“Whatever God does, the first outburst is always compassion.” Meister Eckhart
Today’s wisdom from Meister Eckhart comes to me as we continue to wrap our minds and hearts around the bombings in Boston.
We are most fully human when we are compassionate. The smallest attempt to understand another’s suffering, and to feel some of what they feel, is stepping into the life of God. As a high school teacher I began to see disturbing indications that this virtue is falling out of practice in our society. I believe that we need a dedicated curriculum to the meaning and practice of compassion, as a way to deal with our increasing focus on violence as a problem-solver. Northern Ireland adopted such a curriculum with great success. The children who studied it have grown up with a commitment to maintain a lasting peace between Protestants and Catholics.
What about us- adults past school age? Do we look upon compassion as a positive habit we can and should develop? Is an act of compassion an act of Godliness for us? In order to respond compassionately, we have to be aware of the need. To become aware, we have to practice stillness. Stillness gives us the space in which to truly see the other as they are, and to choose if, when, or how to respond. To recognize suffering, we need to make opportunities which teach us. I may prefer to read only nonfiction which teaches my brain how to analyze; however, if I never read fiction or see great film or theatre, I miss the opportunity to study human beings in their worst and best moments. I don’t learn about my pain in relation to others’ pain. We can develop a habit of thinking and acting compassionately by daily setting it as an intention: “Today I surround myself with God’s light, that I may see the suffering of others and respond to it with love.”
Tonight my practice will be to set aside my tablet to view the news and listen consciously for ten minutes, to stories of victims in Boston. Then I will ask myself to imagine how they are feeling right now, how their families are feeling. And I will pray with them in solidarity. I believe that this little practice will ripple throughout the world, contributing to an attitude of compassion that one day will prevail.
May compassion be the first outburst of God in our lives.