Thursday, 12 March 2009
What Is Compassion?
We must be less selfish, and help others. Compassion is the answer to a lot of questions, apparently. Compassion for self, with compassion for others to follow, is the holy grail of mental and emotional health. The end to self-obsession, a longing to be a part of the whole of society, to feel less separate from our fellows, to be able to feel empathy for the plight of others, is mighty important for those whose job is to balance out fear- and survival-driven self-interest. So many people are concerned that selfishness and the individualistic nature of much of the world is sentencing mankind and his habitat to extinction. A lot of hand-wringing and corrective action goes on in the name of the selfish, short-sighted fossil fuel burning culture. The seas are not only warming, they're becoming more acidic, and unable to support shellfish. (I'm sure there's a play on words here about selfish weak-willed people and weak-walled shellfish, but it eludes my small brain.) Compassion, sing the wise, is the answer. The end of poverty is the answer, for the impoverished don't have the luxury of compassion; they're too busy surviving. So, compassion for the poor, and the end of their suffering, will spawn more compassionate people and the end of selfishness, or self-interest, and we'll all look after each other more efficiently, and the world will be a better place. An only slightly flawed utopia, where there is no need for war because we are compassionate towards each other, and recognise we are all the same; where there is no shortage of food because we compassionately share everything; where there is no threat of global climate catastrophe because we use our big brains to meet our needs and comforts in an environmentally sustainable way. However, compassion is more all-encompassing than that. Compassion is this, just as it is, in its seemingly flawed and sometimes selfish manifestation. Compassion is seeing there is no one who needs help, there is no one. Compassion accepts what is, it is what is. Compassion is the sound and fury of selfishness and selflessness, compassion is wholeness, and wholeness is this, no matter how flawed it is judged to be. Compassion doesn't judge, it allows. If there is a profound moment when you set aside selfish pursuits and start to help others to get through their lives, or rally what masses you can to save the planet, or simply forgo that relaxing bath to sit with your child and help her with her homework, there is nothing wrong with that - but it isn't liberation. Liberation is this, as it is, happening to no one. In perfection and unspeakable beauty. Whether it is rampant greed or giving a motivational speech to an adoring crowd. Whatever it seems to be, it is what you have been looking for, it is what is looking, and what is seen, and what is. Just exactly as it is. If there is a burning desire to be compassionate and spread compassion, by all means follow that dream. But it is simply a desire arising; it is not happening to you.