Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Changing the World

"A Point of Light'
- Moonrise at the Desert Retreat House-

I have recently begun growing a little herb garden on the side of my house. I enjoy cooking and I find that nothing enhances the taste of food like aromatic herbs - especially herbs freshly picked from the garden.  I am amazed at how a simple sprig of thyme or rosemary or a few sprigs of dill can literally change the entire flavor of a dish you are preparing.

Yesterday as I smelled the fragrant aroma of the cilantro I was picking from my garden for the evening meal, I was struck once again by the simple yet profound lesson nature often teaches us about life.

It seems to me that, in order to walk on a spiritual path, you have to be flexible enough to embrace paradox - seeming contradictions.  On the one hand the spiritual journey teaches us that our ego is rather insignificant, a tiny speck in the overall scope of the cosmos. In fact, as the Buddhists teach, the ego as a separated individual entity doesn’t even exist, it is a delusion, a false sense of self. Nothing is isolated, everything and everyone is interconnected in a dynamic web of being.

A person with a big ego who sets out to change the world with his or her clever plans or iron-clad self-promoting personal agenda will likely suffer from an unchecked ambition that will surely lead to suffering and disappointment in life.

Unfortunately as people get older many begin to feel that their life doesn’t make any difference in this world. All the hopes, dreams and youthful plans for changing the world fade into the boredom of everyday existence in the everyday work place. Instead of finding a cure for cancer or starting up their own business, lots of folks just find themselves sitting at a desk all day or taking care of the kids, wondering, “Is that all there is?”

And herein lies the paradox of it all.

One tiny little life can actually change the world - in fact one tiny little life does change the world. Everything any one of us does or says inevitably influences everything and everyone in the entire world “because” we are all interwoven, connected together in a web of being.

Years back, when I first starting reading about the principles of quantum science,  I remember being so taken by the principle of the “Butterfly Effect.” The systems of the world are so dynamically interconnected that a tiny butterfly’s wings flapping in China can lead to a hurricane that ultimately hits the Atlantic coast of the United States.

Each action of our own individual lives has a “butterfly effect” – simple acts of kindness multiply exponentially (so do acts of malice). A word of thanks or encouragement, a simple act of kindness to a neighbor or even to an enemy are the flapping wings of a butterfly.

Just as a sprinkling of fresh herbs from the garden effects the entire flavor of food, so do our everyday simple acts enhance the beauty of everyday life, making all the difference in the world.

The Buddha taught:

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared,


  1. You (and the Buddha) are so right. I find this one of the most encouraging realizations of my own life. Just flap one wing, even if you can't get airborne! That's sorta my mantra I guess. Thanks for this post.

    1. Yeah exactly--doesn't take much to fly does it?