October 12, 2011

Compassion Is Sustainable

In today's world, practicing compassion is revolutionary
Compassion is considered in all the major religious traditions as among the greatest of virtues. It is one of the keys to lasting happiness. Any human endeavor that lacks compassion is doomed to fail - compassion is a necessity, not a luxury.

But what is compassion?
"Compassion is a virtue — one in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy (for the suffering of others) are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism — foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and personhood.
More vigorous than empathy, compassion commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another's suffering. It is often, though not inevitably, the key component in what manifests in the social context as altruism. In ethical terms, the various expressions down the ages of the so-called Golden Rule embody by implication the principle of compassion: Do to others what you would have them do to you." - source
Do we even know what virtues are these days? The mainstream is more about vices and vanities. This is one reason people are unsatisfied with our present economic system. It lacks compassion. A mechanical Tin Man, it is completely heartless. The Man is great at maximizing profit, but not so good on maximizing human potential.

This is why one of the rallying cries of the Occupy Movement is "People, Not Profits". It is a call for compassion, for a more humane, less harmful way of living. It is about putting a heart into the empty chest of the sad, hollow man that is our economic system. Each of us can help by practicing compassion in our own lives.

Caring for others, and the environment leads one to attempt to reduce the amount of harm that is being done on one's behalf. Living a low impact, more sustainable life ultimately comes down to compassion.

One way I can reduce the harm I am doing during my brief stay on this wonderful planet is to reduce my consumption. Through the act of not buying anything--or as little as possible, while still maintaining a satisfying life--I reduce my impact on other people, environmental systems, and all living things.

This unconventional way of life requires what at first feels like sacrifices, but they are made willingly in a spirit of reducing the suffering of all living beings. Soon they are not sacrifices at all, but love letters that you send out to the world with each sustainable decision you make.

Like the Dalai Lama said, "For the happiness of others, practice compassion. For your own happiness, practice compassion."

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