It pains me to live in this world. Perhaps the world was always in a state of turmoil. Perhaps fear and suspicion always coupled with insecurity and greed. Today, however, the plasma screen projects images of suffering, and the surround sound burns anguish into our soul.

Or perhaps I should grow a thick skin, a shell of callousness to withstand the torment? Perhaps I should seek the comfort of a psychologically induced safety zone — a distancing, a removal, a veil of other-worldliness, maintaining the illusion that this is not really my world — just another piece of guerrilla theatre. I am, after all, intact and comfortable in my living room and bedroom, listening to the network front-liners braying forth their political wisdoms. The war and angst is "out there" — on another continent, or on the seamier side of town — not here in our homes.

I believe that for all the impressionistic impact of "the news media" we are actually hiding deeper under our covers, pretending that the hurt is not ours. And therein lies the danger. Beneath our sentient surface, we are frozen like Lot's wife, looking backwards into the screen, seeing the fire and brimstone raining down on other human beings, but without feeling their pain — just staring down the image. Perhaps that was Mrs. Lot's crime — seeing, but not feeling. Perhaps that same price will be exacted from us should a sudden quiver of mushroom cloud freeze us into volcanic-like ash while retaining a brittle humanoid outline.

I say "perhaps" because I do not profess to see the future. I am not G‑d. The truth is I am a person of faith. My reading of history tells me that for all the countless times that mankind has nudged the abyss, we have always recoiled from teetering over the edge. I strongly believe that within each one of us is a piece of spiritual software that is deeply embedded with a program to choose life. The spiritual components of that genetic program have at their very core the basic formula for human compassion and goodness. And this core of human goodness will ultimately prove far more powerful than the more cleverly wielded machinations of the headline makers and commercial interests who seek corporate profit and geopolitical advantage — those who seek to wag our tail.

So how do we do it? How can I, one ant of a human being on a continent near the South Pole, possibly make the smallest indent in the steely surface of hate and indifference? The answers can be drawn from the ancient wisdoms. The Talmud, amongst the oldest of the extant codes of wisdom, notes that each person is the spiritual size of the cosmos, with the powers and reach to transform reality. The mystics of the Kabbalah describe phenomena that extend our persona well beyond the constraints of our body, enveloping others in the grip of our being. Our capacity to spread light, Chassidic mentors maintain, is far more powerful than the most intense darkness.

But we live in a world of seeming cause and effect, strong and weak, mighty and helpless, good and evil. This is the design of the universe and the human being must "play the game" whether it be an illusion, or a deep spiritual projection onto the screen of time and space.

So let us do it. Let us test the limits of our power. Let us demonstrate the true inner leadership we all possess to empower the light over the darkness. Let us transform reality. But in order to do so, we must arm ourselves with the finest weaponry we can muster. The spiritual warrior of the 21st century must bear in mind the following stratagems in the battle for our mind, heart, sanity, and soul:

The answer does not lie with repressive laws and harsh legislation that merely herd criminals and anti-social deviants into universities of crime — the prison system, replete with corruption and raw animalistic rage. All anti-social behavior stems from the same source — lack of self-esteem. The institutions of education and parenthood must work together to raise generations who can sense higher life goals while nurturing the capacities of the individual. Education must stop being hijacked by interests that promote competitiveness for exploitative purposes. Does it really matter how well one knows one's calculus if one needs the crutch of drugs to simulate meaning in momentary experiential escape? Does it really matter if one studies the moral values of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, of Walt Whitman or Thomas Jefferson, if one's teacher displays behavior that is illicit and immoral? The answer lies in appropriate modeling by teachers, parents, leaders, sports icons, and academic dons. Books influence far less than inspirational moral leadership.

We must bear in mind that the ultimate weapon is not the gun, the bomb, or the missile. The ultimate weapon is how we respond to challenge. The enemy has many faces: inner-conflict, interpersonal dissonance, social indifference, and geo-political machinations. The way our mind interprets, and the heart emotes, will determine the ultimate outcomes. This war is fought not on some distant battleground — it is fought in our homes and on our streets. It is the modeling we display in the face of adversity. It is the ways in which we act out our understanding that we are here to facilitate the growth and fulfillment of the next person — not to fill our own insatiable coffers with gold and silver, power and control. The way that parents model love and compassion will raise a generation that respects life. The way that community and national leaders embrace humility, personal discipline, and integrity will raise a citizenry that draws its strengths from qualities of character found in us all. This is the weapon of peace — peace within the heart and mind, a peace that spills over into the domain of our everyday lives.

Lastly, the key to victory lies in the quest for excellence and spiritual application. The spiritual warrior must, at this turn of the millennium, train mind and emotion to achieve balance and inner peace. The resolution of dualities of self and other, ego and humility, self-gratification and sharing - these are the true battle aims of the spiritual hero. The aim is not to become the perfect master, the Buddha, the embodiment of nirvana. The aim is to become a conscious, aware, introspective, human being, who upon rising in the morning, elicits awe and wonder at the radical act of living, and dedicates him/herself to the awesome task of harnessing the powers within. The tools of meditation, awareness, sensitive expression, gentle behavior, sensitivity, graciousness to all living things, and a profound respect for the sacredness of planet earth and the Cosmos at large — these are the goals and aims of the twenty first century spiritual warrior, leader and teacher. Each one of us needs to engage these aptitudes systematically, seriously, diligently, and in daily discipline. This is not the sport of mystics. It is the agenda for every human being who aspires to change the world; it is the goal to which each of us must aspire if we are to make this world a better place.

These few words merely raise the issues that pain me but also inspire me. I am pained by the seeming sense of defeatism and acceptance that the majority of the world demonstrates in the face of hurt, pain, atrocity and evil. But I am inspired by the increasing number of people who recognize their responsibility as living sentient creatures, in the image of G‑d, and whose spiritual aptitudes allow them to dream of horizons far greater than the dimensions of the TV monitor.

I am but a dwarf who sits on the shoulders of ancient masters. I deliberately choose to throw my lot in with those who aspire to do one more good deed, touch one more soul, and thereby light the match of enlightenment which — together with yours — will spark the world to a new and higher energy: a veritable messianic transformation.