[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]
One day, never mind the season, in a fit of pure madness you say to yourself, I want to become an empathetic being. Do you consider the consequences of such a desire should you proceed upon that path? No, because in the very beginning you naively assume that being empathetic is just plunging deeper into that wonderful feeling people call love.
So there you have it: you are going to become a more loving person and naturally, you will feel great about yourself and naturally everybody you know will come to love you more and more the deeper you struggle up that golden path… or is it down that rabbit hole.
Young people who want to choose a path of “goodness” are very naive. I can attest to that. This world isn’t programmed to accommodate goodness although much is alluded to it and those who by some miracle of whatever, walk that path come hell or high water are often considered heroes if they are considered at all. Usually though, they are considered fools, dreamers and conspiracy theorists. I can add, they are also considered pains in the royal social ass and untrustworthy, i.e., they have a tendency to get off the social bandwagon at the most inconvenient places, often where the scapegoated targets of the bandwagon riders happen to be hiding and surviving, to give help and support instead of sticks and stones.
Becoming empathetic is a great inconvenience which leads one to self-sacrifice (oh, shudder!) and sometimes to persecution and martyrdom – things that give great feelings of courage while reading dramatic fiction but are rather dreadful to experience in real life. What the naive youth does not know is that becoming empathetic means living a compassionate life, not a loving life. It’s not only a very lonely path that demands untold forms of constant bits of self-sacrifice but detachment from serious personal relationships as well. I think we can agree that youth does not lend itself well to taking such measures. There are expectations, both natural/physical and social that mitigate against walking the em-path!
Is this short essay another of my reminders that compassion/empathy is not at all the same as loving? Unequivocally, yes. These are not the same thing though recently I have made allowances (how grand of me to do so!) for love to ride along with compassion/empathy if in the last wagon on the train, basically along with all other baggage that would have been better left on the platform before boarding.
Compassion (which is necessary to understand the pain caused by the empathetic life in a violent world) is doing with feelings coming as a consequence of one’s acts. Love is feeling with doing coming as a consequence of one’s feelings. It doesn’t take a genius, or a degree in philosophy to recognize which one will give lasting, meaningful results.
If one’s actions determine the direction one’s life is taking, that can be guaged long-term. I call that purpose. If one’s feelings determine the direction one’s life is taking, there is no possibility of ever knowing where one will end up. I call that chaos.
What made me choose to develop an empathetic way of life through living compassion is, I do not like chaos. To paraphrase myself from a recent comment, living compassion in a violent world is like carving a homestead in the wilderness.
Nature ‘lovers’ who rely on their feelings to interact with nature will not see ‘nature’ as chaos. Raised on a real homestead in a real wilderness of northern Canada in the 1950’s has given me a real sense of chaos versus the kind of order our type of life requires to survive. We are not wild animals integrated with nature – we never have been and never will be. We require some sort of order out of chaos to survive and live normal lives.
Compassion which gives life to empathy, is order within gross man-made chaos. Compassion is the ultimate enemy of violence. The spirit of violence which I call ‘evil’ cannot share space with the spirit of compassion. Anyone who seeks to become, or thinks of herself as compassionate can easily know if that is a belief, or if it is true: if she harbours any residual desire within her mind for an outcome achieved through violence, compassion has not nested there yet.