Today I was walking around the campus of Davidson College and came upon the large scale stick installation I participated in creating over the winter. As I walked through the sculpture I thought: Gee how much has changed in the world since those few months ago. No sooner did that thought cross my mind did this other thought follow: No it hasn’t. And then I thought again: Yes it has. Ok, enough of the merry-go-round. I will explain.
Highly contagious disease is nothing new to a good part of the world, nor are Pandemics. It is our good fortune that we have really not had to deal much with them. So it is not new, it is only new to us. Racial injustice is also nothing new, many of us have just been blind to it.
So what is new then?
Lately, I have taken a great interest in Buddhism. One of the principles of Buddhism is that suffering is part of life. This sounds like a really depressing concept until you dig deeper and understand that suffering also leads to compassion. And more compassion, in the long run, leads to less suffering.
One of my favorite definitions of compassion is from theologian Marcus Borg who equates (and I am paraphrasing) compassion with a deep, gut level connection with others. This is the kind of feeling that once experienced, is hard to ignore.
It is easy to become complacent again once we are all healthy, back to work, and the news is only telling us things we don’t mind hearing. But once we feel compassion, it is hard to look away and feel ok about it. Feeling compassion is to be truly human. It is a good feeling. So maybe that is what is new.