Compassionate is not a word I would usually associate with myself but it came to mind the other day when I reassessed an opinion I voiced by agreeing with a vehement statement I heard from a friend. I wrote a post earlier about how we need to reassess our opinions and beliefs from time to time. They are just shortcuts after all that we use to save time thinking through all the options on any particular subject.
It all started with “I will never fly Virgin again!!” angrily stated by my friend in reaction to an article about Virgin Atlantic’s revamp of their uniforms to allow both male or female staff to wear dresses. My first reaction was to agree with my friends outburst but later, during meditation, it occurred to me that the change in uniforms was really none of my business and my initial disgust just evaporated. What does it have to do with me if male airline stewards choose to wear dresses and heels? Or female airline stewards to wear trousers? Digging deeper, what level of feeling does it take for a male airline steward to endure the acrimonious reactions of straight men, like me for instance, to their choice of attire. They are not doing this because they just choose to be homosexual, it is something much, much deeper than that. It goes to the very core of their personality.
It is similar logic I used in an earlier revelation that came to me at the height of the furore some years ago about so-called “boat people”, refugees who choose to leave their own countries permanently and migrate illegally to Australia by dangerous sea voyages. What would it take for me to do such a thing, uproot myself and possibly my family from my country of birth and risk our lives in such a dangerous undertaking? I can not easily imagine how intolerable conditions would have to be for me to envisage such a venture. These poor, desperate people certainly do not deserve their almost universal condemnation in Australia and even worse, to imprison them as criminals for years and years. Where is our national compassion?
Once we see people as different, separate, and that separateness is important to us then we usually see them as less than ourselves. The most horrendous example of this in recent history was from Nazi Germany where Aryan supremacy took hold and Jews, like gipsies and others, were seen as evils that needed to be removed from “civilised” society. The comparison between this and the boat people or gay airline stewards might be a little extreme but these situations rely on seeing differences as “our business” as it were.
There it is, compassion. Has my progression from “Ho Ho” through “Ho Om” seen me develop a more compassionate approach to life? Or is it just “loving kindness” as I say in the metta mantra I repeat at the end of every meditation?
May I be filled with loving kindness May I be happy and healthy May I be free from afflictions May I be at peace
Another friend happened to post on Facebook the meme you see at the top of the page on the same day and it seemed so serendipitous I had to use it. However, the language used in the image did not seem to gel with its attribution to the Buddha. Nor does a reliable source, Fake Buddha Quotes, (see their post), hence my correction of “Anonymous”. Regardless of whether it was said by the Buddha or not, the words are so relevant I think in this context:
In separateness lies the world's great misery; In compassion lies the world's true strength.
So is this compassion I am developing or something else? What do you think?