, wandering for five days until she comes to a temple where she asks to be taken in as a novice.

She shows an aptitude unlike any other monk in her devotion to the Zen Buddhist teachings and carrying them out. She lives the perfections of generosity, mindfulness, magnanimity, diligence, patience and insight. She has already been through much, after the false accusations of attempted murder, and yet she holds true to her path, holding no malice to those who have wronged her through their own false perceptions.

A young noblewoman who visits the temple falls in love with the young “boy” monk, seeing in him such beauty that only an open-heart can radiate. Kinh Tam avoids her, with as much compassion as possible, as her secret cannot be found out else she faces expulsion. After Kinh Tam turns down the noblewoman’s request for a private meeting, the noblewoman woman becomes enraged, filled with her own anger and wounded pride, accusing the young novice of impregnating her when it was really a servant boy from her household whom she took to bed in anger and despair of not being able to sway the young novice from his devoted path.

Kinh Tam faces the dilemma of choice: tell everyone that it’s not possible, as she is a woman, or face beatings for her “transgressions”. Her love for her path is so strong that it sees her through the beatings, and yet again she never holds any malice towards the young woman (Mau), those who believe her false accusations and even those who beat her. She knows it is only their wrong perception of her that makes them act as they do, and the strength of loving kindness overcomes all the pain she endures.

Kinh Tam goes through further hardships, yet always with the endurance of a loving heart and the deep well of forgiveness. I won’t tell you the ending, but I was in tears as I read it – it was just so beautiful.

Kinh Tam’s story is one that can help anyone going through a rough time. It doesn’t matter what it is that you are enduring, whether it is being shot at, beaten, false accusations or someone trying to undermine you and your work – the open heart of compassion and seeing the unity of all things is stronger than any of these. Anyone can relate to Kinh Tam’s story. As a woman, I felt a deep bond with her struggles and an empathy for her trials and tribulations. I felt deeply the tug of sadness as one woman falsely accuses another (albeit unknowingly regarding the disguised gender, yet with an intended malice in any event). As a practitioner of Zen I found deep wisdom in the teachings that lay like little stars filled with light across the pages, twinkling with their insight into living a life of less suffering. We all suffer, for various reasons, but we can lessen that suffering through the open heart of compassion. Those who try to hurt us, physically, emotionally, intellectually, who undermine our person and our work, who tell lies and allow their pride, anger and other emotions to overwhelm their reason and the ability to see clearly the heart of the matter – these are things we all go through at some point in our lives. Whether it is through war, office/work politics or family issues, the cause is the same: wrong perceptions. Because they have a wrong perception of us, they act out, lash out, are ruled by the monkeys riding on their backs.

Yet we don’t have retaliate like for like. We can see their suffering, and still send them our love and compassion, even from afar. Because they perhaps have not seen that there is another option, they have no way out. Living through our actions, of opening our eyes to all possibilities and the reality of the present moment we can hopefully provide an example for a peaceful way of life that benefits the whole. We can forgive these misjudgements from others, as they are easily created. Through diligence we can work to dissolve these false perceptions within ourselves, through meditation, deep insight and the other teachings of Zen Buddhism.

I always doubted whether humans were truly capable of forgiveness. When explained through the words and story told by Thich Nhat Hanh, it makes so much more sense; it is so easy. There are three appendices to the story, one describing further the legend of Kinh Tam, the second describing the legacy of Kinh Tam by Sister Chan Khong of Plum Village monastery, and Thich Nhat Hanh’s own addendum about practicing love. These appendices are just as important as the story itself, for it shows “Engaged Buddhism” in action as Sister Chan Khong and Thich Nhat Hanh both relate how the practice of compassion helped them through the suffering of the Vietnam war, exile and more. We see first-hand how the Zen Buddhist precepts are put into practice, actually lived out in the lives of those who worked in the DMZ, offering wisdom and deep insight into how suffering is different for each individual and yet can be overcome when held in the arms of compassion.

In the UK, you can buy this wonderful little book from as little as £1.04 second-hand; do try to read it if you are at all interested in Zen Buddhism, mindfulness, compassion or loving kindness. If you feel you are suffering in any shape or form, this book might be able to help you find the way to transforming suffering into something that instead brings peace and harmony to your world, and thereby to the world at large.

May we be peace. x

 

 

 

Chakra Cleansing Workshop

Yesterday I gave a chakra cleansing workshop at the Woodbridge Mind Body Spirit Festival. It’s an event that I attend every year, performing with my dance company and giving workshops/talks.  Here is a recording of the workshop if you are interested! x

The gift of the present

1780993900Going through my old gwers (small course books) from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids’ online correspondence course that I did many years ago, I found a section of a few gwers that made me smile, as it resonated with me then and still does, on so many levels and is also a major part of the way that I live my life. It focuses on the here and now, on the beauty and wonder of the present moment, and how important the present moment is. Leaving the past to the past, and the future to the future, these gwers really highlighted the importance of focus on the here and now. I did this through incorporating elements of Zen Buddhism into my life (see my first book, Zen Druidry) which has helped me to fully actualise the present moment, to not take it for granted and to learn to simply be, wherever I am and whatever I am doing.

Being comfortable in the present is key to finding lasting happiness. Knowing that the past exists, but that it serves only as a guide to the present moment helps us to release many things that can have a negative effect on the present moment, such as anger, grief, fear or hate. Knowing that the future exists only as a flexible plan helps us to not get too stuck in our ways and habits, and can also alleviate feelings such as fear. Our focus should always been on the now, to live life fully.

But what if the “now” isn’t all that great? What if in the “now” we are stuck outside in the pouring rain without an umbrella or coat, waiting for a bus that never turns up? Yep – that’s all part of it. Buddhism teaches in the first noble truth that all beings suffer. You can’t escape it. That might sound like one helluva downer, but the upside is that the other noble truths help us to alleviate that suffering. One of the ways to do so is the fully be in your self, in your body and mind (there is no separation) and in doing so, the suffering eases. That doesn’t mean you won’t get soaked to your knickers, but at least you spent the time feeling the rain upon your body, smelled the earth responding to the rain and smiled to your own heart rather than get angry at the bus driver, or grumpy about the wetness, wondering why this sort of thing always happens to you.

For some people who are living in extreme conditions, say in the middle of a war zone for instance, the above may sound trite. However, Vietnemese monk Thich Nhat Hanh experienced the horrors of war first hand and learned how to be in the present moment, to help alleviate the suffering. (See the Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh .) When we are in the present moment we will know how to respond to any situation better than if we were responding from the past or future. Our clarity sharpens and we respond in a manner that is wholly and utterly relevant to the situation at hand rather than drudging up issues from the past or worries about the future.

I have had to deal with uncomfortable situations and difficult people. Being in the present helped me to not drudge up the past to project it onto a particular situation in negative ways, but to enable me to deal with the issues as they are, up front without any extra baggage. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we enjoy dealing with this sort of stuff, but we can get through it with a lighter heart, finding our peace more quickly and able to spread that out to the world. It helps you see reality, as it really is. Eventually you may find that your inner peace becomes less and less disturbed, no matter what life throws at you, and that peace and calm will radiate out into the world in beautiful and positive ways.

May you enjoy the present moment for all that it is. Remember the old saying, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present”.

 

 

Toxic consumption

Leo Babuata’s recent blog post about reality came at a serendipitous moment when I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology“. It is often said that we create our own reality, but I think that those words are often misinterpreted. Those who are suffering from famine or abuse have not necessarily created that reality – everyone’s reality is also a combination of others’ reality. However, what Leo and Thay point out that it is what we consume that helps to create our reality.

We are a consumer culture, here in the West. Some of us are trying to bring more awareness to what we consume, whether that is in material goods, food, petrol or electricity consumption, etc. What Leo and Thay speak of however is what we are consuming with our soul, with our heart, with our brain, mainly through media but also in the form of speech, gossip, etc. Thay speaks eloquently about this matter, stating that a lot of what we visually consume from the media is toxic. We watch television shows that are violent, or that pit people against each other in dishonourable ways. We are influenced by advertising. We may speak ill or dishonestly of others, or about ourselves. When we are doing this, we are taking in a toxicity that affects our very being. We can stand up for ourselves, certainly, speaking out against injustice with honesty and awareness. It doesn’t mean we will never speak out. What it does mean is that we become engaged in our living, in our being, in a positive way that benefits the whole, not just the self.

Life is a choice, for the most part. We can choose to not take in this toxicity, or be a part of it. That is not to say that we shut ourselves off from what is happening in the world. We need to know of the suffering that is occurring in the world in order to help alleviate it. But we can say no to violence as entertainment, to disrespect someone in order to “pass the time”. Everyone knows the saying “You are what you eat”. Let’s open this out to everything else that we consume. We can choose to be a part of this world, aware of what is happening, without taking in the vast amounts of toxic images and words; it is within our power.

Be aware of the world. Know that people are suffering from a horrific tragedy in Kenya. Know that people are suffering in your own hometown. Know too that you can choose to not play violent video games, or watch gory movies, to intake that violence into your consciousness. You can fill your heart with peace and loving kindness – it is your choice. You don’t have to read that magazine with photoshopped men and women. You don’t have to comment negatively on someone’s Facebook status. You don’t have to gossip about someone, or read about it in the latest trashy mag. You choose what you put out there into the world.

When we fill ourselves with positive things instead of toxic things, we can hopefully make this world a better place. What are your thoughts?