Let’s use the C-word more often, and really mean it

Post image for Let’s use the C-word more often, and really mean it

Someone wrote in with a comment that almost made me clap:

“You use the word compassion sometimes. I like the *idea* of compassion, but I don’t know, it irritates me. I’m not saying I’m not compassionate, I think I am. I just hear it used by a lot of people I don’t like. Not you, other people. Fluffy people who have all the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I hate that word but I still think it’s a good thing, whatever it is exactly…”

I added capital letters and removed an LOL or two, but he captured my thoughts exactly.

I avoid it too because it has undeserved connotations about sissiness and self-importance. But I guess I have let the C-word slip a few times, sorry.

Compassion, as a word, hasn’t really found a widely-accepted role in our culture. Not everyone is comfortable with it. I think part of its problem is that it contains the dubious word “passion.” Part of the ick-quality of this word comes from its shameless overuse in marketing this last decade (along with fellow bad words “dreams” and “excellence”) of everything from DeBeers diamonds to mortgage brokers.

I think it might help to clarify that the “passion” part of compassion actually refers to suffering, not to enthusiasm for watercolors or for the Allman Brothers Band. Think The Passion of the Christ, not “I have a passion for 1960s girl groups.” The “com” part refers to “with another.”

Politicians conspicuously avoid it, because it sounds like they support a welfare state. Too risky to bust out the C-word in a forum where you’re pandering for the widest and shallowest approval possible. Too many people don’t know what it means. The C-word is a bad word outside the Green Party.

Compassion is associated with bleeding heart socialists, self-help junkies, hippies who sob over dead trees, pasty-faced emos and any other people who suffer from throes of uncontrollable sympathy — even the misguided commies who want to give away health care! (Can you imagine?! Helping people without demanding their money! Some people are sick.)

The C-word has been relegated to these weak and senseless groups, when really it’s something that everyone would be in favor of it if they knew what it was and understood what its implications are. 

It has a murky definition. I looked up a few commercial ones and they’re no good:

Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

Makes me think the different dictionaries just copy each other, and haven’t had staff writers since Google came out. I don’t know how to know whether my awareness is Deep enough for Webster’s approval.

Maybe the dictionary people are the authorities here, but if they are then I have to come up with a different C-word, because what I think of as compassion is a little more specific than that. In my mind:

Compassion is a voluntary sensitivity to the internal experience of another.

Just like you are having a real internal experience whenever you’re embarassed, bleeding, overworked, marginalized or afraid, so are other people. They’re having them all the time, they’re just as real and intense as yours, and your presence and actions affect the flavor and quality of the experience others have.

To be compassionate is to act with a conscious understanding that others have an internal experience too. This is not the same as simply being kind, which can have all sorts of motivations that have only to do with your own experience. It’s also not the same as sympathy — simply suffering over another’s suffering — which generally keeps you preoccupied with your experience, now that it sucks too.

Yes, like it or not, everywhere you go, people are having intense internal experiences and your actions are always a part of it, or always have the potential to be a part of it. If you and I are sharing a booth at a diner, and I pick my nose while you’re trying to eat pea soup, I am affecting your current experience somewhat. I may even be dominating it, all with my simple gesture.

I’m not necessarily trying to do anything to your internal experience, I’m trying to do something to my nose, but the things I do invariably affect other people whether I’m aware of that or not.

It’s entirely possible to spend most of our lives heeding social conventions, apologizing whenever appropriate, and being otherwise courteous, without actually understanding the reality that others also have these ongoing, live, private experiences.

We’re all normally quite preoccupied with our own, and if you and I do happen to have coffee one day and I don’t pick my nose while you’re talking to me, it may not have anything whatsoever to do with my consideration for your experience. I may just not want you to think I’m someone who would do that, which has everything to do with my sensitivity to my own internal experience, and represents no evidence of my sensitivity to yours.

But once that fact really clicks in you — that other people are constantly having internal experiences which are no different than the one you’ve been having since birth — then the cat’s out of the bag. You can no longer deny that you must give consideration to that whenever you act, unless you’re planning on playing the sociopath angle for the rest of your life.

This is the foundation for real morality. When you smash your finger with a hammer, the pain is absolutely real, immediate and inescapable. When someone else does it, it’s the same thing. The same thing. It’s that awful, that painful. This truth is so simple, but we don’t necessarily comprehend that on an emotional level.

We also can’t pretend this only applies to humans. Your dog is having an internal experience every time you pet him, feed him, take him for a walk, or hit him. When I tell people I avoid animal products, if I don’t get a negative response, it’s often something along the lines of, “Wow, that’s so caring of you [to not eat that hot dog out of principle.] You must really love animals.”

I’ve always liked animals, but I don’t think I love them any more than the typical non-vegan. Deciding I won’t kill or exploit them for my pleasure doesn’t come from any special love, it’s just the most basic level of respect to give to another being whom I know is having a thoroughly real experience. There are plenty of people who love animals more than I ever will, who do not make this connection.

So what compassion amounts to is making yourself sensitive to the joy and suffering of others, and giving weight to that joy and suffering. Even if it’s not as much weight as you give your own, if you are compassionate then it is real and meaningful. To you.

But it’s voluntary, right?

“Why bother?” is not a bad question. The only experience you actually have is your own, so why not devote your energies solely to improving your experience, with no active concern for the internal experiences of others?

The short answer is that compassion is an effective way to make a better experience for yourself, if that’s your only real concern. I find I’m way more prone to unpleasant experiences like anger and frustration when I’ve drifted into that recurring ignorance of the fact that other people are constantly having a parallel (but not lesser) experience.

It also explains a lot of bad behavior. When people are having awful experiences, they’ll do anything to get out of it or improve it, including things that make awful experiences for others. I know that I’m most reckless with others when I’m suffering. It doesn’t excuse it but it explains it. It makes my expectations more reasonable and the world seem more understandable.

The long answer depends what kind of society you want to live in. If you like the idea of people around you acting with earnest consideration for your internal experiences, then the C-word should be prominent in your life, because that’s exactly what it is.

That’s what almost all complaints about society amount to: they don’t think of others, they don’t think of me. Virtually all of society’s problems stem from an absence of this voluntary sensitivity. Everything from the war in Afghanistan to the empty ice cube trays in the staff room freezer.

Clearly it’s a superior way to operate, and I’m sure it’ll catch on, eventually becoming fashionable among your friends and family, your employer and colleagues, corporate policymakers, elected officials, and the people who make the commercials louder than the show.

So please help us make the C-word cooler than it is right now.

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Photo by Marfis

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{ 38 Comments }

marc van der linden October 4, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Hi David,

Interesting point of view. I agree the c-word is often misused for commercial activities by people who just don’t understand what it means and because they think it shows that they are a moral being.

For me, it is often a very deep internal experience, which takes my own energy, so I tend to reserve it for my loved one and close friends.

At the other hand, I fully understand that people always live according their own values and I can respect that, but I don’t need to feel their pain.

Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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David October 5, 2011 at 6:45 am

It’s really not a matter of feeling their pain. That’s not really impossible. And feeling pain over their pain is sympathy, which is not what I’m talking about. This is an intuitive understanding that everyone around you is having an internal experience, right now. It’s helpful to keep the internal experiences of others in mind when there is a danger of judging them or dismissing them. For example, when I see an impatient driver on the road, I can dismiss them as a careless idiot, or I can remember how frustrating it is to be late and how difficult it is to be patient sometimes. I think the latter is smarter, more accurately reflects reality, and is better for society and for me.

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Daniel M. Wood October 5, 2011 at 2:34 am

I don’t agree though with that compassion hasn’t found a place in our culture.
I hear it used often and correctly often. Now I come from Sweden and live in Norway, to very socialist states who believe in taking care of each other, equality, taking care of the poor, so compassion is very close at hand for us.

For us the word doesn’t have a strong emotion tied to it. It is a fact, you should be compassionate, you should help.
There is a reason Sweden usually is the country to give most money/person when a disaster has happened and we don’t have the rules the U.S. has that you can deduct it from your taxes. For us it is a pure gift.

Compassion is important and without it the world would be a much worse place.

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David October 5, 2011 at 6:48 am

The word is probably avoided more here in North America I think, where socialism is usually considered to be a little too far left. Compassion is often conflated with kindness and charity, but it isn’t necessarily what’s behind a charitable action. It’s easy to give money for all sorts of reasons that do not include a deliberate consideration of how it might actually affect another in terms of their internal experience.

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Asaf Braverman October 5, 2011 at 2:48 am

Interestingly, Buddhism teaches ‘wisdom and compassion’. When you travel in the East, you will often see the Buddha flanked by two figures that represent ‘wisdom’ and ‘compassion’. They stand on equal footing. Without the ‘wisdom’ part, ‘compassion’ is foolish. That is what this post and its contributors are trying to put their fingers on: what is wise compassion? Thanks David.

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David October 5, 2011 at 6:53 am

Yeah. I guess I wouldn’t call it compassion if wisdom wasn’t a part of it. Comes down to what the word means to us, and we know there are different definitions. They overlap with other concepts and that’s why I made up my own definition here. We can always call it something else. The Buddhist word Karuna is often translated as compassion but I think it has more to do with sympathy.

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Rainer October 5, 2011 at 3:39 am

I am missing one aspect here: You can’t guess about other people’s feelings. While one person might be offended by your nose picking, the next one might think “oh, he’s feeling comfortable around me – that’s great”. So people have to communicate to allow real compassion to happen – and YOU have to start because most people can’t.

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David October 5, 2011 at 7:09 am

You don’t need to guess at someone else’s feelings or be able to feel them. What I’m talking about is a conscious, intuitive sensitivity to the reality that everyone else is having an internal experience, that it has as much weight to them as yours does to you. See the example in my response to marc

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DiscoveredJoys October 5, 2011 at 3:58 am

At a slight tangent is a related idea in Simon Baron-Cohen’s latest book ‘Zero Degrees of Empathy: A new theory of human cruelty’.

I won’t be getting the book until it is in paperback, but from the blurb:

Simon Baron-Cohen, expert in autism and developmental psychopathology, has always wanted to isolate and understand the factors that cause people to treat others as if they were mere objects. In this book he proposes a radical shift, turning the focus away from evil and on to the central factor, empathy. Unlike the concept of evil, he argues, empathy has real explanatory power.

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David October 5, 2011 at 6:55 am

Makes sense to me.

I wonder if his brother is Borat.

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Ali from Spinner's End October 5, 2011 at 10:02 am

haha i saw the baron-cohen and thought the same thing!

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Amity October 7, 2011 at 7:41 pm

They are apparently cousins, according to Wikipedia.

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E October 5, 2011 at 5:48 am

Another great post, many thanks.

I was just wondering if you’d come across Paul Gilbert’s work on compassion? I’m currently reading “The Compassionate Mind” and cannot recommend it highly enough.

His definition of compassion goes a bit further than those you quote – and your interpretation. “Compassion can be defined in many ways, but its essence is a basic kindness, with a deep awareness of the suffering of oneself and of other living things, coupled with the wish and effort to relieve it” (Gilbert 2010: xiii).

In a nutshell (and with the caveat that I’m (a) new to this and (b) still reading!), Gilbert makes a pretty convincing argument for adopting compassion as a way of training our brains that can actually affect the connections in the brain in a significant way – in order to stimulate feelings of acceptance, self-soothing etc. More broadly, he suggests that developing compassion for ourselves and others can help us to deal with challenges in life, as well as help with learning how to cope with strong emotions, inter-personal conflicts etc and also provide a constructive way for thinking about world problems.

It’s early days for me yet in terms of fully understanding this approach or putting it into practice but so far, so good (and I say that as someone who’s been lost under a dark cloud for a long time).

More info about this approach here too: http://compassionatemind.co.uk/

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David October 5, 2011 at 7:00 am

No I haven’t heard of Paul Gilbert but I’ve got Karen Armstrong’s book in my to-read stack. Gibert’s definition is almost the same one I found in the dictionaries. I guess maybe the C-word is taken by this concept and I need a new one for what I’m talking about. But what he says about its real-life application makes a lot of sense to me.

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Maria October 5, 2011 at 8:01 am

Compassion is not a synonym for pity. It’s comprehending without fear. Pity is what you feel without an infusion of love.

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Chris Walter October 5, 2011 at 8:24 am

Funny that I should wake up to read this post. Just last night I was mulling over the concept of Compassion eventually overriding our currently stronger biological imperatives of greed and self interest. (specifically the kind of self intreat that was responsible for the 2008 fincial crisis.)

When it comes to effecting meaningful change in society I’m always left wondering, What can I do right now? Perhaps this is the way. A more people focused approach to making the world a better place.

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Estarianne October 5, 2011 at 9:14 am

Honestly, I think you are confusing compassion with empathy.

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David October 5, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Going by the established definitions of those words, you may be right. There is a triangle between the related words compassion, sympathy and empathy and I think I’m referring to something that doesn’t quite fall on one of those points. Empathy, as in you voluntarily identify with another person’s experience, but also stressing an intellectual understanding that suffering ultimately has equal weight in others — which means that the height of morality is to act as if the suffering of another is as undesirable and worthy of intervention as your own. Empathy doesn’t imply this equivalence, it just refers to an identification with others. Maybe the post needed another few hundred words to make that point, but I didn’t want it to be too long so I didn’t get explicit about that. But now it looks like there will be a lot of semantics-related discussions in the comments anyway :(

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gustavo October 5, 2011 at 9:21 am

Compassion is, by far, one of the best human qualities. The word is clearly misused (as you said) and it makes sense to work for the recovery of its real value. I am all in favor.

Some words of caution, though. A “compassion activist” defeats the concept of compassion because, as you stated correctly, the nature of compassion is voluntary. This is a sine-qua-non condition, compassion can not be imposed by some authority that says that you “have to have compassion” so you must agree with sharing this or paying that.

This is what is happening down here in Ecuador where politics (always politics) have seized the word “solidarity” for themselves (I think they took it from the polish movement), and they are imposing their beliefs using this sacred word as an emotional black mail.

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Mark Lipski October 5, 2011 at 9:59 am

What about the “E” word? Empathy sounds a bit like your definition, how would you differentiate between the two words or do you feel they are synonymous? Some would say the “c” word is a virtue? Do you agree?

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David October 5, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Check out my response to Estarianne above. I’d say compassion leads to moral reflection, which leads to virtue.

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Ali from Spinner's End October 5, 2011 at 10:15 am

“So what compassion amounts to is making yourself sensitive to the joy and suffering of others, and giving weight to that joy and suffering.” I think you really nailed it there, David. It’s not enough to merely be aware that other people are having internal experiences. That part I find as simple as listening to a sad song or watching a nice moment between two strangers. But that awareness doesn’t automatically permeate your actions. We recognize the internal experience, but we do not allow it to affect our lives or our decisions. I think true compassion is present only when we treat other people’s internal experiences with the same level of respect we give our own. I think that’s where the wisdom that commenter “Asaf Braverman” was referencing comes into play. We need to be wise enough to put our own feelings or comfort aside when appropriate. It’s easy to “remember” that everyone has feelings, but if you don’t respect those feelings, or if you hold your own feelings above theirs, then it’s easy to fall into the same old thinking traps. Great post!

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Andy October 5, 2011 at 10:55 am

To those struggling over the semantics of “compassion” vs. “empathy”:

It doesn’t really matter what you call the concept. The term is really irrelevant to the overall message, especially since it might have different connotations in different English-speaking cultures. Call it compassion, call it empathy, call it “adfljkasojcla” (though good luck saying that), the point is this: through understanding that each and every person on the planet is experiencing existence in almost the exact same way as you are, the way you interact with them changes for the better.
Without this understanding, other people are just “other people, not you.” With this understanding, other people become “other people *like you*”. At that point, you really start to look at their actions with more patience and understanding, because you understand that they exist in the same way you exist, rather than existing only through your interactions with them.

In any case, great article, David, this is an awareness I’ve been working on developing recently, and this article is an excellent way of thinking about it.

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David October 5, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Thanks Andy. I should have said that. What I was trying to do was dispel the idea that compassion is simply kindness, and I may have ended up finding a new way to misuse the word :) Kindness is very common and we’re all familiar with it, but much less common is the kind of active, conscious reflection I’m getting at in the article, whatever you want to call it.

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R October 5, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I enjoyed the post and generally feel the same way. And I’m all for not sticking to the semantics excessively. There is one point, however, that in my view is noteworthy in your definition of the C-word and it has to do with the fact that it’s good to sometimes split concepts into smaller, easier-to-get bits. Because if you’re doing something wrong, or if you wanna do something better, it always helps to break things down to their smaller parts and take it from there.

Your initial definition was:

“Compassion is a voluntary sensitivity to the internal experience of another.”

Later you state: “So what compassion amounts to is making yourself sensitive to the joy and suffering of others,” – as per the definition.

But the gist of it actually follows that: “compassion amounts to [sensitivity] and giving weight to that joy and suffering”.

Compassion is not only a state of mind open to others’ internal experiences, it is granting consideration to these experiences, once “the cat’s out of the bag”, or at least the intention to do so. Compassion is not entirely passive. I see pity as the passive quasi-version of compassion. Empathy, on the other hand, makes the cat come out of the bag easier and faster for some people.

“You can no longer deny that you must give consideration to that whenever you act, unless you’re planning on playing the sociopath angle for the rest of your life.” It’s not only the sociopaths who fail to give any consideration to the experiences of other (if sociopaths are aware of them at all…), is it? It’s you when you’re angry, or me when I’m frustrated. Compassion makes you either less prone to ignore the reality of others’ internal experiences or it swiftly reminds you if you do ignore them. But simply the understanding is not sufficient, although I’m sure that being aware and granting consideration are strongly related.

I think the merriam-webster had it quite right: “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”.

And last but not least… there’s this famous quote of Bertrand Russell’s who says that there are three main passions which have guided him throughout his life: love, knowledge and pity.

I think it’s a beautiful way to look at compassion, even if a bit sad. And it beats the hell out of the misuse, overuse and abuse of the concept in the media:

“Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.”

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David October 5, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Can’t really disagree with you here. I guess my beef with the Merriam-Webster definition is that it conflates it with sympathy. It could just be my own pet connotations but sympathy to me implies an uncontrolled resonance with pain — it’s something to succumb to, not something to do.

Beautiful Bertrand Russell quote, thank you.

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nrhatch October 5, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Why practice loving kindness and compassion?

* To gain brownie points with acquaintances?
* To earn a seat in heaven?
* To please God?
* To honor Buddha?
* To create good karma for this (or the next) life?

It’s even simpler than that . . .

Being compassionate makes us happy. Right here. Right now.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QvVaZfFDKw&feature=related]

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nrhatch October 5, 2011 at 4:08 pm
Jane October 5, 2011 at 9:51 pm

This nails it for me:
“This is the foundation for real morality. When you smash your finger with a hammer, the pain is absolutely real, immediate and inescapable. When someone else does it, it’s the same thing. The same thing. It’s that awful, that painful. ”

However because humans are rather clever at defending their psyche, we often surround ourselves with judgemental thinking, competitive thinking, materialism, a million different psychological barriers so we can forget we’re intrinsically compassionate. It’s a lot easier to ignore other people’s experiences if our thinking is centred on our own small world and our own fears and experiences etc.

Great article.

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Meg October 6, 2011 at 10:11 am

Like several others, I thought you were giving a good definition of empathy, but I also agree with Andy that the point you’re driving at is more important than the semantics, even though part of your point is arguing the cultural semantics. The word compassion does indeed have different inflections in different cultures, even within English-speaking ones, and therein lies the heart of the problem. The American materialism/capitalism/consumerism culture is inherently greed-centered and focused on self-gratification, which by definition is sociopathic. I think it wants to avoid the “com” in compassion as much as or more than the “passion.”

I think I understand your intent to effect change by the deliberate use of the word compassion as opposed to empathy, which implies a slightly less self-mutilating form of interconnection (and I am aware my take on this is vulnerable in turn to hair-splitting), simply because “empathy,” which you are actually describing, doesn’t contain the word “passion,” or the prefix “com,” which is shared with “community” and “communion.” “Empathy” simply isn’t going to touch a nerve in American psyches the way “compassion” can.

So let’s take this further: I empathize with those who are protesting against Wall Street and against the Tar Sands proposal, but all of us are experiencing compassion for the victims and future victims of these examples of corporate rape, from the disenfranchised to the planet itself.

Thus you are correct to propose compassion as a rallying word. Great post, and thanks for such great food for thought.

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Anne October 6, 2011 at 10:54 am

Hello David – I have been reading your site for awhile now & have found it very thoughtful, well written, & inspiring. Thank you!

I enjoyed this post very much, and think you might appreciate this quote from Milan Kundera about compassion:

Excerpt taken from Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Being of Lightness” (HaperPerennial 1999)

All languages that derive from Latin form the word “compassion” by combining the prefix “with” (com-) and the root meaning “suffering” (Late Latin, passio).

In other languages – Czech, Polish, German, and Swedish for instance – this word is translated by a noun formed of an equivalent prefix combined with the word that means “feeling” (Czech, sou-cit; Polish współ-czucie; German Mit-gefühl; Swedish med-känsla).

In languages that derive from Latin, “compassion” means: we cannot look on cooly as others suffer; or, we symphathize with those who suffer.

Another word with approximately the same meaning, “pity” (French pitié; Italian piéta; etc.), connotes a certain condescension towards the sufferer. “To pity on a woman” means that we are better off than she, that we stoop to her level, lower than ourselves.

That is why the word “compassion” generally inspires suspicion; it designates what is considered inferior, second-rate sentiment that has little to do with love. To love someone out of compassion means not really to love.

In languages that form the word “compassion” not from the root “suffering” but from the root word “feeling,” the word is used in approximately the same way, but to contend that it designates a bad or inferior sentiment is difficult.

The secret strength of its etymology floods the word with another light and gives it a broader meaning: to have compassion (co-feeling) means not only to be able to live with the other’s misfortune but also to feel with him any emotion – joy, anxiety, happiness, pain. This kind of compassion (in the sense of soucit; współczucie; Mitgefühl; medkänsla) therefore signifies the maximal capacity of affective imagination, the art of emotional telepathy. In the hierarchy of sentiments, then, it is supreme.

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The Fuddler October 7, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Politicians conspicuously avoid it, because it sounds like they support a welfare state.

Actually, I’ve heard them use it when they want to convince us that say, cutting medical benefit programs is a good thing. During the height of the AIDS hysteria of the late 1980s, someone suggested that we should “compassionately” quarantine (for which read “intern”) all gay men.

It’s a perfectly decent word that’s been left in the refrigerator too long, and has started to smell.

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hrl October 9, 2011 at 11:23 am

Great article. I’m reposting this. I think it’s a great clarification of what compassion truly is.

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karen October 10, 2011 at 6:38 am

This post is very interesting.This is the correct propose compassion..Thanks a lot for sharing this great and food for thought..

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Trishia October 10, 2011 at 8:14 am

Excellent article you have here.. Looking forward on your next update!

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Earth Angel October 11, 2011 at 4:39 pm

This post helped me realize what might be different about me. What is making me feel so alien, more and more as the months pass. What seems to pain me when I look out at [what I can see of] the world which surrounds my life. I can’t tell you how many times over the past 10 years I have uttered the phrase, “Why can’t everyone see the world as I see it? What a beautiful and peaceful place it could be.” I know, I know…that sounds quite blatantly ostentatious (as does that phrase) but it really is true. I hear regularly from new acquaintances about this “something special” I have. It has been described as a comforting sort of presence. A lightness, or an actual light at times. I perceive it as simply really listening to someone when they talk. Really caring and honestly holding no judgment for whatever may come from their mouth. As I read, I realized I do this C-word thing with each person I come into contact with. I would have described it as, “Seeing who they really are underneath their thorns and loving that part of their person regardless of any other undesirable quality mixed into their composite.” But what you have explained makes more sense…to realize that every person is having an internal experience. That IS compassion. The only part I struggle with is why is it so hard for everyone else to see things this way? Why is it such a mystery? Why are humans so selfish and why am I stuck in this world surrounded by the ugly and painful parts of humanity? Please don’t misinterpret. I’m not perfect. By no means whatsoever. I’m a mess sometimes, all over the place…but I’m not an asshole. I do my very best with everyone around me. I just don’t see that same focus in many others at all. It breaks my heart. My life consists of jumping past the craters and crevices left behind by ego-centered choices and attacks of others. But WHY does it have to be this way? I suppose discomfort fosters growth, right? Without prodding why would we move forward? Or the old adage, about needing rainy days to appreciate the sunny ones. But it still doesn’t make sense to me. Why can’t everyone just understand and be filled with C-word moments of clarity and love for all? WHY? I feel tormented by this question. I long for a deep change. A permanent shift. An escape into the sun. Seems like the only thing missing from this rant are unicorns and fairy-dust, wouldn’t you say? I guess I’ll retreat back into my cloud of benevolence and watercolor the moon again.

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David October 11, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Why? is a good question. Why are we selfish and why do we take beauty and peace for granted?

I believe persistent discomfort and dissatisfaction are very effective survival mechanisms, which have the terrible side-effect of making it difficult to feel at peace and to feel okay. We’re preoccupied with our position in life and the potential to gain or lose our advantages. It is normal to behave in these ways, however destructive they are, which only makes it easier to do and to justify.

Overcoming these tendencies is the work of a lifetime, and all spiritual practices began as attempts to do just that.

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Nora October 14, 2011 at 2:22 am

I learned a lot from this article and made me understand more the word “compassion” most of the time people use this word for the sake that they just using using it but without the true meaning. Well I hope after reading this they will realize the true value and meaning of the word.

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