Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Compassion

With all my bus commuting and lengthy layovers, I've had plenty of time lately to be a regular consumer of the Zencast postcast out of California. I listened to an hour-long one last night that was really, really interesting.

It was a long look at a Buddhist perspective on compassion. It was full of quotes that really rang.

The first, attributed here to the writings of Philo of Alexandria:

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is engaged in a great struggle."

Some of us face major and obvious challenges. But even the most outwardly content person has troubles, big and small. None of us is free from suffering. And even the daily disappointments of life can chip away at your soul, as illustrated in this touching poem from David Levine titled "Ordinary Heartbreak":

And the little girl who didn't want her hair cut,
But long ago learned
successfully how not to say
What it is she wants,
Who, even at this
minute cannot quite grasp
her shock and grief,
Is getting her hair cut.
"For convenience," her mother put it.
The long waves gone that had been
evidence at night,
When loosened from their clasp,
She might secretly be
a princess.

Rather than cry out, she grips her own wrist
And looks
to her mother in the mirror.
But her mother is too polite, or too reserved,
So the girl herself takes up indifference,
While pain follows a hidden
channel to a deep place
Almost unknown in her,
Convinced as she is, that
her own emotions are not the ones
her life depends on,
She shifts her
gaze from her mother's face
Back to the haircut now,
So steadily as if
this short-haired child were someone else.


Wow, huh?

On compassion, then. Compassion is not pity. Pity has a separateness to it that compassion does not. It's not so much about feeling bad *for* someone as feeling bad *with* someone ... because you have a loving realization that we are all essentially in the same boat. We all hurt. We all suffer. And when you have the openness to understand how much we're all the same, the hurt of others becomes a hurt for you, too.

So be nice to yourselves ... and each other.

1 comment:

  1. scott, i like this. particularily the part about feeling bad 'with' someone. when we do, our world opens up, along with our hearts. and the world becomes a bit better.

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