Compactionate

February 1, 2013 at 3:33 pm (Uncategorized)

“You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion.” -Meister Eckhart

After Wednesday’s blog post Paige posted an interesting article along similar themes to the one I had written–namely you should treat people as people and stand up to others trying to treat someone as less than you (here is a link to the full article if interested: http://www.thefrisky.com/2013-01-18/guy-talk-why-a-straight-man-like-me-cares-about-transgender-rights/). I really enjoyed the article, but a phrase of his was rolling around in my head all day, namely Dan Solomon’s assertion that “Compassion is good, but compassion also means that it’s always someone else’s struggle.” I disagree vehemently, and ideas were rolling around in my head to talk about the subject that night and the following morning.
 
I then got the news that this great job I had interviewed for and had several follow ups with decided to go in another direction. When I told Katie about this she asked if that direction was (and I quote) “straight to fucking hell?” There is nothing like having great friends to make you feel better.
 
In any case I took the next several hours to feel sorry for myself, muddle through some sight reading at choir rehearsal, and get drunk alone in my room while watching pitch perfect. I did not get around to writing this blog. Today is a new day, though, and there are many more applications that have been sent and are currently being worked on. I will presumably find employment one of these days–I am capable of doing a great many things and doing them well. Anyway, on to the main topic of the day…
 
I think many people have this idea in their minds that compassion is a passive thing. It has an internal element to it that many people associate with passivity, so I don’t blame people for assuming that but I do think they fail to look at the whole picture (or at least the picture as I see it through my lens). Compassion arises from empathy, i.e. the ability to feel what someone else is feeling. In my mind compassion also arises from the notion that there is no real difference between yourself and any other person or thing. Once you get small enough, that notion bears out. It is a physical reality (at least insofar as science understands the world) and for someone who is an erstwhile Buddhist a spiritual one as well. I understand that many of my friends are rather attached to the idea of an everlasting soul, and I cannot tell you that such a thing doesn’t exist. I am skeptical, but there is certainly a part of me that would want to last forever–who doesn’t? What I can tell you is you are dependent on the rest of existence for YOUR existence, and existence is reliant on you to exist as it does. We are all cogs in the machine of existence, drops of water in the ocean of the universe, or whatever piece of whatever cosmic whole you prefer your analogies to arrive in.
 
What I’m driving at essentially is that compassion for others is really compassion for yourself, because there is no separation, there is no other. You can believe that on an atomic level or you can believe it more spiritually, but either way it’s difficult to refute. Once you see that there is no difference one can take actions to regulate the themselves and the universe in more positive ways.
 
Compassion isn’t really compassion if you simply are sympathizing with other people’s plights. It’s not about going out and changing the world by yourself, but it’s about doing the little things every day. It’s letting people know that hurtful words are not ok, and standing up for others in your daily life. It’s about turning off the water when you’re brushing your teeth so that there is more for all. It’s about not being wasteful. Compassion is a process; it’s something you practice every day. It certainly does not mean believing the struggle to be someone else’s.
 
It does not take magic or the supernatural to change the world (although God, if you are indeed out there, please give us the strength and wisdom to be better than we are and strive towards our inner greatness). It’s up to each of us every day to be better than we were the day before. Some days you will fail, but you have to pick yourself up and do better the next time. It’s something I struggle with and am constantly trying to get better at. There is nothing that makes me feel better in tough times than helping someone else. A kind word or gesture go a long way.
 
 
“May we not succumb to thoughts of violence and revenge today, but rather to thoughts of mercy and compassion. We are to love our enemies that they might be returned to their right minds.”  -Marianne Williamson

 
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