For every act of evil, there is an act of beauty. You Can't Change the World, Only Your Attitude Towards It.

Compassion is a terrible gripe

Someone I know had a shocking upbringing and years later is still in-touch with those memories. They now watch documentaries and dramas about people in similar poor and shocking situations and dream of affecting some change.

It brings me down to think about it but I don't avoid that, I listen, pay attention and share their burden.

If we were to watch a field of Zebras and we become emotionally involved with a new offspring, then we see the local lions come and take her, we will react. We could get upset and we could see it as the way things are. So when another race look upon the human race and see the abuses one to another, then they could also react in either of the two ways, compassion or dispassion.

As humans we see certain abuses of strength over those who can not protect themselves as more real and more touching than those of animals and we also have perverted justifications of self status: You may see an anti abuse protester eating a lamb sandwich, you may see a charity collector drive home in a nice car.

India was my most real experience of the human condition; slums, disfigurement, disease, lepers and even a man lying on the street one day, body twitching repeatedly as people walked around him. The next day the body was still and come the evening he was pulled, stiff and dead, onto a horse-drawn cart. I also saw bodies floating on the river Ganges all swollen, some partially burned some only infants. During that experience I saw terribly sad looking people and in amongst it all I saw some very very happy (looking) ones.

Within the swell of humanity were street people who you would see crapping at the side of railway lines, cleaning teeth with dirty puddles and sticks they had chewed the end of to make soft, cooking captured animals and birds on fires made from plastic and rubbish. They commonly had many children running around them and the woman would quite frequently be pregnant or have a very young child strapped to her. The children in these cases were often very wild but, seemingly, happy.

It is often my thought that children adapt to what is. I have seen as many children happily playing with dirt and leaves as I have seen children of the wealthy throwing food-additive-fueled tantrums. It seems the conditions of the child are not a direct threat to inner happiness until they have grown to see greener looking grass elsewhere, and at that point they may form some angst.

The person who I spoke of at the beginning of this piece was one of those happy looking children, playing in dirt, no clothes, hair pulled from head to show baldness as this was the only way to stop itching, not loved, left to fend alone and abused by locals and family alike. They grew to be a wonderful example to us all but they can not shake this compassion for others in similar situations.

I find compassion a burden but I do not consider myself completely dispassionate. I, like us all, would love to have a world free from these issues but I have also been to more than one place in the world where vast percentages of our race live with this as reality and no alternative. Compassionately I feel for them and righteously I tell people who are rich by comparison (our average Westerner) to "shut the fuck up, stop bitching and get real" when I hear them complain over their petty complaints.

We can not stop the Zebra being eaten and humans are far from perfection, this is the way things are. Yes I feel for those with railway sidings as bathrooms, with sticks as toothbrushes, with cow shit and plastic as fuel, with abusive relatives, neighbors, with disease we can't imagine the burden of, with all of the shades and colours of the human condition. I also feel for the wealthy who can not find happiness and for the lucky who feel incomplete. I feel for the baby Zebra but I accept this is the reality we see.

I often conclude in post after post that the most important thing is that which is seen when we alter perspective: Not this world view of human beings in a sea-stress-of-bitterness, but being itself. How magical it is that this even exists! the wonder of being-awareness, the truth that behind this mind-made life and death is the same root; whether you live as a rich man or you float dead on the Ganges aged 6 months you were the magical play of infinity.

Suffering is a man made disease and it is a choice to live with it or not. If we did not look to alter the world (which we can never do) and instead look to alter our own viewpoint (which is easy) we can then each move to live with an appreciation of the magic and wonder that brings about this life. That is the only change that can actually come about: To change focus and reaffirm the world as wonder and not horror. When we escape compassion and dispassion and move to direct awe of being then we are not perpetuating the churn of greed, desire and poverty but all sharing the one thing that is infinite and absolutely equal amongst us all - Tao.

Tao Wow | Daily Cup of Tao


The Rambling Taoist said...

I've thought about this post for a few days. While I don't disagree with your main thesis, I do understand that we both are westerners who, even if possibly poor by the standards of our own societies, enjoy a certain degree of daily comfort: enough food to eat, shelter over our heads, people who love us and enough leisure to dabble in philosophy on blogs.

Our perspectives might be altogether different if you or I lived on the streets of Calcutta or in a tent city in Haiti. As I look out onto the world of human subjugation and oppression, I think of Bob Dylan's famous words, "There but for fortune go you or I" and that becomes the wellhead of my compassion.

Ta Wan said...

It is contact with the person I speak of, their stories of those times and world view now, that help me hold my position.

Also that [the big IF] people would find wealth in just being in this world rather than material things then there would not be such an extreme scale of material wealth to material poverty.

Either way I still find it wiser to live by that (having my wealth in simplicity) so as to set and example, benefit from the truth of it, and do my bit to ease material imbalance.