Civilization is built on compassion

June 24, 2020

But that’s not what we’re taught. In fact, we’ve got it backward. We’ve come to believe that everything humanity has achieved has been through rugged individualism, toughing it out, and me against the world-style drive and ambition. It’s not that those qualities aren’t important; they have their time and place. Or perhaps it’s better to say they HAD their time and place.

However, the real unsung hero of a civilized society is compassion, caring, kindness, and the spirit of cooperation. I help you, you help me, and the world is better and moves forward because of it. If we understand the principle of interdependence, we cannot ignore the fact that no one is an island. Infinite networks of relationships are responsible for keeping us fed, clothed, connected, sheltered, paid, healthy, and fulfilled.

Have you ever stopped to consider the incredible self-reliance and ingenuity of some of our primitive ancestors? Their ability to figure things out, to build tools, weapons, or farming implements were the building blocks of our society, but it was only in the sharing of those ideas and the caring for each other that we were able to become more as a group than as isolated individuals.

Compassion is the Yin to the Yang of self-focused, me, myself, and I thinking. It’s the necessary glue that brings people together out of a desire to help, to care, and to eliminate the suffering of others. It’s the opposite of the ‘survival of the fittest’ that says only the strong survive. Compassion teaches us that the strength of the strong can help support the weak and we all move forward.

Compassion is also the true key to our survival and growth as a species. Force, struggle, and wrecking-ball politics are dinosaurs that will ultimately lead to our extinction. As Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine said, “Evolution favors the survival of the wisest.” Compassion is the choice of wisdom, of growth, of healing, and evolution.

It is our greatest strength. And without it, we are doomed.

I’m a huge fan of Star Trek, for countless reasons. But one of its most appealing qualities for me is the spirit of collective peaceful exploration and cooperation across all cultural and species barriers. To me it’s always stood out as a beacon of what humanity could become and in my heart, I like to think that the archetypal energy of Star Trek is out there, on the edge of a metaphorical event horizon pulling us toward that future. It’s not a perfect future, but it’s an image of where we could go if we remember what it means to be human and set our moral compass to the true north of compassion, kindness, understanding, and awareness.

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