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Senior Correspondent

"The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." — Carl Jung

I spend a lot of time reading and thinking and talking about happiness. People sometimes question the value of what might seem to be a self-centered pursuit. How can we focus on happiness when there is so much suffering in the world? Indeed, how can caring people turn their backs on hunger and disease and violence and poverty to seek inner peace and contentment? How dare we close our eyes to the ugliness and terror in the world and go about with hearts full of joy?

Is that what happiness is? Massive denial and self-delusion? A heart hardened to the reality of pain? The refuge of fools and princes?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a radical statement. I believe that the most generous, selfless, precious gift we can give the world is to awaken our natural state of calm, abiding joy. It’s always there, just a breath away. It’s where we came from. It’s our home.

We don’t need to kindle a light. It already burns brightly. It always has and always will. If we remove whatever blocks its light, it will shine forth in the darkness.

And oh, how much darkness there is these days. I just finished an historical novel about the war in Biafra. I remember the photos of the starving children with swollen bellies from that time. We see the same faces and swollen bellies of children starving today in so many places, while war and violence spread across borders and through neighborhoods. Fear continues to infect American politics, fear that arrived on airplanes and has spread like cancer ever since. Newsweek magazine features Chinese women billionaires on its cover, while Tibetan dissidents are jailed. Children are killing children in schools. The weight of despair threatens to crush us all.

We want to make things better, but how? Not by doing more of the same. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, thinking you will get a different result. Doing more of the same is what blocks our light. Buddha recognized that hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.

Gandhi exhorted us all to be the change we want to see. What change do we want to see? A world that is safe? Then be safe. A world that is kind? Then be kind. A world that is not driven by fear? Then fear not. A world permeated with joy? Then be joyful. A world no longer shrouded in darkness? Then be light.

One of the lessons in "A Course in Miracles" says “I am the light of the world.” Although that might sound arrogant, the Course explains that this is not a statement of the ego, but a humble acknowledgment of the purpose we all share — to shower fear with love, to soothe hatred with compassion, to comfort despair with joy.

From one candle burning bright, a thousand candles can be lit.

"Arise, shine, for your light has come."  — Isaiah 60:1

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