Love and compassion is necessary for human survival. That statement is true, of course, because we are a cooperative species. We survive because we have a society and culture that allows us to act in concert with one another. But it is also true of individual humans. Those humans among us who lack love and compassion, will live shorter lives (and much more unhappy lives.) Part of our identity as humans is defined by who we love and who loves us.
But we rarely stop to examine compassion. Justice we think about often, but compassion... not so much. With that in mind, today we had a long discussion about the ideas of Joan Halifax, director of the Project on Being and Dying.
What is compassion?
-the ability to see into the nature of suffering
-the aspiration to be able to make a difference in alleviating suffering
-the capacity to not be attached to the outcome.
Fear, pity, moral outrage are all the enemies of compassion. Compassion seems to be innate in every human. We all feel compassion for somebody... or for our dogs if nothing else. But, compassion has to be nurtured. If you do not nurture your compassion, it diminishes.
Why don't we train people to be compassionate?
Why do we not vote for a country that is more compassionate?
One notable thing about the person most recently added to the Supreme Court of the United States here in 2018 was that he gave long speeches all of which lacked compassion. He demonstrated pity, and moral outrage. He even used fear when he told the senators who opposed his confirmation that "what goes around comes around." He did not show compassion. His previous rulings in the lower courts do not contain mercy. Mercy, said Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice, "is an attribute to God himself." Shakespeare added, then, that a person who possesses the power to dispense justice is most like God, when mercy seasons justice.
We had a very lively discussion today about compassion. If you think you would like to have a place to go to talk with other people about thoughtful topics like this, then I invite you to come by and meet us. We are a spiritual community that is open and does not have a creed which dictates to you what your spiritual beliefs will be. We even count atheists among our numbers. So come and visit, or come back and visit if you have been here before. We welcome new ideas in our discussions.
Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.-Mark Twain