On the Urgency for Compassion

(BOSTON Marathon) Dedicated to all those who suffer. (Image sourced via Google.)

(BOSTON Marathon) Dedicated to all those who suffer. (Image sourced via Google.)

Today, the world mourns the Boston Marathon tragedy.

While an unfortunate number of catastrophes have marred the news headlines since I began this blog, I’ve almost always chosen to remain silent, partly because everything that can be said is always already being said; partly because saying anything doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.

The silence is a memorial to a cowed and helpless sadness.

In this instance, however, I forego my right to remain silent. It’s occurred to me that there is something immediate that can be done—besides the articulation of grief, outrage and despair—something in fact that must be done, which is simply: to feel the pain of every tragedy afresh, to nurture, as Pema Chödrön calls it, the profound compassion known as the “tender heart” of boddhichitta. When distance bars the communication of our grief or the expression of our support, we honor another’s pain by sharing it: by understanding that this pain—any pain—will touch us all; by realizing that suffering is the common legacy of everything that exists.

We cannot alleviate suffering until we allow ourselves to be pierced by it. Until we feel another’s pain as our own, we will never comprehend the urgency to stop inflicting pain ourselves. And these unrestrained impulses to cause harm—including the countless, tiny acts of violence perpetrated in our minds or whispered under our breath—when given a unifying cause and an opportune moment, are precisely what lead to tragedies like the Boston Marathon.

We are like those who died, those who got hurt and those who lost their limbs.

But, and more importantly, we are also like those who planted the bombs, those who killed and those who maimed.

It is precisely what we share with the latter that makes it so terribly urgent for us to awaken our compassion, to feel the world’s grief, and to allow our experience of suffering to strengthen our resolve: to be good, to be kind, or failing that, to at least do no harm.


2 thoughts on “On the Urgency for Compassion

  1. Lynette says:

    Eileen, thanks — for articulating what is too difficult to express, and for providing clarity and direction when most of us are too confounded and blinded by grief, pain and anger.


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