Our world is significantly better than it used to be. In fact, data shows that there's never been a better time to be alive than today. 100 years ago:
~82% of people lived in extreme poverty versus the 9% of people that do today.
~67% of people were illiterate in contrast to the 14% of people that are today.
~32% of children died in their first 5 years versus the 4% of children that do today.
We have access to free education online today, over thousands of items in single grocery stores, and connection to anyone across the globe with internet and video.
So why are we so resistant to actually seeing that conditions have improved? The answer lies in our ability to construct better images and foster more connection in our lives.
As kids, we play with images all the time. No one doubts a child as they strap on a cape and run around the backyard claiming they're a superhero, but as we grow older and move more into our left brain realm of thinking and intellect, we learn what behaviors are acceptable and which are not. We may no longer strap on a cape as adults, but we still play with images. This is the reason that the celebrity gossip industry rakes in about 3 billion dollars a year.
And while news media contributes to our resistance to optimism, the consequence of habitually being led to believe that things are falling apart is lowered decision making ability and increased stress chemistry. If the body becomes habituated for this state, the mind begins to take in inaccurate information and detect danger where there's no real imminent threat.
This helps to illustrate a very basic principle, which is that consciousness becomes what it perceives.
As we upgrade the physiology through a tool like meditation, we no longer look to external experiences, possessions and relationships to fill us up. We become more self-fulfilled, which allows us to create higher grade experiences, which has an effect on others as well. I love this quote from writer Ursula K. Le Guin:
"I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality…. Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words."
Images are important, because whatever we give our attention to often becomes true for us. Through a practice like meditation, we become masters of our attention, which increase direct perception and provide independent action.