Sunday, July 20, 2014

Filling the World with Compassion

Pictures coming out of Gaza and the news of MH17 being shot out of the sky has made this a very difficult week to be a human. Our world seems to be run by people obsessed with power, and we are subject to their whims. So quickly, we become mobilized to take sides-- the one we are on is legitimate, righteous and those other people are wrong, even evil.
But does this actually help the situation?
I'm inclined to believe that it only perpetuates the horrors we feel overwhelmed by. I recall reading years ago, I don't know the exact source or context, a quote by Mahatma Gandhi. In it, he says something to the effect of "the purpose of non-violence is the genuine wish to improve your enemy, not destroy him."
Improve your enemy.
This is not the Art of War, it's the Art of Compassion.
Sure, some say this is naive, it's not how the world works.
Oh really?
I think it's the only what it can work.
It's impossible to think of a single geo-political conflict currently raging without having to first go back dozens, hundreds, even thousands of years. Taking sides seems to not be a very effective solution.
The alternative-- compassion-- will never be supported by power. Dominance requires a group mentality that preys on our most primal herding instincts. Compassion is equalizing, decentralizing. It threatens power consolidation.
Does this mean we should throw flowers at Hamas, or give group hugs to the IDF?
No. What it means is that we should all try and practice compassion wherever we are.
Try and be nice to the person who brings you your food or who comes to fix your cable TV.
Smile at the next person who is helping you in a store.
Be courteous driving in rush-hour traffic. 
Reach out to that person you've been meaning to check in on.
When compassion in every day life become second-nature, it becomes reinforced in how we see the world. We cringe when our leaders ask us to turn it off in nationalist double-speak.
 Maybe, just maybe, each of these individual acts of compassion can gradually fill the bucket that seems so empty in our world today.

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