Sunday, April 15, 2012
Compassion and wealth
I really appreciate all the feedback I have been receiving about my blog and am full of joy that my efforts at writing have been meaningful for people. I saw this article on the facebook page of the center for compassion and altruism research and education at stanford university:
The basic premise is that rich people are less compassionate than those who are not as well off financially. I feel quite a bit of dissonance and sadness as a I read the article. On the one hand I am overjoyed that we live in a time where compassion has become a topic worthy of study and am excited abut what we will learn and how that can be translated into programs and policies to support compassion in our society. On the other hand there is this irony that a study about compassion does not recognize that the very question they ask misses the essence of what compassion is or at least the way I understand the word.
For me compassion is about recognizing that the other person is not really all that separate from me and that we are all interconnected. Therefore it is natural that I want happiness for others and wish for them not to suffer.
Now I am reading an article about the studies and not the studies themselves but I wonder if it's not time to move away from rich vs poor, more or less, us against them thinking. I wonder if this very paradigm of duality and labelling that we are in is what prevents us from having access to our compassionate nature. As long as I see others as different or separate from me I block compassion from happening.
In this case what saddens me is that many of us read these types of articles and buy into the image that those who have money are greedy, less compassionate, less caring, more unhappy, different from me. I also question the criteria that was used to define the groups (income and type of car the person drove) To me this is a poor reflection of a person's true wealth.
It saddens me because I would love to see everyone have enough resources in their life to support them in living a life full of energy and opportunity to shine at what they most enjoy doing. That would promote happiness and reduce suffering for many people. A dream life takes wealth. Not necessarily only money but all kinds of resources that make one rich.
In my world creating division between the rich and the poor which is what the basic premise of this study does does not support people in having compassion and acceptance for the part of them that really would love to have sufficient wealth because these types of studies tell us we risk the most painful thing for a human being which is social rejection. No one wants to be seen as greedy or not compassionate so reading this we choose emotional safety and reject not only people who look rich just based on their income or outer symbols but also the part of ourselves that could flourish if we allowed ourselves to accept wealth into our lives.
Compassion is about unity and that means unity between people but also unity between the different parts of my inner world. I am done with rejecting the part of me that wants ease and choice and passion in my life just because I am scared of being seen as greedy or disconnected from the masses. I don't buy into it that having the resources to contribute to life in the way I want is selfish or greedy. Nor do I buy into the idea that the only way to have sufficient resources is to deny someone else that right.
And it's not just money, resources that make someone rich include friends, skills, culture, technology, education, attitude, health, compassion, vulnerability and this article sparked in me the thought that I am ready to receive whatever form of wealth wants to come my way.