Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Compassion is Revolution
I love stickers. I love bumper stickers, laptop stickers, stars for good grades, decals... ALL the stickers. This summer I bought several stickers to put on my laptop. One of them says "Compassion is Revolution." I liked it at the time because I really like the word compassion. It's under-utilized, I think. It is a pretty-sounding word, and its relative connotations give me a warm feeling. Compassion. It's great. But the sticker didn't mean much more to me than that word. I was happy with that word and hadn't really put meaningful thought into is revolution.
But wow is that a powerful statement.
The other day my professor saw it on my laptop in class and said she liked it. As is expected, when someone draws attention to something, you see it again when your eyes had become too accustomed to its presence. And so I looked at it, smiled at her, and said thank you. I began to think about those words, because a part of me was very interested in what had drawn her attention to it. Perhaps she too has a bit of an attachment to the word compassion. Or maybe she had really considered the whole body of the sentence. So I decided the latter was probably more accurate because, really?, she is a nazi grader and the woman misses nothing.
So I felt the need to reevaluate that yellow and purple sticker. Compassion is Revolution. I wanted to know what exactly that meant to me.
At first I thought of a pay-it-forward kind of response, but somehow that felt too obvious and novel to be right. So I reconsidered my interpretation. What I decided on was this: Compassion is more than an individual act. Compassion is not just being kind to someone when you know they're struggling. Compassion is being a whole person who is in touch with their inter-connectedness with the world. Compassion is feeling pain because someone--anyone--else is suffering. Compassion is knowing a person's crimes and loving them without condition. Compassion is pain and it is joy. It is the pain of accepting the evils of the world. It is the joy of feeling connected to all other beings. It's a comfort. Each of us is compassionate, but not each of us is in touch without our compassion or ready to act upon it for whatever reason. The inability to express compassion is a sickness.
Enlightenment is a kind of revolution. When I make a lifestyle change, I have called for revolution within my own self as an individual. But if each of us is connected. If we are a greater being as residents of this big, blue planet... then that revolution within me is a revolution within all. Now, when I first had that thought, I was quick to correct myself. Just because I have done something kind does not mean that someone else will choose not to rape or murder or assault. I am smart enough to know that a single action does not save the world, no matter how we wish it would. But then I chose a different angle. When I commit an act of kindness, I am acknowledging that I have that capacity. That is the revolution.
Compassion is revolution only when you become aware that it is. You are revolutionizing yourself, which in turn creates a tiny revolution in this greater world. Each act of compassion will affect someone new. And if, now that we've dug a litter deeper, you would like to implement pay-it-forward into the theory, feel free. Feel free to do so, loves. Because honestly, there isn't much hope in the statement as I have perceived it. It is more of a demand or expectation than a soft statement. Revolution is personal, but our interconnectedness means it matters to the whole world. Perhaps for every door I hold or smile I wear, I will spur revolution within someone else. There is hope in that. There is hope in thinking that we can fix the world with individual acts of compassion. I'm not sure I really believe that. There will always be evil. There will always be debilitating pain that sickens a person and creates evil within their heart. Always always. But there will always be goodness in the world if we can find it within ourselves. It is our human responsibility to revolutionize our hearts to compassion.