On Board the Compassion Train

The true measure of a person’s intellect

is not reflected by how cleverly they can outsmart the next person,
but by how acutely they are capable of perceiving his unseen genius.

Karen Armstrong left the convent in the 1970’s because she could not pray, “which is rather a downer for a nun,” she says. After a six year depression, a failed PhD and being asked to leave school teaching because of her epilepsy, she fell into the world of religious study and has become one of the world’s greatest religious historians.


Many people ask her, after years of in depth religious study, which religion she has joined. None, but rather she has become an ambassador for all that is best in the great religions of the world.

In essence, she has developed compassion.

Karen Armstrong is one of many individuals and organizations launching compassion movements across the globe.

In spring of 2010, the city of Seattle became the world’s first official “City of Compassion.” Seattle’s mayor and nine city council members affirmed the Charter for Compassion, and committed to a 10 Year Campaign for Compassionate Cities. The campaign was largely promoted by Microsoft executives, who are working to apply the Charter to their business practices.

You can read the Charter for Compassion here:

http://charterforcompassion.org/site/

You can even add your name.

Karen and others hope this movement will propel society towards a Socratic dialogue, which was conducted gently. People enter a Socratic dialogue with the intent to leave enlightened, enriched, expanded, and changed, rather than to win the debate.

“Put your clever, over-educated self to the side and approach learning with an open heart. Don’t judge too quickly. Wait. Listen. Suddenly you will understand another person in a deeply perceptive way,” says Karen.

“We are addicted to our prejudices. We have our pet hates. We define ourselves by comparing to what we are not. When we utter a cleverly-brilliant, wounding remark, we get a buzz of triumph, but it also poisons us, just like addiction does. It poisons our intellectual and social atmosphere.”

With parallels to the Twelve Step Program for alcoholics, Karen has authored the book, “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.” As with Alcoholic Anonymous, these twelve steps are practiced until they become a natural, integral part of one’s day-to-day life.

The book’s preface is to Wish for a Better World, which reminds me of the scripture:

Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world…
which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men,
which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works.

Karen’s twelve steps are:
1. Learn about compassion
2. Look at your World
3. Compassion for Yourself
4. Empathy
5. Mindfulness
6. Action
7. How Little We Know
8. How Should We Speak to One Another
9. Concern for Everybody
10. Knowledge
11. Recognition: To see oneness in yourself, your community and the world.
12. Love Your Enemies: The word “love” historically did not reference “feelings of affection,” but meant “loyalty.” Two countries would vow to “love” each other or to be loyal to each other – essentially to have the other person’s back.

Karen discusses how fear is the root of much conflict. “When someone feels they are threatened, that their backs are to the wall they can lash out violently. In their anxiety to protect their faith, they actually distort it.”

The antidote for fear is faith, or the pro-active application of hope. Faith in the goodness of humanity. Hope that we can all behave better than we have in the past.

Faith, Hope, and Compassion.

If this is the movement chugging across the nation, I want on board the train.

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