This blog is taken from one of the chapters in my most recent book, Et ainsi coule la rivière (Thus flows the river, only available in French).  The notion that we live in a welcoming and caring universe is very close to my heart, and at the end of the text you’ll find links to two relevant blogs I’ve written in recent years.

After returning from Africa in the early 1980s, I was hired as a consultant by the Swiss Foreign Office to undertake a fascinating study of seven Western nations (Belgium, Holland, Canada, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden and Western Germany) during which I interviewed over two hundred people in more than 100 organizations to see how they were raising public awareness in their countries of the great challenge of international development.

I ended almost every interview with the question: “It’s easy to see what’s wrong with the world today – anyone can come up with a long list of problems. So, I’d like to ask you to mention what you see as the three positive trends in the world – in any field.”

Can you believe that almost everyone I spoke to – people exceptionally well-informed about these issues through their work – replied that they had never thought of the question. Some even replied “Nothing” or “I can’t think of anything positive”. Once again, it’s all in the eyes. We all create our reality through the way we choose to look at the world.

And for those who have the eyes to see, there’s so much good happening on the planet, whether it’s the modernization of the countries of the South, the growing awareness that we live in a totally interdependent world, the realization of the urgent need to protect our environment, the new worldview emerging from the New Physics, technologies like the cell phone or the Internet that have literally transformed the world in just a few years, the revolution in healthcare thanks to the many alternative medicines…. Everyone can add to this list as they wish.

Why aren’t we more aware of these positive trends? “Because good is boring for the media”, a young schoolboy replied. So, what happens in a society where evil sells like hotcakes and good is consigned to oblivion?

Albert Einstein was once asked the most important question you could ask about the world and the future of the human race. He answered simply: “Is the universe friendly?

Personally, after a professional life spanning more than 55 years in the four corners of the world, living among incredibly diverse cultures, in contact with all social classes, the wealthiest and those living in total destitution, I have come to the conviction and above all the feeling that the universe is an infinitely benevolent place. This conviction was greatly strengthened by an out-of-body experience where I was projected into an infinite space in which there was nothing left but the feeling of boundless Love. For an indeterminate time (since I was no longer in human time and space, with mind and ego having totally vanished) this feeling was mine. In other words, infinite Consciousness (use whatever term you like) was mine, was my very identity.

This conviction that the universe is infinitely benevolent is reinforced by the profound conviction that a fundamental law of harmony governs absolutely everything that happens, from the tiniest subatomic particle to the rolling of galaxies in this universe whose dimension exceeds the wildest imagination. And that nothing can escape this law, whatever the appearances to the contrary at the material level.

This “ontological optimism” is not the gift of an extraterrestrial godmother. For five years in Dakar, I lived between two shantytowns whose children would rummage through my garbage can for scraps of food or any other salvageable item. Such scenes, repeated daily for years, are an absolute insurance against the danger of seeing life as rosy. For years, my work has forced me to confront some of the planet’s greatest challenges: hunger, desertification, absolute poverty and child prostitution, I’ve visited villages whose starving inhabitants ate tree bark and sold their last jewels.

We can never really justify our “Weltanschaung”, as our German friends say, our vision of things, of reality, of the world. Mine developed, little by little, after years of listening, intense research, painful experiences but also intense joy. And I’ve come to the profound conviction that this planet (for I wouldn’t dare speak of “the universe”) is an astonishing collective as well as individual pedagogical laboratory, and that we’re here for one reason only: to learn.

Because when I look back on my life, I see how certain events – which at the time seemed so pointless and painful – included lessons that sometimes took me years to understand. And today, I see life as a Persian carpet: seen from below, it’s a jumble of scraps of fabric, threads and clashing colors, but seen from above, it’s the perfect harmony of shapes and colors, all managed by a clear plan, a clear vision – and the result is sublime.

Swiss writer Denis de Rougement once wrote that “the decadence of a society begins when people ask ‘what’s going to happen to me’ rather than ‘what can I do about it'”.

For those of you reading this blog who might be asking de Rougemont the same question, I’d like to suggest: Try a little more love – today. For this practice, when it becomes a regular occurrence, has the tendency to open up ever-wider horizons, and one day you’ll realize with wonder that you can see your Persian rug – from above.

Pierre Pradervand
May 2024

Here are two related blogs

Read by Marie Russell at InnerSelf