--- In Zen_Forum@yahoogroups.com, <billsm...@...> wrote:
> My remarks are embedded below:
> > > [Bill! from a previous post] I understand 'compassion' to mean 'to
be aware of the feelings of others'. Merriam-Webster Online defines it
as "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire
to alleviate it". That definition satisfies me.
> >[Ed] The definition is consonant with ones I have seen in Buddhist
texts. However, questions come to mind (as usual): Is possessing
'compassion' a badge of merit, or is it a normal and natural aspect of
> [Bill!] Some, St. Thomas Aquinas for one and Buddhists for another
example, believe that having compassion is a highly desirable quality. I
believe it is a normal and natural aspect of human nature, but like a
lot of normal and natural aspects of human nature it doesn't function
well while we are living in a world of illusion.
[Ed] In the nature of things, (9.999% of humans) as they have evolved
live in a world of illusion, as you call it. There is little point in
whinging about it. It's our karma that we were born into this world.
It's our challenge to live skilfully with fellow-humans steeped in
> > [Ed] Is not "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress
together with a desire to alleviate it" none other than a stipulation
that a person not possess genes for autism?
> [Bill!] I don't know anything worthwhile to say about genes, but I
don't see a lot of people displaying compassion - especially for people
that are unknown to them, different from them or engaged in activities
that are problematic for them. In other words I think compassion is the
exception and not the rule.
[Ed] In my obervation, compassion is not an on/off feeling. It is a
feeling that normally declines as emotional separation increases,
roughly in the order: Immediate family, friends, relatives, neighbors,
community, ethnic group, religious group, cultural group, nationality,
geograplic distance, etc., etc. ... perceived enemies to our security
and well-being, and so on.
In this regard, the Old Testament is most wise as its recommendations
are compatible with normal and natural human nature as it has evolved -
but you refer to this street-smarts as an illusion. The Buddha 's
Teachings and the New Testament recommend human attitudes and behaviors
which are alien to human nature as it has evolved over the millennia in
the Darwinian struggle of life.
> > [ED] And when we do experience compassion, is it not usually
selectively directed toward persons we feel connected to in some way?
> [Bill!] Yes, this seems to be the case for most people.
> > [Ed] For instance, do we feel compassion for the million-plus
war-widows caused by the US/UK/Australian invasion of Iraq?
> [Bill!] I believe most Yanks/Brits/Aussies don't. They are taught to
de-humanize the enemies of their particular country. I think a lot of
[Ed] Not just Anglos and Arabs, but *all* human groups get irritable and
impatient and tend dehumanize the perceived enemy in times of war and
conflict - but the principle factor is the very low level of intrinsic
compassion for groups one does not feel any affinity with.
[Ed] Portrait of an extremely successful, 'heroic', revered,
ego-filled, non-compassionate human?: