February 16th, 2012

Toward Compassion I

Tonight (last night) H., L., J., K., T., and i met to begin the study of Karen Armstrong's 12 Steps To a Compassionate Life,   Step one is "learning about compassion."  The book left me with the impression that the idea of universal compassion began during the Axial age.  I found that assumption questionable while the others seemed to accept it.  My arguments were listened to respectfully but did not change any minds.

More importantly, we all agreed that there is a need for more people to be more broadly compassionate.  We looked at Buddhist and Confucian ideas of compassion.  In addition, the book described Hindu, Jewish, Christian and Islamic approaches.  Muslim (aside from Ahmadi and Sufism) approaches to compassion might be a little difficult for me.  And i regretted that the very different Taoist approaches seemed to be subsumed under Confucianism.

We talked about how we each become more compassionate in our thoughts and actions.  My particular problem is the acceptance of people whose thinking seems to me to be dangerously wrong.  I would rather be right than be happy (which i accept); and i would also rather be right than compassionate (which i do not accept).  So my special vow is to put love above truth--To make a vow that i would rather be compassionate than be right.  I have made this commitment as part of my acceptance of the Charter for Compassion.

H and J probably are not aware that i regard them as my closest "off-line" friends, and my heart also leaps with joy when i see L or K or T enter the room.  Four other members of the group have either died (2) or left town (2) and i greatly miss all of them.  All (except me) are Roman Catholic.  All of us are radicals or liberals; all are past or present volunteers at Corpus Christi House, a day shelter for homeless persons.  All have an attraction to the Catholic Worker movement (which is the rationale for our getting together each month.)

Step two is "Look at your own World."  Of course step one will go on forever -- but we must move on.

No meditation again tonight and four of us expressed definite disappointment.  Next month we will begin with our twenty minute Contemplative Prayer (Zazen).

Life's Not Hard


Man is born gentle and supple.
At death, his body is brittle and hard.
Living plants are tender,
and filled with life-giving sap,
but at their death they are withered and dry.
The stiff, the hard, and brittle
are harbingers of death,
and gentleness and yielding
are the signs of that which lives.
The warrior who is inflexible
condemns himself to death,
and the tree is easily broken,
which ever refuses to yield.
Thus the hard and brittle will surely fall,
and the soft and supple will overcome.

Taoism - Stan Rosenthal's Tao Te Ching - Translation

Since "conservatives" are sometimes described as "hard."
And "liberals" are sometimes described as "soft."
Perhaps the Tao has led me
to the appropriate philosophy.

Forrest Gump (1994) - Can't Get Him Off My Mind!

Forrest Gump is a simple man with a low IQ but good intentions. He is running through childhood with his best and only friend Jenny. His 'mama' teaches him the ways of life and leaves him to choose his destiny. Forrest joins the army for service in Vietnam, finding new friends called Dan and Bubba, he wins medals, creates a famous shrimp fishing fleet, inspires people to jog, starts a ping-pong craze, create the smiley, write bumper stickers and songs, donating to people and meeting the president several times. However this is all irrelevant to Forrest who can only think of his childhood sweetheart Jenny. Who has messed up her life. Although in the end all he wants to prove is that anyone can love anyone. Written by aliw135

Forrest Gump (1994) - IMDb

I start thinking about compassion and some strange things come to mind -- first it was reptiles (see "Embracing My Inner Reptile") -- now its Forrest Gump.  I saw the movie, thought it was all right, saw no deep philosophical implications anywhere, couldn't see why some people hated it.  I guess lots of people loved it  Web page says it got six Oscars (i can't figure that out either).  The suggestion is that Gump is retarded, but could it just be innocence?  I need to watch this movie again -- or maybe read the book.  Now it reminds me a little of Being There where Peter Sellers played a (retarded? innocent?) man who rises quickly from obscurity to political power as people interpret his simplicity as great wisdom.  The movie ends with him walking across a pond but i can't remember whether he was wading (stupid) or walking on top of the water (miracle man).  The author of that was Jezry Kosinski--a very serious writer.  (Not much compassion there however -- so its back to Gump.)