Knotholes: Widening Our Circle of Compassion
15 July 2016 Magazine
Knotholes: Widening Our Circle of Compassion
By Dan Camilli, The Cosmic Duffer ™, Host of Nature, Sport and the Spirit on natureschannel.fm
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein
It was yet another classic Florida Chamber of Commerce winter morning, featuring brilliant sunshine, soft billowing breezes and temperatures in the low seventies when I took coffee, notebook and pipe to my lanai rocking chair to engage in yet another session of courting the muse.
As I settle in, pack and light my pipe, and follow the first soft, gray, wispy clouds of fragrant tobacco smoke heavenward, I notice a gecko frantically scurrying to and fro all about the screen room, desperately seeking a way out of the lanai. Since my conscience would not allow me to further pursue writing in the presence of this “distraction”, I set down my pipe and French Roast and attempt to capture the small lizard and deliver it to freedom.
After a time, he pokes his head out to see if the coast is clear; if his nemesis/ would-be liberator has departed, so he can return to his futile, fatal but familiar behavior; choosing a known misery over the prospect of something new and unknown. Slowly and cautiously, he comes out of hiding, staying close to the perceived “security” of the knothole. The proximity of which presents him with the false assurance of safety while, ironically sealing his fate.
The gecko, much like we humans, is both fearful of the new and comforted by familiar albeit self-destructive behavior. Like our reptilian friend, we must each muster the courage and find the fortitude to emerge from our personal and collective cultural knothole and embrace the new with fresh eyes and a willing spirit.
Can we learn to interact in dynamic, new ways economically and socially? Can we find the courage to boldly step out of our collective knothole; our comfortable, familiar, yet destructive societal behavior patterns? Can we widen our circle of compassion or will the very fabric of our society, indeed, our quintessential humanity, be ripped asunder by predatory socio-economic and political systems that co-opt governments and exploit people and planet?
Together we must find the moral fortitude to acknowledge that our present social, economic and political structures are inherently destructive. We must boldly assemble new non-hierarchical forms of human organization where everyone has a seat at the table and all voices are heard. And together, draft a Human Bill of Rights which guarantees the tangible means by which to make the promise of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” a reality for everyone and not just a privileged few. A living wage, universal basic income, clean air, pure food and water, shelter, education and healthcare must all be recognized as basic human rights; the denial of which universally denounced and prosecuted as a crime against humanity.
We must fearlessly allow this new, evolving consciousness to challenge many of our fundamental assumptions about ourselves and our world and break down the barriers erected by tribalism in all its myriad forms.
In order to widen our circle of compassion, we must transcend the old, familiar and limited definitions of family as well as our “tribal” definition of religiosity.
We must courageously reach out beyond the tribal tent of our own particular denomination and religion to all people of good will; believers, agnostics and atheists alike; guided by our understanding that aligning our compassionate core beliefs and values with our actions creates integrity. That regular attendance at services, along with a few dollars for the collection plate does not purchase absolution while supporting politicians and policies that treat the poor and planet cruelly. We must, instead, be guided by what Matthew (25:40) tells us, are the words of The Christ as He describes widening our circle of compassion: “Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Eastern wisdom, through Buddhist Metta Bhavana (Loving Kindness) meditation, social action, and other teachings, also instructs us to cultivate this loving kindness toward the entire Human family and not just our own. For we are planet stewards, and are, indeed, our brothers and sisters keeper. We must learn to share the world with all others.
“If people knew, as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given.” Buddha
Can we, as a species, emerge from the destructive knothole of Homo Economicus and embrace Homo Spiritualis in time to create a humane, sustainable global society? This is not about socialism, communism, or any other “ism” although it will, inevitably, lead to greater economic, social, political and planetary justice. It’s about the evolution of human consciousness as a planetary imperative.
The essence of evolution, according to Indian philosopher, Sri Aurobindo, is the on-going evolution of consciousness. And if we look around we can, over the last few decades, find much tangible evidence of consciousness evolving. Public attitudes towards women’s rights, African- American rights, and LGBT equality are all examples of how our collective consciousness has evolved over but a few generations. Can we now transform human consciousness; widen our circle of compassion to move past our archaic “tribal” mentality of biological family and embrace the “Human Family” paradigm? Perhaps the looming prospect of planetary destruction via climate change will provide the necessary catalyst for transformation of our collective consciousness. For it is now a race between transformation and obliteration.
The gecko’s harrowing experience has a happy ending as I wait him out and eventually release him from his fate. Who will save us from our fear-bred, comfortably familiar patterns of self-destruction? Who will rescue us from our knothole and widen our circle of compassion? Who, indeed, but ourselves.
Copyright © 2016 by Dan Camilli All Rights Reserved
Award winning philosophy teacher Dan Camilli, The Cosmic Duffer ™ ” is the host of “Nature, Sport and the Spirit ” on natureschannel.fm radio airing Live Fridays at 10 AM ET and author of the golf-philosophy book, “Tee Ceremony: A Cosmic Duffer’s ™ Companion to the Ancient Game of Golf ” available at Amazon. Visit blog at cosmicduffer.com