Saturday, October 29, 2011

Compassion

Compassion
by Scott Bradley


Some time ago I did a post entitled "Love" in which I began with a quote from the Gospel According to John to the effect that God is love. I must have strayed from my intended purpose, because this led to people telling me what love is. BR said it was a verb rather than a noun, and I think that says a lot about love. So my real question can now be resolved to this: In what sense is Reality a verb? I am going to cheat and rephrase the question: In what sense is Tao a verb? And if it is a verb, is it transitive or intransitive? Does its love require an object or no?

In substituting Tao for Reality, I have begged the question; Tao does nothing, according to our orthodoxy, and is indifferent to us. "Tao treats all things as straw dogs," Laozi tells us. This may or may not be true. But as Zhuangzi points out, since any revelation as to the nature of Source is conspicuously absent, it really makes no difference. 'For all practical purposes', Nature is Tao, and Nature seems utterly indifferent to questions of love.

All of this brings me to the concept of compassion as some supreme quality exemplifying the nature of ultimate Reality. Buddhism even proposes a goddess of love. She makes a great garden ornament. Nice and sentimental. But I don't get it.

Discounting all those mythical bodhisattva characters, I honestly don't see a whole lot of transitive compassion among these compassionate ones, in any case. So, if Reality is a verb, it must be intransitive. It's about feeling good, not doing good.

Today, on the radio, I heard a medical doctor bemoaning that she couldn't get a job. Really? I'll bet the Somalis would be glad to give her one. But then the BMW would have to wait, I suppose.

I confess that I am an extremist. Talk to me about compassion and I'll stick your nose in a pile of shit in Calcutta where, even as I write, some child is looking for something to eat. I have seen them. Compassion? My ass.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

2 comments:

  1. If there is such a thing as free will and we are not just doing as would be done anyway then the good reasons for love and compassion are: Everyone just wants to be happy, so care and they will be. The alternative will never make anyone happy. If no one is happy they'll get to selfish things and the world will go sour.

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  2. By and large your friendly compulsive copy editor agrees with Scott here, and still holds to the idea that love is a verb, a concept that wasn't really mine, I think but a conflation of remarks by some annoying right-wing radio commentator and the Beatles (love...is equal to the love you make.) Love (or compassion), is up to us to do or achieve, as individuals, not some thing out there floating around. If the doctor didn't want to go to Somalia, it was for selfish reasons, and she has limited her own bounds of compassion. That's up to her. Was Mother Theresa compassionate? Some say yes, some say no. The church honored her, but others think she was an annoying old woman engaged largely in fundraising. We could ask her beneficiaries what they think, but they're mostly dead, which they would have been anyway, without her.

    As to Tao, linguistically, I think it is a metasyntactic variable. (I think you have made a case for that.) Or possibly a conjunction, the "and" between yin and yang.

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