Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Complementary Compassion (third of five)

Difficult not to be derivative. Compassion is easily said. Easily given. But for how long? Compassion sees itself realized in fits and starts of intensity, but over the long haul, the day to day, the lived in, lived with, and lasting endurance of the day-to-day-to-day compassion is most difficult to feel wholeheartedly. We generally like to feel that whatever we feel serves ourselves. We feel good having pity, having sympathy, having a round of empathy, being generous, being different from the norm of self interests; but for how long? Compassion fatigue is a clear dilemma for nurses, doctors, psychologists, friends of those with prolonged diseases, friends of those with chronic inescapable pain, donators towards those who have little, contributors towards those whose needs are unfulfillable. Compassion, that feeling of feeling for, feeling with, feeling alongside, feeling akin to, and even feeling at one with is more easily realized from moment to moment. And then let me get on with the rest of my day! Compassion is but a complement.

Natural compassion, according to the Dali Lama, is easiest for those who were nurtured in the first place by loving parents. It is more difficult for those offspring, human or animal, that were uncared for, unloved, unprotected, and not nurtured in childhood. As adults we come across Compassion as a subject for books, for Conventions, for learned dialogues. As a Knight of yore, Compassion was one of the five tenants of the pentacle of Knightly Virtues. And as a human being, as part and parcel of all human beings, as the Dali Lama would have it, we needs focus on the big WE of us all, rather than the small 'we' of our immediate cognizance. We tend most easily to think of the immediate, the group with whom we are associated, the nation to whom we give allegiance, the continent in which we find our place. Our global consciousness, thanks to our modern interlinks, grows rapidly. An advent in Taipei affects us all, let alone the poor Grecian economy. Compassion more easily is experienced for Biafra, for Nepal, for Tibet, but in Times of Yore compassion was very limited to the immediate surrounds, naturally; so one donates the $50 to the food-drive and then gets on with living one's day. How else to survive when there are so very many causes, so many charities, so many in distress?

Compassion, like charity, begins at home. Understanding where another is coming from, not taking things personally, not rising to argue, to be right, to be self-righteous, to be self-centric, to be self assertive despite (nor even to spite) another; that is where compassion finds itself lived in a prolonged sense of whole-heartedness. No? Well, half-heartedness at least, for the endurance with and amongst others who may so drain at one's resources, at one's energies, at one's sympathy, can be enervating indeed. And as we know, enervating is quite the opposite from invigorating. Energy is consumed. So compassion, as a virtue, gets doled out like coins from one's purse, in bits and pieces at a time. Even the mother bird eventually nudges the chicks out of the nest.

Five knightly virtues, Fellowship, Frankness, Courtliness, Courage and Compassion are depicted in the Pentacle on the knight's shield, or emblazoned on his chest. And of the five, compassion as the very air we breathe is the most natural, and yet the most difficult to prolong. We can be friendly, frank, complimentary, and even courageous, but not to feel disdain, contempt, arrogance, judgement, and impatience is a difficult thing indeed. Compassion would have us be loving, accepting, inclusive, and understanding, but for how long? Hm? Now, my good deed done, let me get on with the rest of my day!

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