19 July 2009

140 Days to Copenhagen - Notes and Quotes on Compassion

Compassion is a habit of mind and heart. I am writing this blog to remind myself that compassion must be at the centre of our discussions and planning and decision making on climate change.

The word compassion is from the Latin com together with + pati to suffer. It means to suffer together with. (And I think that's why it's so hard for us. Most people turn away from the suffering of others ... they don't want to feel deeply another's pain.)

Today, I'm renewing my passion for compassion by reviewing what some great minds and hearts have had to say about it.

Albert Einstein said: A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Arnold Schopenhauer said: Compassion is the basis of morality.

Albert Schweitzer said: What does Reverence for Life say abut the relations between [humanity] and the animal world? Whenever I injure any kind of life I must be quite certain that it is necessary. I must never go beyond the unavoidable, not even in apparently insignificant things. The farmer who has mowed down a thousand flowers in his meadow in order to feed his cows must be careful on his way home not to strike the head off a single flower by the side of the road in idle amusement, for he thereby infringes on the law of life without being under the pressure of necessity.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton said: A good heart is better than all the heads in the world.

Barack Obama said: You know, there's a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit - the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us - the child who's hungry, the steelworker who's been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this - when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers - it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help.

George Washington Carver said: How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.

1 comment:

  1. Write on! It helps to be reminded at this time of words from my heroes.


I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?