Grading in schools, competition in capitalism and democracy, and the opposing stances obligated by the legal system, are all conceptual structures that teach us to think in binary ways that don’t leave room for cooperative, win-win scenarios like compassion. Many of the systems we have created build into themselves the duality of winners and losers. And given only two choices, everyone would pick winning. So before long, compassion is mocked as weakness while goading is seen as strength.
Soon we’re hoarding for ourselves rather than experiencing the generosity of sharing. We’re mimicking what has been worshipped on reality shows that started the trend–shows like Big Brother or Survivor, where often duplicity, dishonesty, revenge, and selfish conniving are actually rewarded. We have become so iNvested in our iPhones and iPods and iLives that we’re building a iNdividualized culture that’s creating some very disturbing mass effects.
I was once on a business trip and as I was leaving my hotel I noticed someone’s parking meter about to run out. As I was dropping a couple of dollars into it I was approached by a police officer who informed me that my Good Samaritanship was illegal in his city. Now let’s stop and think about that a moment. Do you think that we’re maybe lost as a society when we’re penalizing kindness to get money? What does that teach a child about what our priorities are?
Advertising and social status struggles have us further and further separating ourselves in a pointless attempt at individuality. We can still be an actual individual and still respect the fact that we’re naturally a pack animal. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive. But by creating layers of status, it’s not surprising that as a group we’re a lot more addicted, violent, sad, and unnecessarily cruel than previous generations.
We’re living in a way that doesn’t suit our nature. We’re striving for singular status not group happiness. This is troublesome because pride is an emotion that we must put energy into creating, whereas love is a naturally occurring feeling and it is regenerative rather than depleting. Caring for each other gives us energy. Competing grinds too much Life Force away in friction. We and the world simply need more love. Fortunately, we’re all natural generators of it, so all we have to do is start Being Natural.
Listen to yourself when you look at others. For a week, just dedicate yourself to that. Really pay attention to how judgmental you are. And notice how the negative nature of the daily news and life’s gossip causes you to jump more often to negative conclusions.
You tell yourself some narrative that the woman driving in front of you is an idiot. Really? Because maybe she’s also driving home from the hospital where she was just visiting her husband of 52 years for the last time ever. Maybe that immigrant that you think shouldn’t have come to your country if they don’t speak the native tongue(s), is actually a professional back at home and he may be extremely grateful to live in his new country and he may be working >extremely hard every night at mastering the language. And that mother that’s losing her temper may be desperately short of sleep and she may not have eaten in way too long, so her short tantrum may be more about her body chemistry than her personality. But none of that will matter. All that will matter is what story you choose to tell yourself–and possibly others–about her. So maybe it’s time for no stories, or at a minimum, more generous, compassionate stories.
We have to change how we see society. We have to alter what we feel our role is. Because despite sales claims to the contrary, we are not here to advance, or grow, or separate ourselves from the pack. We are here to Be. And if we are truly Be-ing Human, then compassion and togetherness is a natural response to life, and living among people who can both give and receive love is very simply a beautiful thing to everyone who experiences it.
Do as Gandhi suggested. Be the change you want to see in the world. Look each day and find at least one compassionate act that’s something you would not have done before being offered this challenge. And compliment others when they display compassion. If we do it enough we’ll get good at it. Enough of us get good at it and we’ll ended up changing the world. I hope you’ll join us.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.