Our Inner and Outer Worlds
Before we can develop any new and innovative means of addressing the greatest challenges in our world, we need to understand a little more about the world. There are different notions of what the world is, and we need to explore these. In some contexts, the word “world” is synonymous with “Earth”, but in other contexts, it is meant to encompass everything that one experiences if life. The totality of one’s life experiences is his or her world.
We should acknowledge that peace is difficult to achieve for both of these two notions of “world”. We know that peace is elusive in our world today, and this is true on the local scale all the way up to the global scale and within our own lives as well. As life is so often confusing and filled with conflicts, most of us are looking for a way to make things more peaceful. The biggest obstacle in this is the realization that it is nearly impossible for us to have peace in our lives when we live in a world in which there is so much animosity and distrust and where there is so much suffering and violence. This leads us to the realization that inner peace (that we seek within our own consciousness) and outer peace (that we seek with the outside world) are deeply interdependent. We need both of them in order to bring about any meaningful level of peace.
Some people work toward resolving conflicts and building greater peace in society, but if they do not have peace within their own minds, their work will be less effective. If they are fighting inner wars, then they will find that a hindrance to their broader goals. Also, if one is trying to resolve and avoid conflicts, it is necessary to address the conflicts within the minds of the people who are at odds with each other.
We also see some people working on building their own inner peace and withdrawing from society to focus on their own needs. Some people find that their inner drives and desires are unhealthy and seek assistance from other people who can provide help and support. Some might also find it helpful to recount their own pivotal life moments and seek the assistance of others in finding closure. Those who put this into practice might find a measure of peace within their own consciousness and might be surrounded by people who are also similarly finding inner peace.
Those who can find a high degree of inner peace and are also able to be socially at peace with those around them should be able to find more overall peace in their lives. For any of us to achieve such a level of peace would be quite an accomplishment, but there would inevitably still be nagging concerns that could cause conflicts to flare up. Since we live in a world with so much unnecessary conflict and suffering, it is difficult to have lasting peace in our lives unless we are working to promote peace within society at large. Ideally, we want to see other people, even those who we will never meet and whose lives are largely disconnected from our own, understanding each other at a deeper level so that there could be less conflict and more peace in the world overall. The truth is that in an interconnected and globalized world, our lives and our long-term peace depend on a lot of other people also coming to find peace in their lives and getting along with each other.
This leads us to realize that we need to equally work toward societal peace and inner peace, including within our own minds and within the minds of those with whom we share the Earth. We not only want to find inner peace, but we also need to promote peace among the people that we encounter and that our lives depend upon.
When we understand this dynamic, we can come to realize that relentless conflict is not an inevitable aspect of life and that peace is achievable with enough effort and determination. In other words, when we understand all of the main factors that cause conflicts to arise, to worsen, and to perpetuate, and when we also understand that these contributing factors are not entirely necessary aspects of human existence, we can begin to have more optimism that even the most entrenched conflicts can be alleviated. The key to finding peace is by developing greater levels of education, empathy, and reason across all aspects of life.
There are aspects of life that we don’t often think about and we don’t often study, perhaps because we are focused on other things. Some aspects of life are not easily apparent to the naked eye, nor can be observed with even the more advanced scientific machinery. There are dimensions of lived experience that are difficult to observe, study, and understand, but we need to figure out ways of making this possible, since this is the key to developing meaningful peace.
This is related to the two notions of “world” that are mentioned above. Similar to the distinction between inner and outer peace, we all have an outer world in which we interact with each other and an inner world where our thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires originate. Our inner (conscious) and outer (social) worlds can seem to be out of touch with one another, since after all we can’t very easily understand other people’s thoughts and feelings and we often find it difficult and frustrating when we try to get others to understand us. Our inner and outer worlds may seem disconnected from each other, but maybe there could be a way to integrate these worlds through innovations in science and communication. Perhaps we can develop a scientific way of integrating these different forms of human understanding so that we can overcome this disconnect.
Is introspection a reliable way of understanding the mind? Let your voice be heard in the forum.