To consistently live at the fourth level, you have to express all three human powers at that level. Those powers are yachay (intellect, perception, reasoning), munay (love under your will) and llank’ay (action in the world). To monitor my own state of being in reference to these three powers, I try to rotate through them, spending a few months working on each one, seeing where I am deficient and acknowledging where I am sufficient. As part of my recent work with yachay, I checked on my related power of qaway, which amounts to “seeing reality as it really is.” That means perceiving the world stripped of my own projections, beliefs, misconceptions, and so on. As part of this practice, I realized I really have no idea what the state of the world is. I feel concern for my own country and our apparent backsliding in our political and cultural maturity, and I certainly am aware that there are conflicts and wars, climate change, racial and gender inequalities, famine, disease, poverty—the list of human challenges seems endless. It’s hard to remain positive. . . However, I had no real yachay and qaway (accurate and clear-eyed) sense of the world. Then, metaphorically speaking, a book fell into my lap. . . . Hans Rosling’s Factfulness. There is a lot of carefully vetted data in this book about both our challenges and our triumphs as human beings and societies.
Rosling challenges us to test our knowledge and emotional-based perceptions (yachay) about the state of the world. So I am going to do that here, asking you seven questions that are pitched to readers in the book or that I have devised from data in the book. See how well you do.
- In low-income countries across the world today how many girls finish primary school?
- A: 20 percent
- B: 40 percent
- C: 60 percent
- In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has. . .
- A: almost doubled
- B: remained more or less the same
- C: almost halved
- How many of the world’s 1-year-old children today have been vaccinated against some disease?
- A: 20 percent
- B: 50 percent
- C: 80 percent
- Where does the majority of the world population live?
- A: Low-income countries
- B: Middle-income countries
- C: High-income countries
- How many people in the world have some access to electricity?
- A: 35%
- B: 50%
- C: 85 %
- In 1900, only 0.03% of the Earth’s land surface was protected as national parks and other reserves. How much is protected today (2016 statistics)?
- A: 0.06%
- B: 7%
- C: 15%
- In 1800, of 194 countries counted, 193 permitted forced labor or it was practiced by the state. In 2017, how many countries still sanction forced labor?
- A: 3
- B: 76
- C: 193
Here are the answers. How did you do?
1. C 2. C 3. C 4. B 5. C 6. C 7. A
If you are like me, you saw the state of the world in a more negative light than it actually is. The truth is, there are major reasons to celebrate. What I didn’t tell you before the test was the subtitle of Rosling’s book, because I didn’t want to hint at the nature of the answers: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.
As I read this book and educated myself, I was amazed to count the number of areas where we humans have made enormous progress. Are there still countless injustices? Yes. Is there still needless suffering? Yes. For example, while the majority of the world lives at a much higher standard of living then they did a hundred years ago, there are still more than 800 million people living in extreme poverty. There is so much work to do. . .
Still, we are not “seeing reality as it really is” if we focus on only one or the other of these ways of seeing the world: the seemingly intractable inequities and problems, or the astonishing gains that humankind has made. As paqos, we want to see both. We seek to tackle challenges and contribute to the continued well-being of the world, while we acknowledge the benefits that have been gained by so many.
Having learned that the world is a much better place than it has ever been in the past, how do we continue our progress?
Individually and together. Through gestures grand and modest.
This blog is not an advertisement for the organizations I choose to support in order to increase the well-being of the world, but I present two of them as examples of how we can help—at least in part by applying our yachay. We can’t be led only by our emotions. We can’t rely on advertising and media appeals. We have to dig in and educate ourselves if we want to make the greatest impact. So, we would do well to spend a little time getting to know what the problems are, the contexts and challenges, the potential solutions and their unexpected ramifications.
Of course, we start with ourselves, improving our own state of being and evolving our own consciousness, and then we seek to expand the circle of well-being to those around us, our communities, and our nations. But today each one of us truly can have a global reach. We can be teqse paqos, or universal paqos. Here are two examples of how.
Chickens! I researched chickens. Raising chickens can have enormous benefit to both the health (protein-rich eggs, meat) and financial condition (selling eggs and chickens) of people currently living in poverty. If they have access to some land, people can easily raise chickens, which can almost immediately improve their health and economic circumstances. Chickens don’t need elaborate upkeep, they multiply rapidly, the kids can help tend them, and there is always a market for them and their eggs. I love the relative simplicity of chickens as a partial antidote to both poverty and low nutrition. I donate flocks of chicks. So does billionaire Bill Gates, who has heralded raising chickens as one of the quickest and most long-lasting ways to improve the condition of millions of impoverished people. Gates supports the same organization I donate to: Heifer International (www.heifer.org). You can give a struggling family somewhere in the world a flock of chicks for $20. The return on such as small investment is incalculable.
I like to go for maximum impact. Using my yachay, I asked “How can my modest donations or efforts improve conditions for the most people?” Another answer: clean water. I recently signed up with an organization that is visionary in their mission of providing millions of people with clean water and stellar in the execution of that mission.
One of the most pressing problems in the world is unnecessary deaths from treatable diseases. The number-one culprit for causing such disease is contaminated water. There are hundreds of millions of people who still don’t have access to clean sources of water. That’s right—hundreds of millions of people are still drinking filthy water and suffering the consequences: sickness, blindness, deformity, and even death. And most have to spend hours a day walking to the water source (a lake or stream) and hauling it home. This is the job mostly of women, many of whom suffer from degenerative neck and spinal conditions from years of carrying such weight (up to 40 pounds for one jerry can of water).
Dozens of organizations are on the front lines of providing potable water by building wells, but they have had mixed results because many of them don’t stick around to train local people on how to maintain the wells or how to get the parts to fix them. According to one statistic, at least 40% of all wells are idle at any one time, or permanently out of commission, due to maintenance issues. But at least one organization has tackled that problem: Charity: water. I urge you to check them out (www.charitywater.org). Read founder Scott Harrison’s book Thirst, about how he went from being a drugged-out partying nightclub promoter to building one of the most effective organizations for providing millions of people access to clean water. His yachay is impressive! As is his llank’ay (action) and munay (love).
There’s another, indirect, yachay issue connected to Harrison and his organization that I learned about while doing my homework on the organization. He is a disrupter in the non-profit sector, and many non-profits are attacking him, mostly because they perceive a marketing and perception problem with how to address to the public the need for raising money for administrative costs. Harrison ruffles the feathers of many people in the non-profit sector because they fear they are at a disadvantage, but this too is part of the process of change. This “where does the money go” debate helps us all to understand the practical problems an organization faces when mounting an effort to tackle a complex, global problem. Harrison is innovating a sector that has not changed much over decades, and it is causing some painful ripples across that universe of organizations. But in the process, he is helping all of us dive deeper into the realities of what “charity” is and how it is best administered. But delving into how I could best contribute to clean water, I learned a lot not only about the consequences of not having clean water but about the world of the non-profits who mostly provide the solutions. My yachay increased, as did my llank’ay through my ability to select the best organizational fit for my donations.
All charity begins with munay. But cultivating your yachay is a necessary precursor to deciding with clear-sightedness how to use your llank’ay. Together your three human powers fuel your own growth and well-being and can help keep the curve of “goodness toward” and “great results for others” heading upward, helping to increase the positivity in the world. Paqos want to work with both hands: working the mystical side and the magical sides of the path. The mystical is perception/yachay; the magical is action/llank’ay. Performer and writer Sam Levenson has said something that reverberates for all of us as paqos as we seek to work with both hands: “Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”
Over the centuries all the individual hearts and hands have collectively had a profound impact on increasing the quality of human life the world over, as Rosling so clearly documents for us with his yachay approach to data. Myriad problems still plague our world—some are incredibly complex and severe, whereas others are easily addressed if we would only find the will. Still, we should be heartened by the progress we have made. When we apply our yachay and qaway, we acknowledge and celebrate that hundreds of millions of people are healthier, happier, freer, and able to express their greater potential than at any other time in human history. Let’s keep the goodness going. . .