When you as an individual feel threatened, one of the things you do is feel power through a group identity.

You feel power through identifying with a country, “We’re Americans,” and all of what that represents. When the Jews faced the Holocaust, which placed the individual life so utterly at the whim of a dark force, the people, as millions of them were destroyed, increased their identification with the group rather than with the individual, because although that group was still vulnerable, it was less vulnerable than the individual.

It’s important that compassion exists in our hearts for whatever changes go down. We have to be able to deal with uncertainty, change, chaos and loss of power without the depth of the fear that makes us go into massive denial and massive violence to other human beings.

So, I would say you and I are in training, and it’s not quite as idle a training as one might like it to be. You could say, “Well, we have infinite reincarnations,” and it’s true. On the spiritual level, if this earth goes under you just wait 275,000 years and at some point an amoeba will fly in from somewhere else and the whole game with start again. In a couple billion years we will be here again, so what difference does it make – it’s the blink of an eye anyway.

That’s the world of India, where after four seasons Shiva, who’s been sitting in meditation creating the whole universe out of his mind, stands up and dances the Rudra Tandava, and the whole thing dissolves in one huge mushroom blast back into itself, into the formless. Then he sits down and creates it all again. You can jump to that level of time, I do it often, because it’s so true. Whether we solve the problems of environment, violence, breakdown of social structures, in a harmonious or disharmonious way, has a lot to do with curious phenomena. From Yugas, and Culpas, and reincarnation, and other time dimensions, it’s hardly a flick of an eye.

All of this is true, but you and I are on earth at this moment in bodies and have a curriculum, and that curriculum has to do with doing, as our hearts dictate, what we can to relieve suffering. Ultimately, what we can do to relieve suffering is to be that which is able to be in the presence of suffering, without creating more suffering. It’s like learning to keep your eyes open in hell. Just looking at what is, and not going under into, “Oh, my God, I wish I hadn’t… oh no..” To the extent that you hold a model of how it used to be or how it should be, you are preventing yourself from seeing what is.

Better luck next time, because there’s a lot of suffering, and so much of this suffering is the clinging of the mind, the not looking at what is.

-Ram Dass