April 4, 2015 at 12:49 am (By Realpc)

Almost everyone agrees that compassion is good. Most religions say we should be compassionate. Compassionate behavior has been shown to increase your mental and physical health.

So we are all compassionate of course, right? Yes we are, because compassion is a natural instinct, found in all the higher animal species. Maybe in some of the lower species also, who knows.

Compassion is all good, for everyone everywhere. So there should be no problems in the world, right? Everyone knows they should be compassionate, so everyone tries to be. And since it’s a natural instinct we don’t even have a choice — we are compassionate like or not. Except maybe some depraved sociopaths.

As long as everyone behaves with compassion, things should go well for our society. Oh, but darn, there are all those greedy selfish people who tend to be in charge. They ruin it for all the rest of us, right? The 99 percent are good, it’s that greedy 1 percent that ruins things.

Tell me if you think I’m wrong. Isn’t that a summary of how compassion is seen in our society? So why do I care enough to write about it, since we all agree and there is nothing else to be said.

I am writing about it because I think it is total BS. I think it is all wrong, and it can’t be right, because if it were right then nothing would make sense.

The extreme pro-compassion view is more likely to be associated with progressive, or leftist, politics. However it isn’t limited to that. It is everywhere in modern society, in all ideologies and philosophies and religions.

One problem I see with the compassion craze is that ironically it promotes hatred. People who value compassion are likely to despise the greedy villains who ruin everything for the rest of us because of their lack of compassion.

But the main problem I see is that the whole theory is wrong, because it is rooted in modern reductionism. And what do I mean by reductionism oh this post will be a hundred pages if I try to explain, so I will skip ahead and say I am promoting a holistic, systemic, view of things. The holistic perspective is mostly ignored in our society, which I think is really too bad. Yes we have holistic medicine, but we also need a completely holistic way of thinking about everything.

The trouble with the ideal of compassion is that all concepts are completely empty unless they are seen in context, in relation to other concepts. The word “love,” for example, is thrown around all the time with no attempt to say what the concept means. And the word “compassion” has the same problem.

I want to give a simple example that I hope will easily explain what I mean. Let’s say there is a big male gorilla who is the boss of a bunch of females and their babies. The females are responsible for protecting their babies (and they know this because nature has given them the compassionate maternal instinct), and the big alpha male is responsible for protecting the whole bunch. He also knows this because of his natural instinct for compassion, for loving his “neighbors,” his social group.

So let’s say a lion wanders in to the gorilla’s territory, hoping to eat some gorilla babies (I don’t know if lions really eat gorilla babies, this is just an illustration of a concept). The big alpha gorilla has NO compassion for the lion. He fights it off or scares it off, or whatever. Because the gorilla has compassion for his females and their babies, he MUST NOT have compassion for the lion. He would be glad to kill it if possible.

Ok, that example wasn’t very good? Here is another one. Our bodies are constantly at war with things that try to make us sick. There are immune system cells that try to destroy any cell that does not belong in the body. These immune system cells are acting out of compassion (well, something like it anyway), but they have NO compassion for the invading cells they try to destroy.

Ok, here is one more example and then I promise I won’t give any more examples, I will just hope you get my point. A mother wolf is protecting and feeding her babies, because she is naturally compassionate and she loves them and wants them to live. And her babies are so cute, after all.

The mother wolf goes out and finds some baby rabbits and kills them and brings them to her babies. The baby rabbits are cute too, but she doesn’t care. She has NO compassion for the baby rabbits.

I hope I have explained what I have tried to explain. I suspect people will either say that’s ridiculous, or else they will say well duh that’s so obvious.


  1. amba12 said,

    Nietzsche said something similar.

  2. realpc920 said,

    Oh, I tried to read something by him once but I couldn’t. Maybe I should try again. But I never knew he was holistic.

    But what do you think amba, does what I said make any sense? I really have more to say about it.

  3. realpc920 said,

    I have read things about Nietzsche, and I just read a Wikipedia article to be reminded. No, my philosophy is probably not like his at all, maybe sort of the opposite. So it is hard to explain what I really mean.

    My philosophy is holistic and mystical, and relativistic and systemic. (Whatever all those words actually mean.) I believe the universe is infinitely intelligent and creative and compassionate. I believe that love is a universal force. My ideas are based on both respect for nature and love of God. That is NOT a very common perspective in our current civilization, although I realize it might seem like it is.

    I am reading a book on mysticism, by a philosopher, and the word “love” appears about a thousand times just in the first chapter. The author has not yet tried to define what he means by “love,” it is taken for granted that we all know what it means and we all agree. Yes, we all know what love feels like, since it is the basis of our primal instincts. But we seldom see any logical definitions of the word.

    And, I think, that is because our culture is primarily reductionist, non-holistic. Words are assumed to contain meaning apart from any cultural context. But they really do not.

    There are two primal forces in the universe, attraction and repulsion. This occurs on the level of subatomic physics, throughout biology, all the way up to our level. Every one-celled creature operates according to these forces — go toward what is good for you (what you love), and go away from what is bad for you (what you hate).

    (Now of course there can be confusion. A person might be attracted to junk food or drugs, for example, feeling they are good when actually they are bad. But I hope you know what I am trying to say.)

    If we take this concept and generalize it to everything, it is obviously true. We love pleasure and we hate pain. Oh but what is pain or pleasure? — that leads to more confusion. But forget that for now.

    Love/hate, good/evil are poles on continuums. Each pole cannot exist without its opposite. There is no love if there is no hate, no good if there is no evil, no black if there is no white, etc.

    I hope this clarifies a little what I am trying to say, but probably not enough since our culture is so deeply non-holistic.

    Holistic philosophy has been around a long time, but currently has been pretty much drowned out by all of our popular ideologies, whether left or right, religious or non-religious.

  4. wj said,

    I think you are groping around the edges of a good idea. But let me suggest something; something that is, in fact, illustrated by your examples: We all have an instinct for compassion towards those we see as “real people”. That is, whether we appear to others to be compassionate depends, in part, on how large our circle of “real people” is compared to theirs.

    The mother gorilla is compassionate towards real people . . . she just doesn’t include the lion in her definition. Ditto the mother wolf and the rabbits. And, for that matter, the “greed is good” folks — they don’t see anyone outside their tiny social circle as “real people” — people towards whom they should show some compassion.

    For that matter, consider the conflicts between, for example, a cattle rancher and the PETA folks. The difference is that PETA sees all animals as “people”, real people. The rancher may be a very compassionate man, his definition of “real people,” however, does not include the cattle that he will be supplying to the meat packers.

    Definitions. If you don’t make them carefully, it gets real hard to figure out what is going on.

  5. realpc920 said,

    Thank you for the comment wj. I completely agree.

  6. realpc920 said,

    Here is an example to show how unaware people can be of their internal contradictions and how ironic that can turn out to be.

    I read a blog post recently about compassion, where the author was lamenting the fact that human beings don’t have enough of it. He said he has come to despise the whole human species, because we are not compassionate enough.

    His own compassion has motivated him to hate all humanity, for not being compassionate enough!!

    I have no shortage of examples of this kind of thing, and it seems to have become a tidal wave in our society lately.

    I am not sure where it all started, but it might have been Jesus’ statement that his followers should love their enemies.

    Don’t discriminate, feel the same way about everyone, and make sure to feel guilty if you can’t do this.

  7. realpc920 said,

    And one other thing — people seem to have forgotten that compassion is related to pity, and that we all hate to be pitied. It’s ok to pity someone else, as long as you call it compassion, and as long as they don’t start pitying you back.

  8. realpc920 said,

    Am I saying we shouldn’t even try to be compassionate, since it’s impossible anyway? NO, that’s almost the opposite of what I’m saying. I don’t even think Nietzsche said that (although I admit I really don’t know what he said or meant, and maybe no one else does either).

    We can’t help being compassionate and we can’t help wanting to belong in some social context. Belonging to any social group means you have to compromise and sacrifice, and you can’t always follow your selfish desires (of course, since belonging to a social group IS a selfish desire, there is some kind of paradox here that I won’t even try to get into).

    It is not a question of whether to be compassionate or not, it is a question of how much to care about others at the expense of ourselves. No one can answer that question, since it depends on a constant balancing act. We have to decide at each moment how to spend our time (and money, but money is time).

  9. LouiseM said,

    What does compassion mean to you, realpc920? How do you define it? How has it touched your life? When and where have you experienced it and what has been the result?

    I’m confused by this post, unclear as to what you most want to convey or put up for question. I would be interested to know what your personal experience with compassion has been. I know on my end, a feeling of compassion has often prompted actions or expressions which have resulted in a deeper sense of connection with others.

  10. realpc920 said,

    Thank you for being interested LouiseM. Yes, there is some kind of goal this post is aiming for. Not an answer, but I think some kind of direction. I will try to write more later today. My goal with this is spiritual and I am searching, groping, for spiritual wisdom.

    Just for now — yes my experiences with compassion all involve connection with others. I think that is universal.

  11. realpc said,


    I think when you widen the defintion of “person,” then compassion can become abstract and watered down. It is very hard to care deeply about people you don’t know. That is one reason I think the liberal ideal of tolerating and loving everyone can often be hypocritical.

    And sometimes widening the definition can get crazy, like when animal rights activists blow up a research lab because it uses rats. Or when anti-abortion activists kill abortion doctors.

    The ideal of compassion for all humanity led to communism, I think, and communism killed and imprisoned more people than any other ideology.

    Buddhists are supposed to have compassion for all living things, I think. Maybe they can feel that during mediation but I don’t think they go around feeling it during ordinary life. You can’t.

    And by the way I really don’t appreciate the “compassion” that people of certain religions feel towards me just because I don’t believe in their particular religion.

  12. wj said,

    Real, I think it comes down to “I love mankind! It’s people I can’t stand!”

    Which seem silly on its face. But actually does describe a real point of view.

  13. realpc920 said,


    We have been told we are supposed to love mankind, so we feel guilty if we don’t love every human being all the time. My point is that we should not feel guilty, since “mankind” is an abstraction and it’s really hard to passionately love an abstraction. We can feel that way at moments, high on drugs or spirituality, etc., but it can’t be all the time, and it isn’t related to real every day life.

    Another problem I have with loving “mankind” is that it excludes other species, as you pointed out. Why should I just love the species I happen to belong to and not feel the same about dogs, for example? (and I love dogs, in general, at least as much as humans, by the way).

    And then if I love all humans, and all dogs and cats, then where should the line be drawn?

    There are so many problems with our concept of compassion, and our idea that more compassion is always better. I think telling people they must feel compassion for everyone all the time can make life worse instead of better. Being realistic and not feeling guilty if we don’t always love everyone and everything might be a lot healthier.

  14. LouiseM said,

    We have been told we are supposed to love mankind

    Have we? I grew up being told to love my neighbor as myself, which is a moving and nonspecific standard.

    The other command, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind was another difficult to fulfill directive.

    As a result, I ended up believing the desire and ability to do both at once would lead to compassion.

  15. realpc920 said,


    I believe in those two things, especially the second. I am not Christian, but we have a mostly Christian society, and Jesus said to go beyond loving your neighbor and to also love your enemy.

    I think Jesus was trying to tell his followers they must be better than good if they want to get into heaven.

    That statement by Jesus has led, I think, to our modern misunderstandings about compassion. We don’t always understand our accept its limits.

    Yet everyone knows it is wrong to be overly compassionate towards your children, and that letting them do whatever they want could turn them into spoiled brats who can’t fit into society.

    We also realize that some people, more likely women, put everyone else ahead of themselves and can wind up unhappy because of it.

    But sometimes people forget all that, and just rave about compassion as if it were always good and as if more compassion is always better.

    Just like everything else, there are times when compassion is appropriate, and times when it is not. It requires wisdom to know the difference, and wisdom cannot be expressed in simple rules.

    Jesus’s advice to love our enemies does not help us and does not give us wisdom.

    I think Buddha was kind of similar to Jesus, and that is another source of our misunderstandings about compassion. Buddha wanted his followers to transcend this world and its suffering, and to have unlimited compassion for all suffering humanity, for everyone who is not yet enlightened.

    Maybe that’s good, but maybe not always. To me it sounds kind of condescending and pitying. I don’t really want Buddhists to look down at me with pity because they think I am not enlightened. But on the other hand, they could be right on some level.

    It is very easy to misunderstand and misuse any kind of spiritual advice.

  16. LouiseM said,

    Have you met someone raves about compassion? I haven’t. The people I know who value or commit to compassion, seem to be aware of how difficult it is to consistently hold, maintain or practice compassion.

    What you’re talking about and attributing to others, human and animal, isn’t clear to me.

    How do you define compassion?

    What does your experience and practice of it involve?

  17. LouiseM said,

    Missing the who: Have you met someone who raves about compassion?

  18. realpc920 said,

    Maybe “raves” isn’t the right word. I meant the idea that compassion is always good, should never be turned off, and that it is possible to feel deep and genuine compassion for billions of strangers.

    I think we should try to be tolerant and respectful and open-minded. But we should also trust our animal instincts, because our instincts are often smarter than our conscious intellect.

    I think an awful lot of compassion is fake. It is better to be honest with ourselves and say “I am not feeling very compassionate right now” rather than deceive ourselves into thinking we are “nice.” No one on earth is simply nice, we are all a mixture of many different qualities.

    I think Jung was right about the “shadow.” It’s the part of our mind that we are never consciously aware of, because it includes all our socially unacceptable feelings.

    In the book “People of the Lie” M. Scott Peck says that, in his experience, the most truly evil people are the ones who see themselves as all good.

    I think our society, especially the progressive/liberal aspects of it, has delusions about compassion. I think our society has a tremendous collective shadow as a result.

  19. realpc920 said,

    I can’t tell why you’re asking me about my experiences with compassion, as if my experiences would be different from everyone else’s. Maybe you think I have been questioning the value of compassion, but that is really the opposite of what I meant.

  20. LouiseM said,

    I don’t hear you questioning the value of compassion, realpc. I hear you offering several definitions and descriptions of it, with maternal instinct, cuteness, goodness, niceness and love included in the mix. Which makes it difficult for me to determine what you believe compassion to be.

    Since beliefs are formed from knowledge received and lived experience, I’d be interested to know what your experiences of compassion have involved and what you’ve learned through study, research or reading that’s helped form your definition and understanding of it.

  21. LouiseM said,

    On a side note, a friend brought this definition of wisdom to my attentions tonight, from an article linked below:

    Our ability to quickly remember things declines in our latter years. But decades of life gives us something of extraordinary value – wisdom.

    QUESTION: Is there one simple, clear definition of wisdom?

    ANSWER: To me, wisdom is a balanced combination of intelligence, kindness, knowledge of oneself, control over emotions, tolerance of different perspectives, and decisiveness. The key element is balance – balance between meeting one’s own needs and helping others, balance between being open to different options and acting decisively, balance between having flexible versus rigid values, balance between expressing versus inhibiting a display of one’s emotions. Wisdom is useful to the wise individuals themselves but also helpful to the rest of the society.

  22. wj said,

    real, I think it’s the difference between the abstract and the specific. You can have “compassion towards others” (the abstract), and not see that it applies to specific individuals. Any specific individuals at all.

    Or, to put it in other terms, you can believe (fervently) in a religion which says to “love thy neighbor” . . . but in practice actually cut off the definition of “neighbor” at your property line. A phenomena we see all too often.

  23. realpc920 said,


    I define “compassion,” and all other concepts, in terms of their opposites. We can’t have a concept of compassion without also having a concept of indifference, or cruelty, or whatever you think is the opposite of love, compassion and empathy.

    My experience of compassion has to be the same as everyone else’s, which I already said.

    I agree with you about wisdom, it depends on finding balance. I think I said that before also. You can’t learn wisdom from reading the bible. “Love your neighbor as yourself” doesn’t mean anything outside of specific contexts. We have to learn how to balance caring about ourselves with caring about others, and that can take years of trial and error.

  24. realpc920 said,


    I agree, there is a difference between believing something abstractly and actually practicing the belief in real life. And I think that’s why I originally wrote this post — people are always talking about compassion, usually without providing definitions or helpful examples.

  25. realpc920 said,

    I think Tolstoy was probably one of the founders of the modern progressive/liberal movement, and I had read some of his stories and books. He generally emphasized goodness, morality, compassion, as the the most important human traits.

    In one story which I think was called Master and Man, a wealthy man’s servant was freezing to death in the snow, and the wealthy man sacrificed his own life by lying on top of the servant, so the servant would stay warm and survive.

    When you read it you’re supposed to think oh how wonderful, and I’m sure that was Tolstoy’s message. But why was the servant’s life more important than the master’s? Didn’t they both have children and wives who loved them? I doubt the master’s wife was thrilled to find out how he died.

    I also remember reading something biographical about Tolstoy — that he and his wife had terrible disagreements because he wanted to give all their money to the poor.

    So was Tolstoy genuinely wise and good, or just someone caught up in an unrealistic ideology?

    I am very skeptical about humanism, whether it’s secular or Christian. That does NOT mean I hate humanity! I hope you understand why I mean.

  26. LouiseM said,

    My experience of compassion has to be the same as everyone else’s, which I already said.

    It does? How did you determine this to be true?

    You can’t learn wisdom from reading the bible.

    Maybe you can’t, but I’ve been able to do so. Stories are one of the oldest means of inviting wisdom and passing it on through the generations. I have learned from and been exposed to wisdom in a number of books, including the Bible. Most recently, the writer of the article the San Diego newspaper (linked above) added wisdom to my wisdom on wisdom.

    With regard to people who “are always talking about compassion, usually without providing definitions or helpful examples” , I’ve yet to hear you offer up a clear definition or provide helpful examples for clarity here and would be interested in hearing you do so.

    Thinking about compassion as the opposite of indifference or cruelty is a place to start, but not a definition, as it leaves a whole lot of ground uncovered and raises the question of what you perceive cruelty or indifference to be.

    If you want to have an honest discussion about this, then you’ll need to define your terms.

    When a writer whose work is being mentioned a 100+ years after his death, presents a story that causes people to think, I would guess that to be his goal rather than that of forcing a certain conclusion.

  27. LouiseM said,

    I need to thank you, realpc, for prompting me to look for a definition, as doing so helped clarify my understanding of compassion and the different forms it takes. I started here, which took me to another article listing the different forms it takes:

    What Is Compassion?

    Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.
    Compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism, though the concepts are related. While empathy refers more generally to our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help. Altruism, in turn, is the kind, selfless behavior often prompted by feelings of compassion, though one can feel compassion without acting on it, and altruism isn’t always motivated by compassion.

    While cynics may dismiss compassion as touchy-feely or irrational, scientists have started to map the biological basis of compassion, suggesting its deep evolutionary purpose. This research has shown that when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, and regions of the brain linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up, which often results in our wanting to approach and care for other people.


    That link led to an article by Paul Ekman, on The Taxonomy of Compassion, in which he lists these forms of compassion:
    -Emotion recognition
    -Emotional Resonance (two types, Identical and Reactive)
    -Familial compassion
    -Global compassion
    -Sentient compassion
    -Heroic compassion (two types, Immediate and Considered)

    Familial Compassion is the seed of compassion, planted through the caregiver-offspring bond. It raises very interesting questions about people who were brought up without a single caregiver, or were brought up with a parent who had a very distant attachment. What is their capacity for compassion? Both the Dalai Lama and Darwin would say that they’re going to have problems—without the seed, the flower won’t grow.

  28. realpc920 said,


    I originally wanted to say that people talk about compassion without usually defining it, assuming that everyone knows what it is. And they seldom mention that compassion has to be balanced with other values.

  29. LouiseM said,

    Whatever you originally wanted to say, Realpc, I did not hear you defining compassion with enough clarity for me to understand what you believed or knew it to be and involve. It’s not been my experience that “we are all compassionate, of course”. While the seeds of compassion may be the result of instinct, it seems to me that the flower that grows from that seed requires elements similar in function to soil, water and light in order to more fully develop.

    As a result of your post and comments, I was able to find what I needed to clarify my own definition and expand my understanding of compassion to include the varying forms Ekman presented and I’m grateful for this, appreciating the topic presented and the opportunity to realize greater awareness.

    Now I’m wondering what, in your opinion, are the values that have to be balanced with compassion?

  30. mockturtle said,

    This old Three Dog Night song discusses the disconnect between general and specific compassion:

    “Easy To Be Hard”

    How can people be so heartless
    How can people be so cruel
    Easy to be hard
    Easy to be cold

    How can people have no feelings
    How can they ignore their friends
    Easy to be proud
    Easy to say no

    Especially people who care about strangers
    Who care about evil and social injustice
    Do you only care about the bleeding crowd
    How about a needy friend
    I need a friend

    How can people be so heartless
    You know I’m hung up on you
    Easy to be proud
    Easy to say no

    Especially people who care about strangers
    Who care about evil and social injustice
    Do you only care about the bleeding crowd
    How about a needy friend
    We all need a friend

    How can people be so heartless
    How can people be so cruel
    Easy to be proud
    Easy to say no
    Easy to be cold
    Easy to say no
    Come on, easy to be mean
    Easy to say no
    Easy to be cold
    Easy to say no
    Much too easy to say no

  31. realpc920 said,


    It’s true that, as the song says, a person who claims to love all humanity can be as bad as anyone on the personal level, or even worse. When someone thinks “I am a good person, I care about everyone,” they are claiming a kind of superiority. And any sense of superiority interferes with natural compassion.

    The song laments the fact that people can be cold, on the personal level, but I think that is only natural. People are compassionate or cold, or anywhere in between, depending on the context of the moment. We are not compassion machines, we are living creatures that constantly change and react.

    The idea that we should always be compassionate in all contexts and towards everyone is one of the ideas I have been criticizing.

  32. realpc920 said,

    “Now I’m wondering what, in your opinion, are the values that have to be balanced with compassion?”


    Balance is constantly needed in life. You have to balance different compassions, for one thing. You can’t help everyone, so you constantly have to decide.

    And there is the well-known advice that a mother must put an oxygen mask on herself, in an airplane emergency, before putting one on her child. You can’t help anyone if you don’t help yourself first.

    Imagine what your life would be if you tried to do whatever anyone demanded of you.

  33. LouiseM said,

    Oy. Difficulty, dissonance, and disconnect are what I’m hearing the “Easy to Be Hard” song describe, affirming the belief that the practice of compassion is no easy gig to maintain, with caring in theory being easier than caring in practice. What was true in 1969 when that song was released, is still true today, and appears to have been true when Moses started recording stories and accounts of Jewish history.

    What I’m not drawing from those lyrics is the conclusion that “a person who claims to love all humanity can be as bad as anyone on the personal level, or even worse.” )

    Realpc, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know how to respond to “all, always and everyone” statements, especially when what’s being stated as being completely and comprehensively true, doesn’t fit my experience. I do however, appreciate the topic raised and am seeking to understand what you’re attempting to convey here, which now appears to be a critique of those who espouse The idea that we should always be compassionate in all contexts and towards everyone…

    While I’ve met and read about people who value compassion and genuinely seek to consistently respond to others with one of the varying forms of compassion listed by Ekman (above link), I haven’t yet met or read about someone who holds with the always-in-all-contexts-toward-everyone idea. Have you? If so, I’d be interested to know more about how they live or what they’ve written. How do you experience them? What appears to be out of balance in their lives?

    I’m not sure, but it sounds as though you are presenting survival and self-care as your “have to have” values in response to the question of What in your opinion, are the values that have to be balanced with compassion? Is that what you are saying?

  34. amba12 said,

    Karen asked me to post this comment for her because she’s having password trouble.

    Complete Brené Brown Talk –‎

  35. amba12 said,

    Karen, let me know if that is correct.

    Real: I didn’t mean to not-respond! I wasn’t getting the comments by e-mail and I had no idea what a discussion was going on here. I’ve just been snowed under and not following up. I’ll do so.

  36. LouiseM said,

    Imagine what your life would be if you tried to do whatever anyone demanded of you.

    I don’t need to imagine. While I haven’t tried doing “whatever anyone demanded”, I have tried meeting some of the demands of others on a regular basis, and found doing so to be a depleting, exhausting and soul-numbing way to live, especially when a relational component is missing.

    I don’t believe a sense of compassion or a response of compassion necessarily involves or requires meeting the demands of others, or needs and wants presented without a demand attached.

    At the Emotional Recognition and Emotional Resonance levels (Ekman above), no action other than feeling (or perhaps an acknowledgement of the feeling) appears to be involved. From that a response grows that appears to have less to do with meeting a demand and more to do with choosing to fulfill a need or want.

    If you are advocating for healthy boundaries in relationship, I’m with you. I’m not seeing how or why a “have to” would be required with regard to values that have to be balanced with compassion and am unclear as to who would be responsible for making that determination.

  37. LouiseM said,

    Appreciating the Brene Brown mention, Karen! The link posted appears to lead to a 10 hour course, and I’m wondering if some of the material presented there might also be accessed through her book, Daring Greatly or her free TED talks?

    Her first TED talk, on The Power of Vulnerability, was presented in June of 2010 and has since had 19.5 million views.

    Two years after that one went viral she gave another talk on Listening to Shame (20 min.) with 5 million views.

    For a quicker three minute synopsis of her views on Courage, Compassion and Connection, this link provides a sampler:


  38. amba12 said,

    Funny, I thought that song, “Easy to be Hard,” was from “Hair.”

  39. mockturtle said,

    Louise, you are right. Compassion isn’t something you can wring out of someone else. It’s related to empathy in some ways. And there is a small but scary portion of the population that never develops either.

  40. mockturtle said,

    PS I’d like to listen to the Brene Brown stuff but I’m not in a position where I can watch videos.

  41. amba12 said,

    I just seem to be done thinking. I thought and thought and thought for years and I’m just plumb burned out. The concepts, especially the abstractions and generalizations, usually seem to me to float in a realm of their own that has no connection to experienced life or moment-to-moment decision making.

    I think it was Swift who said something like, “I despise humanity but I heartily love Tom, Dick, and Harry.” Maybe I’m becoming that kind of curmudgeon: I can only respond to individuals and only at particular times. (Sometimes I just want them each and all to go away and leave me alone.) “Humanity” in the abstract is not lovable to me but pretty unappealing. The difficulty of being a human being, seen close up in almost any particular life, is heartbreaking. We’re a work in progress at best and we’re all making it up as we go along, struggling to hold together a jumble of powerful and incompatible parts.

    That said . . .

    Actions and responses in real time, which may involve decisions on principle or may be spontaneous impulses, are my experience of compassion. Its opposite seems to be fear and judgmentalism (related?). For example, I once took a walk on a cold day and saw a young male junkie spinning and nodding out in a slush puddle, almost falling in. I was filled with disapproval. On my way back I saw the same guy and my heart just went out to him. It was a physical sensation. I have no idea why my heart, also, changed direction.

    Addiction is something I’m definitely on the knife-edge of the fence about, between judgmentalism and compassion.

  42. mockturtle said,

    :-) I always liked Swift! I can’t see how anyone, other than God, can really love ‘humanity’.

  43. realpc920 said,

    amba12, I think your comment says what I was trying to say.

  44. mockturtle said,

    Re: compassion for the addict and others with screwed-up lives who lie, sometimes quite literally, in our paths, There but for the grace of God….

  45. mockturtle said,

    I would add that it’s easier for me to feel compassion for a druggie or wino lying in the street than for a screwed-up politician. :-(

  46. realpc920 said,

    Can someone give a short summary of what Brene Brown said, bc I can read more secretly than watch, if I’m at work.

  47. realpc920 said,

    “I have tried meeting some of the demands of others on a regular basis, and found doing so to be a depleting, exhausting and soul-numbing way to live ..”

    That is one of the problems I have with the idea that we should always be compassionate LouiseM. Feeling compassion leads to wanting to help, and that’s why, when taken too far, compassion can destroy us.

    That is why the ability to turn off compassion is as natural and necessary as the ability to feel compassion.

  48. realpc920 said,

    I read a psychology article that made a lot of sense to me, I don’t remember where. It was trying to explain cruelty and sociopathic behavior, and it said we evolved the ability to turn off our natural compassion and empathy when facing an enemy or rival. If you experience empathy for the enemy, you could not kill him and he would kill you. So survival of individuals and groups depends on the capacity for cruelty.

    That explains, to me, why “people can be so cold.” We have to be.

    And I think it explains sociopaths — they don’t feel they belong in any social group, so all the world is their enemy. Other people are things to be used, or rivals to be fought. That’s probably why there seem to be so many sociopaths in high positions — the ability to use other people could be a great asset in business and politics.

  49. mockturtle said,

    Good point, real.

  50. amba12 said,

    I also had the subversive thought that while the reality of war is horrible, it enables us to yearn for peace. If we actually had peace, we might be bored. After some decades of peace, people who have not experienced war start thinking it would be exciting.

  51. realpc920 said,


    I have no doubt that war is exciting for a large percentage of men. They are natural warriors, born with the ability to defend their tribe. That is why men (not all, and maybe some women, but mostly it’s men) need computer war games and war movies, and competitive sports.

    And by the way I have my own theory about why humans fight wars, which I got from reading historians’ theories about it. Human war evolved out of the territorial instinct which all animals have. It is absolutely necessary for animals to have enough territory for hunting or grazing, or whatever. Animals have a natural feeling for how much space their group needs, and they naturally defend it.

    The human territorial instinct worked well for hunter/gatherers, but it ran into trouble when our ancestors invented agriculture. Agriculture allowed populations to grow, and more and more land was needed. The territorial instinct had always resulted in occasional war, but after agriculture war started becoming intense.

    And of course as technology advanced weapons became more deadly, and war started becoming less fun. It had originally been almost a game, although of course you could get killed. But it seldom resulted in large scale horror.

    Now we can’t really afford to have serious wars, thanks to our advanced weapons.

  52. mockturtle said,

    But it seldom resulted in large scale horror.
    Wow, I would have to disagree but I guess ‘large scale horror’ is a subjective term. I would say there was large scale horror in the War Between the States, WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War. And, yes, I think the warrior instinct is in our genes. But overcoming it should be our goal. I know it is very possible for a soldier to feel compassion for an enemy he has just killed or wounded if the act is close and personal. But warriors are conditioned to see the enemy as a faceless ‘them’ rather than human beings like themselves.

  53. realpc920 said,


    I was talking about war between primitive non-agricultural tribes. It seldom resulted in large scale horror, that is true. I was not talking about modern warfare, or even ancient warfare in agricultural times. That was often horrific.

  54. mockturtle said,

    Sorry, I misunderstood.

  55. realpc920 said,


    Overcoming the warrior instinct should not be our goal. For one thing, instincts cannot be overcome. But also, world peace is impossible and impractical and not feasible. I don’t even see it as an ideal.

    The only way we could ever have world peace is if there were an all-powerful world government. But then there would be no possibility of dissent and eventually the all-powerful government would become cruel and oppressive, because there would be nothing to restrain it.

    Peace depends on harmony, and harmony depends on everyone agreeing. And the day when everyone constantly agrees is not going to come.

    So why has the US been relatively peaceful for several decades? Because people are getting nicer and more compassionate? That’s what the secular humanists believe.

  56. realpc920 said,

    Nature on all levels depends on balance attracting and repelling forces. In society there has to be a balance between cooperation and competition. The reason communism doesn’t work is it assumes a society can function based entirely on cooperation, with no competition. It can’t.

    Trying to be compassionate all the time in all contexts is unnatural and impossible.

  57. mockturtle said,

    I totally agree that world peace is impossible unless we had a one-world government, which would be far worse than war. But I disagree that instincts cannot–or should not–be overcome. If I followed every instinct, I would weigh 300 pounds, slap people who make me mad and possibly have sexually transmitted diseases. ;-)

  58. realpc920 said,


    We have an instinct to balance our instincts. Our natural desires and drives are always competing with each other.

    We can get better at balancing competing instincts through experience, I guess. But we can’t become all lovey-dovey and peaceful, not in this world.

    Most of us don’t engage in physical violence, but we are all psychological warriors.

  59. realpc920 said,

    I read a couple of things by and about Brene Brown, but did not yet guess the relevance to the subject of compassion.

    At first glance, it seems like the usual self-help stuff. Some of that can be helpful.

    However nothing is going to change the fact that in every organization the alpha males (and sometimes alpha females) are going to make the big decisions. And the rest of us can like it or leave.

  60. mockturtle said,

    There are leaders, there are followers and there are those of us who are neither. Social organization is a game that some of us choose not to play.

  61. realpc920 said,


    I have worked for organizations and businesses most of my life, definitely not by choice. I definitely recommend the book Chimpanzee Politics:

    We are not that different from chimpanzees, and we are definitely not superior. At least they don’t fool themselves into thinking they are always nice.

    There are certain males (and maybe sometimes females) whose nature forces them to ret ri climb to the top of any social group or organization. They don’t worry about whether they might hurt someone’s feelings!

    It doesn’t matter how touchy-feely organizations try to be, nature will not be overcome. And I don’t think nature should be overcome! Nature is nature, like it or leave it.

    But having said that, I admit I am counting the minutes until I can afford to retire and get away from the alpha chimps.

  62. mockturtle said,

    I think where we differ most is in our perspective on humankind. You tend to see people as so many mice in a maze exhibiting pre-programmed behaviors. I see people as individuals with souls and the ability to make choices in their lives. There is more to humankind, in the general, and to you and me, in the specific, than just a set of genetic information.

  63. realpc920 said,

    No mockturtle, you completely misunderstand what I think about humankind. Completely. It is true that I try to consider nature, but what you don’t understand is that I RESPECT nature, and to me nature is divine.

    I believe everyone has a soul and everyone has free will, I don’t disagree with any of that.

  64. realpc920 said,

    We can make choices, but in my opinion we can never improve on nature. We sure have tried and look how that turned out.

    But we are stuck with our desire to improve on nature, and we won’t ever stop trying. All I’m saying is, it won’t ever turn out well.

  65. realpc920 said,

    Nature is created by God, we are part of nature, we are created by God. So what could possibly go wrong? What goes wrong is our conscious egos have the illusion of being separate from and above nature. I think that happened some how as a result of modern civilization, but it might have been coming on for thousands of years.

    Our conscious rational ego thinks about how things should be, and thinks about how they are not they way they should be. Hey, we don’t know how things should be! I guess that’s one of the things I have been trying to say.

  66. realpc920 said,

    “There is more to humankind, in the general, and to you and me, in the specific, than just a set of genetic information.”

    Oh I never would have said we are a set of genetic information!

    The fact that I say we are part of nature in no way implies I am a materialist, or anything like that. I don’t even see the connection.

  67. LouiseM said,

    Trying to be compassionate all the time in all contexts is unnatural and impossible.

    Two alls, along with the “unnatural and impossible” in this statement, set up a conclusion that is difficult to address.

    Once again, realpc I’m hearing you equate a feeling of compassion with the act of showing or extending compassion and the two are not the same. Added to that appears to be the notion that compassion is something people try at, rather than something they feel before choosing to offer or extend relief and aid.

  68. realpc920 said,


    I think that feeling compassion for someone in trouble motivates us to try to help somehow, if possible.

    Of course there is also positive compassion, when we feel happy for someone else’s good fortune, and then of course we don’t have to do anything.

    And as I have said, we feel compassion naturally without trying. But our society, or some parts of it, teach us that we should feel it all the time for everyone. (I know you don’t like generalizations but I hope you understand that I know that nothing is ever always).

    I agree with amba12 that we feel things within social contexts, not abstractly. The abstract concept of compassion, or love, or whatever, seems very empty to me. I need examples.

    And I also feel the same way as amba12 about humanity in general. If I am not thinking about a particular person, I can’t possibly feel compassion or brotherly or any of that. Of course I CAN feel all of that within social situations.

    And of course I CAN try to be tolerant and respectful of others unless or until they give me reasons not to.

  69. mockturtle said,

    I agree, real, that nature [God’s creation] cannot be improved upon and that man has tried since day one to do just that. It is only the human animal that has the capacity and the desire to rebel against its Creator.

  70. LouiseM said,

    Thank you for answering, realpc. I understand how abstract concepts can sometimes seem empty. That’s what prompted me to ask in comment #9, what compassion meant to you and how you defined it, along with these questions:

    How has it touched your life?
    When and where have you experienced it and what has been the result?

    I believe it’s our experience of the compassion shown and extended to us by others that ignites whatever seed may be already be within, whether it’s there as a result of an evolutionary process or divine creation and inspiration.

    Amba’s story of the two different feelings she experienced after seeing the same young male addict acting out at two different points in time, brought to mind an article I’d read earlier this week in which two levels of thinking were described as being part of our perception process, and prompted me to wonder if movement from an initial response of fear and judgment to a sense of compassion might involve such a shift?

    “People perceive others in two distinct stages—a fast but flawed stage, and a reflective and deliberative stage…According to the work of the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, there are two ways that the mind processes information, including information about others: through cognitive processes that Kahneman calls System 1 and System 2. These “systems,” which Kahneman describes in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, serve as metaphors for two different kinds of reasoning. System 1 processes information quickly, intuitively, and automatically…When it comes to social perception, System 1 uses shortcuts, or heuristics, to come to conclusions about another person. There are many shortcuts the mind relies on when it reads others facial expressions, body language, and intentions…In comparison to the biased and faulty System 1 style of thinking, System 2 processes information in a conscious, rational, and deliberative manner. System 2 is at work, for example, when an individual does more complicated math problems, like algebra, when he is driving on foreign roads, or when he is trying to figure out what his supervisor meant when she left a cryptic note on his desk saying “call me immediately.” Unlike System 1, where thinking is automatic and effortless, System 2 thinking is effortful…

    Whatever level of thinking is or isn’t involve as we move through life and interact, the following awareness brought up a feeling of compassion and grateful understanding along with a resounding “Yes!”:
    The difficulty of being a human being, seen close up in almost any particular life, is heartbreaking. We’re a work in progress at best and we’re all making it up as we go along, struggling to hold together a jumble of powerful and incompatible parts.

  71. realpc920 said,


    Kahneman is an atheist humanist and they ALL believe the rational mind is superior to the subconscious mind and intuition.

    He has no concept of the subconscious super-rational mind, which is sometimes called the Higer Self, and which provides us with intuitive wisdom.

    My whole reason for bringing up this subject was actually to question how the atheist/humanists think about compassion.

  72. realpc920 said,

    Stephen Pinker is an atheist/rationalist/humanist who thinks human beings are becoming nicer and less violent, because of our rational minds and our “enlightened” modern education.

    That is exactly what I am trying to argue against. I don’t think we’re becoming nicer or less violent, first of all (it’s hard to measure that though). But if we were getting nicer and more peaceful, it would not be because of that conscious rational mind.

    The rational mind has important functions of cousre, but it is also extremely limited in its abilities.

  73. wj said,

    I would say that it’s not that we are, overall, getting nicer or less violent. It’s that those of us who are on that side of the spectrum are getting better at fashioning constraints on those who are less nice and more violent. We have a long way to go (see everything from ISIS to Rwanda to Cambodia). But we are arguably doing better, overall, than a millenium ago.

    I don’t know that I would necessarily atribute it to our becoming more consciously rational, however. Might be something as simple as having finally stumbled across some techniques which work better, Or maybe gotten better as sharing them with others beyond our immediate village.

  74. realpc920 said,


    It is definitely not because of the rational mind. And I really don’t think any of us are getting any nicer (I am NOT saying we aren’t nice, partly, ust that it stays about the same).

    Violent crime has decreased in the US, but I think that’s because of better police forces. And there hasn’t been a world war for a while, but I think that’s because everyone is afraid to use nuclear weapons.

    The secular humanists/progressives have interpreted it all wrong, imo.

    And now they are claiming victory for their atheism/rationalism.

    On the other hand, some Christians are claiming victory also, because they think Christianity brought morality to the world. That is nonsense.

  75. mockturtle said,

    Civil behavior is tenuous and barbarism is only a political movement away. The savagery of the French Revolution is a good example of ‘enlightened’ behavior.

  76. realpc920 said,


    The whole idea of barbarism, or savagery, brutality, etc., is based on the idea that civilized humans are the only animals capable of being nice. It is wrong!!

    All social animals have compassion and rules of behavior, and all human societies have had compassion and morality.

    Primitive people had strict rules to follow, just like we have.

    It is a progressive/humanist myth that civilized humans are nicer or better, in general, or that they are supposed to be nicer or better. Primitive people and animals are no more wild than we are!!

    The book I posted, Chimpanzee Politics, is very good, and is just one example of how an animal group was studied and found to be very human-like, with rules and morality and compassion, etc., as well as violence.

    But there are lots of other sources of info showing this idea. Many anthropological studies have shown that “primitive” people are just like us, except that their technology is primitive.

    Zoologists have observed that animals once considered violent and asocial are actually just as social as we are, and can be just as loving towards each other.

    LOTS of things we learn in our progressive/humanist/secular education are WRONG.

  77. realpc920 said,

    Freud was typical of the progressive/humanist/rationalist way of thinking. He wrote about the reasons for war and he said it’s because we still have our old primitive animal instincts for destructiveness. Complete garbage and nonsense!

    Our species was social and capable of love, as well as hate, since it began, and long before it began since we evolved from other social animals.

  78. realpc920 said,

    And because we are taught a negative view of nature, we blame it for whatever we don’t like. War, domestic violence, violent crime, all are blamed on the “base animal instincts.”

    The reality is that civilization has absolutely nothing to do with morality (and religion doesn’t either, by the way).

    Morality is natural and all social animals have moral systems.

    Our violence and crime is actually a result of civilization — just the opposite of what we have been taught. Civlization has resulted in advanced technology, and a world that our species, or any species, is not well adapted for.

    The most obvious example is our weapons, which are impossible for us to control. We are constantly on the verge of destruction.

    In ancient or primitive times, a society could get demolished by an earthquake or volcano, etc., but we are FAR more likely to be destroyed at any moment by our weapons, than they were likely to be destroyed by natural forces.

    I am NOT against modern civilization. I am just pointing out facts, and trying to explain why we should STOP blaming nature.

    Nature was created by God and we, as mockturtle said before, constantly rebel and try to improve things.

    There is some truth in the story of the Garden of Eden.

    When people talk about the base animal instincts, etc., just think about your pet cat or dog. What base instincts?? They are more like us than different.

  79. LouiseM said,

    My whole reason for bringing up this subject was actually to question how the atheist/humanists think about compassion.

    Realpc, I’d actually be interested to know what your understanding or impression of how atheist/humanists think about compassion might be. I’ve not heard you offer a definition of your own or clearly present the one which you believe the atheist/humanists (whose views you wish to question) hold. So far, the closest we’ve come in this thread to defining what compassion might involve has been the link to the Ekman material, who appears to value the findings of Darwin and the wisdom of the Dalai Lama.

    While I appreciate the questions that arise in me in response to what you have written here, I haven’t actually heard you questioning the thinking of others so much as posing questions intended to make a point rather than questioning to elicit or invite answers. So far, what I’m hearing you present sounds more like a screed than an inquiry, with little to no room for the kind of questioning you purport to value.

    As for the findings Daniel Kahneman, I’m unwilling to dismiss them out of hand as irrelevant because he may be, in your words, “a atheist humanist and they ALL believe the rational mind is superior to the subconscious mind and intuition”. Looking up info on him revealed him to a Jew who appears to have a heart for others and a brilliant mind.

    I will never know if my vocation as a psychologist was a result of my early exposure to interesting gossip, or whether my interest in gossip was an indication of a budding vocation. Like many other Jews, I suppose, I grew up in a world that consisted exclusively of people and words, and most of the words were about people. . . . the people my mother liked to talk about with her friends and with my father were fascinating in their complexity. Some people were better than others, but the best were far from perfect and no one was simply bad. – Daniel Kahneman, Autobiography Upon Winning the Nobel Prize

    With this explanation from his experience in Nazi-occupied France, as part of his answer as to why he entered the field of psychology:

    It must have been late 1941 or early 1942. Jews were required to wear the Star of David and to obey a 6 p.m. curfew. I had gone to play with a Christian friend and had stayed too late. I turned my brown sweater inside out to walk the few blocks home. As I was walking down an empty street, I saw a German soldier approaching. He was wearing the black uniform that I had been told to fear more than others – the one worn by specially recruited SS soldiers. As I came closer to him, trying to walk fast, I noticed that he was looking at me intently. Then he beckoned me over, picked me up, and hugged me. I was terrified that he would notice the star inside my sweater. He was speaking to me with great emotion, in German. When he put me down, he opened his wallet, showed me a picture of a boy, and gave me some money. I went home more certain than ever that my mother was right: people were endlessly complicated and interesting.

    I also believe people are endlessly complicated and interesting, to the point where putting them in a box and labeling them as an “other” is not fruitful, compassionate or life enhancing.


  80. realpc920 said,

    I know a lot about what Kahneman thinks because I have a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, so I had to read his research. I have always very strongly disagreed with his basic philosophy.

    It doesn’t matter if you like his ideas or his experience with Nazis. I am talking about his ideas, which I don’t agree with. I never said he’s a bad person or stupid or anything like that. I just do not agree at all with most of the ideas he expressed in his research papers.

    And I think it is perfectly ok for me to disagree with someone, whether he has a Nobel prize or not!

  81. realpc920 said,

    And I definitely have explained a lot about what atheist/humanists say about compassion!

  82. LouiseM said,

    Given the confusion and frustration I experience and express with regard to the style, tone and content of some of your comments, realpc, I need to affirm the value I receive through them. They prompt me to visit thoughts and places I might not otherwise visit, and in doing so realize moments of insight, enjoyment, challenge and connection.

    A good example of this happened when I read your response to my mention Kahneman, which prompted me to wonder whether or not he truly had ” no concept of the subconscious super-rational mind, which is sometimes called the Higer Self, and which provides us with intuitive wisdom”.

    What I found as a result of my search for that answer, were stories and information which added to my awareness, so specifically so that I talked with my son about the following after work today:

    It is deeply touching to hear Daniel Kahneman talk about his collaboration with his longtime friend and colleague, Amos Tversky, who died in 1996 of metastatic melanoma. Theirs was one of those rare meetings of two intelligences ideally matched – sufficiently alike to communicate seamlessly, yet different enough that their work together was a kind of ongoing, high-level play. Together, says Kahneman, they did better work than either man was capable of on his own.

    Daniel Kahneman: We spent virtually our entire working day together, for years, talking. Fortunately, I was a morning and he was a night person, so basically our joint working day would be from lunch until dinner. We were looking for incorrect intuitions in our own thinking. So we were constructing problems. We knew the correct solutions, but we were checking whether our intuitive response or immediate response was different from the correct one, or sometimes we were looking for statistics and asking “are these statistics counterintuitive?” It was a lot of fun.

    Another thing that we were able to do, which people find difficult, is we’re both extremely critical and difficult people, but we were absolutely uncritical with respect to each other and we took each other very seriously. I don’t think that over the years that we were together either one of us dismissed what the other one had said out of hand, and it wasn’t out of politeness. It’s just that we assumed that if the other was saying something there might be something in it.

    We were exceptionally lucky in our collaboration. Together we simply had a better mind than either of us separately and it’s very clear from our joint record we both did, I think, very good work independently of each other, but the work that we did together is just better. The greatest joy of the collaboration for me especially was that Amos would frequently understand me better than I understood myself.

  83. realpc920 said,

    Kahneman absolutely does NOT believe in a Higher Self. He absolutely believes rational thinking is superior to intuition. He has absolutely no faith in anything supernatural.

    If you find a quote somewhere that disproves what I just said, that would be one thing, but you most definitely have not.

    I spent A LOT of time analyzing the ideas of people like Kahneman, and I would be VERY surprised (pleasantly surprised) so see any of them have any real respect for supernatural beliefs. But they simply do not.

  84. realpc920 said,

    And LouiseM, just because someone seems to be intelligent and admirable, and won a Nobel prize, and says things you like — does NOT mean their ideas are correct! Maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t.

    In my opinion Kahneman and Tversky have been wrong in many ways and on many levels, and I am not saying this out of any kind of emotion. I literally spent years analyzing what they and others like them wrote.

  85. realpc920 said,

    But I admit I do have some emotions about them. Their ideas are often supportive of a condescending patronizing elitist attitude towards the less educated public.

    And some of their experiments were deeply defective and intentionally twisted to show how stupid people can be.

    There is some truth in some of it, but their basic philosophy is the opposite of mine. Now you probably don’t like my philosophy, so maybe that’s why you like theirs.

  86. realpc920 said,

    And the Kahneman and Tversky and Stephen Pinker inspired atheist/humanist/progressives are now dominating academia, and the internet. They have control of Wikipedia, and I wouldn’t be too shocked to find out they influence google also.

    The major sources of information — college education and the internet, have become more and more biased against spirituality and towards materialism.

    Hey if materialism made sense, I wouldn’t mind, I would be a materialist too. But it doesn’t make sense and it’s wrong. So that is why I bother to criticize it.

  87. LouiseM said,

    And I definitely have explained a lot about what atheist/humanists say about compassion!

    Unfortunately, I’m not seeing where you’ve “explained a lot about what atheist/humanists say about compassion, realpc. I am, however open to reconsider what you’ve said if you want to highlight some of those many explanations or direct me back to them.

    As I’ve mentioned several times before I’ve not heard you offer up your own definition of compassion or attempt to clarify what you think the “others” (atheist/humanists?) see or believe it to be and involve, even though I’ve also asked several times (with sincere interest, I might add) for you to do so.

    While I can’t speak for others here, realpc, I want you to know that I’m disappointed when I hear you use generalizations, sweeping statements, minimization and implication in your arguments/presentations, especially so after learning you’re intelligent enough to obtain a Ph.d in Cognitive Psychology! I’d much rather hear you cleanly and clearly speak for yourself than read through statements involving exaggerations and absolutes which are neither provable nor true.

    On that subject, how did you arrive at the absolute conviction that Kahneman has absolutely no faith in anything supernatural. Did he publicly say so that clearly or is that a conclusion you drew from reading his published work? Although I did not say I liked his “experiences with the Nazis” or his philosophy (as you incorrectly implied) I can say that I’ve appreciated reading about some of his observations in stories about him, including this one:

    As a young man, Kahneman spent a year in the Psychology branch of the Israeli Defense Forces. He was tasked with identifying “leadership material” among officer training candidates. The test was a leaderless challenge in which eight candidates had to lift a telephone over a wall without touching the pole to the ground or the wall, and without making contact with the wall themselves. One or two natural leaders inevitably emerged and took charge of the situation. Case closed, right? Not exactly.

    Kahneman: We were looking for manifestations of the candidates’ characters, and we saw plenty: true leaders, loyal followers, empty boasters, wimps – there were all kinds. Under the stress of the event, we felt, the soldiers’ true nature would reveal itself, and we would be able to tell who would be a good leader and who would not. But the trouble was that, in fact, we could not tell. Every month or so we had a “statistics day,” during which we would get feedback from the officer-training school, indicating the accuracy of our ratings of candidates’ potential. The story was always the same: our ability to predict performance at the school was negligible.

    Also this quote on Adversarial Collaboration:

    The fluidity and joy of his work with Tversky, and his own, deep-seated aversion to anger led Kahneman to the concept of “adversarial collaboration” – a structured attempt to bridge disagreements with other scientists through joint studies testing the validity of their conflicting claims. “In the interest of science and civility,” Kahneman co-authored several papers with colleagues hostile to his ideas. Although he admits that adversarial collaboration demands a level of humility that is psychologically challenging for most people (you have to be willing to be wrong and to spend a lot of time with people who annoy you), it’s an unprecedented model for productive academic discourse.

    More broadly, it’s a gesture toward a kind of civility that is increasingly rare (or at least invisible) in academia and society at large, drowned out by conflict-driven politics, media, and the babble from online spaces where anonymity brings out the worst in human nature.

    Bottom line: Whether I like the guy or not, accept his religious views and philosophy or not, is less important to me than the fact that something he said rang true for me.

  88. LouiseM said,

    I tend to lose heart and doubt the sincerity of the writer, when I read a twisted statement such as this: Now you probably don’t like my philosophy, so maybe that’s why you like theirs.

    It presents a form of either/or presumption about me that is not true (that “I like theirs”/their philosophy) or backed up by what I said here, and then goes on to suggest how this untrue presumption might have been formed by me, when in fact the writer of that statement is the one forming and presenting the presumption.

    It also says that I probably don’t like another person’s philosophy, when in fact, I do not have enough information about the philosophy I “probably don’t like”, to determine likability.

    I don’t like the presumption presented in that statement, realpc; it doesn’t represent the truth, no probably involved.

  89. realpc920 said,


    You are on a different wavelength from mine, your past experiences and/or your philosophy are at odds with my message. You are not ever going to get what I am saying.

    I know I am not a bad writer, it’s just that people who are on extremely different wavelengths cannot communicate.

    That is why you think I am no good at communicating my ideas (you have said/implied that repeatedly).

  90. realpc920 said,

    Kahneman represents a philosophical point of view which I am extremely familiar with. I actually was raised in a secular/progressive/Jewish family. Beyond that, I have studied atheism/materialism extensively, practically devoted my life to it. I know the philosophy and I know its logical holes.

    I don’t care how nice a guy Kahneman is! That has nothing whatsoever to do with this conversation!

  91. mockturtle said,

    Realpc, I’m not sure anyone is on your wave length. Even you. ;-)

  92. realpc920 said,

    I am on my wavelength mockturtle and I know exactly what I am trying to say. It is really simple and logical, but not what we learned in school.

  93. realpc920 said,

    And ironically, LouiseM brought up one of the psychologists who I ABSOLUTELY DISAGREE WITH. Maybe not that surprising, tho, since his views, and similar ones, are now all over the internet.

  94. LouiseM said,

    You are not ever going to get what I am saying.

    I need you to stop with the presumptions about me, realpc.

  95. amba12 said,

    This always happens. Real, maybe you have blog PTSD, you still think you are on Pharyngula or Panda’s Thumb. You’re not. Not everyone who wants to better understand what you’re saying is an aggressive atheist looking to discredit you. You may detect assumptions that others are not even aware they have, but this isn’t an effective way to draw their attention to their assumptions and show an alternative. You attack people, and when they put their hands up, you say they’re attacking you and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You create the enemies you believe are lying in wait for you.

  96. amba12 said,

    Too bad because you have a lot to say. Maybe I should just suggest that you continue to write here and that others read, ponder, but refrain from commenting.

  97. realpc920 said,

    amba12 if you read all of LouiseM’s comments you would know that she told me over and over that I was not writing my ideas well. I ignored it about ten times before I ever complained to her. No matter how hard I tried to make things understandable, she didn’t want to understand, she wanted to criticize and complain. It took a VERY LONG TIME before I reacted.

    You would see that if you read the whole thing.

    I just got tired of explaining to someone who only wanted to disagree with me, no matter what.

    And my opinions about Kahneman are perfectly valid. I don’t see anything wrong with disagreeing with a guy, even if he is really nice and peaceful and has a Noble prize.

  98. realpc920 said,

    amba12, I don’t mind if people comment. But you should ask them to be as polite and considerate as you want me to be.

  99. realpc920 said,

    And yes there is an awful lot I want to say. I disagree with A LOT of the things that are almost always taken for granted in our society. And since we are supposed to value freedom of speech and thought in this society, I think it is healthy for us to know what we are thinking subconsciously and to question it.

  100. amba12 said,

    You could try posting, but closing the comments on your posts. Can that be done on a post-by-post basis? Probably. That way people could ponder what you have to say, but we wouldn’t get into ad hominem brawls. For myself, I just don’t have the energy.

  101. amba12 said,

    Here’s something I’d like to hear (but not respond to) your comments on. (I’m becoming a lurker on “my own” blog!)

  102. mockturtle said,

    What a great story and lesson! Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings… :-)

  103. realpc920 said,

    I would like to know what you think about that story amba12, and why you found it relevant to this topic. I actually think it illustrates what I was trying to say, in a way, although my reaction is the opposite of mockturtle’s.

    I think the father is an atheist/progressive/humanist who teaches his son that the natural instinct of males, to protect their families and loved ones, is wrong and must be suppressed and denied.

    (Yes the father is an atheist — notice his description of what happens to a creature when it dies.)

    This ideology is so pervasive in our culture now, it is almost as invisible as air.

  104. realpc920 said,

    And I wish you would not be a lurker here, amba12, because you have wisdom and a sense of irony, and you understand that life is incomprehensible. You are my intended audience here, so if you stop commenting I don’t feel like posting anything.

    I really have A LOT of practice with being insulted and ignoring it, at the atheist blogs. I don’t even get banned anymore.

  105. LouiseM said,

    …you have wisdom and a sense of irony, and you understand that life is incomprehensible. You are my intended audience here, so if you stop commenting I don’t feel like posting anything.

    realpc920 From my point of view, a certain amount of wisdom along with a sense of irony and an awareness of that which is incomprehensible seems to be present in most if not ALL of those who chose to comment and post here.

  106. amba12 said,

    I agree, Louise . . .

    I’ll try to muster up the time and energy to comment on the story little by little. But I am really exhausted and out of gas these days.

    I also noticed the stark materialism of the father’s explanation of death. Actually, we don’t know the answer to “where did she go, where did the life go?” If you’re with someone who dies, it really looks like they leave. It doesn’t just look like a sort of meat clock stopped. Something departs. The body left behind is a cast-off thing.

    I had the feeling the mother was both telling the truth and trying to make everything nice. The dog wanted to eat the chicken and the kid wanted to kill the dog. Both natural. The mother was saying that the fact that the dog wanted to eat the chicken was blameless. True. But so was the kid’s impulse to kill the dog. He wanted to protect HIS chicken! The former didn’t neutralize the latter. If the dog had tried to kill the boy, you can bet the mother would have grabbed an iron frying pan or a knife and hit it with everything she had.

    So the kid forgiving the dog was . . . an attempt to please his mother (and make readers of the New York Times go “Awwww”)? Or a real sense of fellowship? Did the mother understand the kid as well as the kid seemingly came to understand the dog? I dunno. These are just some of the thoughts that the story provoked.

  107. realpc920 said,

    Ok, I agree, we ALL have some wisdom and sense of irony, even if in different ways. I HOPE we can continue this conversation, and others, because I think it is so important.

    amba12, your interpretation of the story was similar to mine. It was designed to make readers (especially women) go “Awwww.” But the lesson the little boy learned was that his own male nature is wrong and must be denied.

    I see this story as reflecting the feminization of our society. Some would think that’s good, but I don’t, for reasons I could try to explain.

  108. realpc920 said,

    And I promise I will be “nice!”

  109. amba12 said,

    Sure, give it a shot.

  110. mockturtle said,

    Compassion and forgiveness toward an enemy take a good deal more strength than combat simply because they go against our nature [but not against God’s].

  111. amba12 said,

    This is why I said realpc’s post reminded me of Nietzsche. He despised Christianity because he thought it had made people weak.

  112. amba12 said,

    I agree that it takes tremendous strength to forgive and can be one of the most powerful acts a person can commit. (Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission really blew my mind. He wept listening to the testimony, and he said—contradicting Nietzsche— “Christianity is not for sissies.”) On the other hand—or, actually, on the same hand—most of the people who really practiced nonviolence got killed: Jesus, Gandhi, King. That shows what a threat they are to the natural order.

    Probably the only thing that will stop people from fighting each other is invasion by extraterrestrials. This is envisioned in one of my favorite books, The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin, which finds wisdom neither in nature nor in human reason, but in something at once higher and humbler, “the way things are.” It is Taoist science fiction. It’s all about how trying to do good on a large scale—à la “social engineering”—is an egotistical power trip that does harm. But it tells this in the form of a very beautiful fable.

  113. realpc920 said,

    amba12, I don’t despise Christianity at all. I am not like that at all. I’m just having trouble explaining my ideas.

  114. realpc920 said,

    “Compassion and forgiveness toward an enemy take a good deal more strength than combat simply because they go against our nature [but not against God’s].”

    I am trying to say that is not true. If God were a pacifist, then the natural world would not be inherently and inevitably violent.

  115. realpc920 said,

    I am here to defend Nature against our civilization, I guess that says it most directly.

  116. realpc920 said,

    Our civilization is as violent as anything could possibly be, and more. Our civilization is killing all other species, and eventually will destroy itself.

    (But please don’t mistake me for an environmental activist).

    And at the same time, our civilization is becoming feminized, and one of our prevailing mythologies says that violence is wrong.

    Violence is not wrong, every living thing must try to defend its space. Defending our space can be as harmless as saying “Excuse me, please get your foot off my toe.”

    But defense has to be ready for any kind of attack.

    It is all a matter of degree, and of grace and balance. Things must be kept in their place, somehow.

    That is the nature of nature, why do we sigh and moan about it?

    I am female and I have no interest in guns or violence, and it used to bother me that men (in general) loves weapons and violence (at least they love watching it, or playing war games).

    It doesn’t bother me anymore, now that I have thought about it.

  117. amba12 said,

    Sorry for not speaking clearly. I do not mean to say “Nietzsche despises Christianity, therefore realpc despises Christianity.” I mean that Nietzsche disliked the emasculation of society and the pacifistic turning of the other cheek. You might say he was defending nature, and the use of power to survive and flourish, against our civilization. He felt civilization had become enervated and sickly. He attributed part of that to Christianity. Maybe that’s where you part company.

  118. amba12 said,

    Many religions, including Buddhism as well as Christianity and Islam (Judaism less so), have tried to transcend nature, in different ways. They see us all caught in this endless bloody meat grinder of birth and death, passion and violence, desire and hatred. They would like to believe that God and humans have an eternal spiritual aspect that is above and beyond all that. That may be one of the driving forces behind the denigration of nature that you deplore. It comes down to a protest against death, I guess. (Alert: I am not taking a position on this other than that of an observer.)

  119. amba12 said,

    Maybe when things are out of balance, society gets ultra-violent and wimpy and hypersensitive at the same time.

  120. amba12 said,

    I do think that Nietzsche misinterpreted Christ’s turning of the other cheek, or at least people’s interpretation of it, as weakness. And in European culture, broadly speaking, men drank and screwed around and women went to church for consolation, and the pastor, a man in a dress, was their chief ally, confidant, and sympathizer. In church, everyone agreed that what the men were doing was sinful. The men tended to prefer the tavern to church. So church became, de facto, a refuge for women.

  121. realpc920 said,

    amba12 I absolutely agree with what you just said about religion, especially Christianity and Buddhims.

  122. realpc920 said,

    I think technology (starting with spears, agriculture, etc.) caused human societies to get out of balance with nature.

    Warfare became horrific, and small-scale raiding evolved into large-scale conquest and domination.

    People mistakenly thought the violence and horror resulted from nature, when in reality it resulted from our technology.

    The pacifism expressed by Jesus was really a desire to escape this world with its oppression and horror.

    Being a pacifist means denying the realities of this world and longing for something better and different.

    Who knows, maybe there are peaceful spirit worlds. My guess, though, is that there is conflict on all levels.

  123. realpc920 said,

    [trying to do good on a large scale—à la “social engineering”—is an egotistical power trip that does harm.]

    I absolutely agree. And that is part of the hypocrisy I have been complaining about.

  124. mockturtle said,

    I am not a pacifist, nor do I believe that God is. It goes back to the compassion thing: Do we love our enemies en masse? I think not. And I doubt we can turn the other cheek to a mob of barbarians at the gate. Can we love an individual enemy? By the grace of God, yes. And we need not seek our own vengeance.

    BTW, I found Nietzsche quite fascinating when I was young. And, of course, Hitler believed the Christian church was too ‘soft’ and not the militant Teutonic juggernaut he had in mind as his Reichskirche. So he turned to the ancient gods, instead, who were more to his liking.

    And BTW, Jesus had to die. He was the Passover Lamb and our sacrifice.

  125. realpc920 said,

    I agree mockturtle, Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and He had to die.But that was the symbolic Jesus, not the historical Jesus, and to me they are different.

  126. realpc920 said,

    And by “coincidence” I just saw this posted on facebook:

    The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom

    by Michael Shermer

  127. realpc920 said,

    Another new book saying the OPPOSITE of what I believe.

  128. mockturtle said,

    I haven’t read it but it would seem the opposite of what I believe, as well. Science and reason do not make us more compassionate. Obliterating Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic weaponry was a triumph of science and [human] reason. Genetic engineering may be a significant scientific stride forward but, without the restraint of moral and ethical values, it will result in chaos.

  129. realpc920 said,


    People like Shermer see things they way they like to see them. They ignore whatever doesn’t fit into their pre-fabricated worldview.

    But those ideas are very popular. And the radical Christian right just makes it worse, by making religion seem bigotted and irrational.

  130. LouiseM said,

    Realpc920, Below is a list of the questions I asked in this thread, in response to your post and comments, with the first four questions repeated a second time further into the thread:

    -What does compassion mean to you, realpc920?
    -How do you define it?
    -How has it touched your life?
    -When and where have you experienced it and what has been the result?
    -Have we? (been told we are supposed to love mankind)?
    -Have you met someone who raves about compassion?
    -How do you define compassion?
    -What does your experience and practice of it involve?
    -It does? (Questioning the “has to” in the following: My experience of compassion has to be the same as everyone else’s), followed by,
    -How did you determine this to be true?
    -What, in your opinion, are the values that have to be balanced with compassion?
    -Is that what you are saying?
    – How did you arrive at the absolute conviction that Kahneman has absolutely no faith in anything supernatural.
    -Did he publicly say so that clearly or is that a conclusion you drew from reading his published work?

    The presence and tone of these questions, situated within the twenty other comments I made here to address the topic of “Compassion” testify to my genuine interest in trying to understand what you were saying and attempting to convey.

    In light of this, I consider the complaint that I “didn’t want to understand’ and “only wanted to disagree” to be comprised of another pair of untrue statements made about me by you which do not reflect the reality of the situation. As such, they call into question your integrity and commitment to honest communication and civil discourse, causing me to wonder if turning to specious argument and the presentation of untrue presumptions is something you unknowingly do, or purposefully choose to engage in for personal entertainment?

    All of which leads me to wonder why you make an effort to blog and comment? What do you receive from doing so? What do you hope will be the response when you post?

    As I’ve already mentioned several times in this thread, I’ve appreciated this post for the insights I received into what compassion may be and involve. I’m truly grateful for this prompt. For the last several months this blog has been rather subdued and quiet, and this post helped stir the thought pot.

    Please know, realpc, that I read what you write and take your thoughts into consideration. I’ve been civil and courteous in the comments I’ve made to you, showing respect by being direct with you, expressing interest, seeking clarification from you, and telling you how I felt about the false statements you’d made about me and the logical fallacies present in some of your arguments. These are the marks of a respectful person, and so far, I’ve not seen you return the courtesy of similar respect.

    Earlier in the thread I told you, “I’d much rather hear you cleanly and clearly speak for yourself than read through statements involving exaggerations and absolutes which are neither provable nor true.” That’s still true and something I’d like to see happen here. I’d prefer a commitment to do that over any promise to be “nice”.

    I have more thoughts on the dog and boy story, but will need to share them after I return from tomorrow’s conference on “The True Self”!

    Waving hello to Karen, and hoping she’s able to show up again sometime soon.

  131. mockturtle said,

    Yes, Karen! I miss you, too!

  132. LouiseM said,

    Since this post appeared a month ago, I’ve been cogitating on what compassion might be and involve with more understanding realized. Although I’d previously considered compassion to be both a emotion and an act, I was unable to discern the varying forms it takes until I found Ekman’s description which fit my awareness and provided clarity along with a way for me to sort through my experiences.

    While I don’t consider all forms of compassion to be instinctual responses, I do believe the ability to take in, mirror and reflect what is shown to us is a “natural or innate impulse, inclination, or tendency”. I also see choice involved along the way, in deliberate decisions made to respond in compassion with actions that go beyond emotional recognition and emotional resonation to involve high order thinking, up to and including the willingness to give up or forego self protection in order to save the life of another or rescue them from harm or danger.

    Understanding this also helped me see how listening deeply to another person and hearing what they are saying can be an act of compassion as well, without requiring an effort to do anything more in response to qualify.

    While thinking about this, what came to mind was a line from the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, in which Jesus is described as praying in the darkness and feeling troubled, overwhelmed and sorrowful to the point of death, when, as the story goes, “an angel from heaven was sent to strengthen him”. What that strengthening might have involved isn’t described, but the mention of it prompted me to recall times in my life when I’ve been strengthened by the presence of people and animals who’ve shown up or been present to stand by (not disconnectedly sleeping as the disciples in the story were), enter into my life and story, accept my suffering “as is”, serve as an empathic witness and resonate with me, allowing my emotions to vibrate together with theirs, (sometimes with mirrored emotion, matched breathing, purrs, deep sighs or the laying on of a hand, paw, or tail) in a way that conveys a message that says “You are not alone, I am here”. I know I’ve personally found those kinds of connections and behaviors from others strengthening in varying degrees. Whatever the other worldly response of Divine Compassion in the Garden story involved, strengthening appears to have been the purpose of the visit. And that causes me to wonder if strengthening might be another outcome of compassion, not so much a goal as the result of an experienced awareness of suffering, one that does not necessarily relieve it but allows it to be recognized and borne with touch more courage, dignity and endurance?

  133. mockturtle said,

    To me, a compassion is a feeling rather than an action. It sometimes precipitates an action but not always.

  134. mockturtle said,

    Compassion, not a compassion….;-)

  135. realpc920 said,

    I thought I was trying to say that compassion, like love, is a natural drive. Compassion does NOT depend on overcoming primitive animal instincts.

    Yet most religious leaders, and more recently secular humanists, will tell you that compassion DOES depend on overcoming and transcending your natural primitive animal self.

    I am trying to say that in my opinion we were taught the OPPOSITE of what is the reality. What we were taught is NOT true.

    If you believe that compassion is something you learn from religion, or from learning to think more rationally (as the secular humanists say), then it follows that compassion is something that can be increased.

    The message is that compassion can increase and the world can become a better place. But I am trying to say that IS NOT true. I doubt the world can become a better place, for one thing, since everyone’s concept of “better” is different. But aside from that, I am certain it won’t become a better place because of increased compassion. Because we CANNOT increase compassion.

    We can increase our consciousness of our own compassion, and we can increase the number of times we claim that we are compassionate, and we can increase the volume at which we make those claims. But our natural compassion will remain as it was — one drive among other competing drives.

    How compassionate we feel and how generously we act of course varies depending on our mental and spiritual health. But assuming a healthy mental and spiritual state, compassion will max out at some level.

    Ok, that is my message, I hope I explained it.

    You CANNOT make the world a better place by overcoming your primitive instincts and increasing your compassion. Compassion IS one of your primitive instincts!

    You were taught wrong, we all were. Now, if someone disagrees with me that’s fine, if they can try to explain why they disagree, and what about anything I said seems wrong to them.

    I hope you notice that I did NOT say I don’t like compassion, or compassion is not valuable, or that I don’t have compassion. NONE of that was said or implied, I hope. Asking me to describe my compassion, as a kind of test to see if I have any, is completely off the topic of my post.

    The message here is simple and logical. Science, and even ordinary casual observations, tell us that we have been taught wrong.

    Even if you agree with me, you might say so what, who cares, what’s the difference?

    The difference is immense and impacts all aspects and levels of our lives, at least on a philosophical level. On a non-philosophical level it might not make a difference to most people.

  136. amba12 said,

    I don’t think you’re exactly right about what secular humanists say, at least not any more. Probably the 19th-century, “Nature Red in Tooth and Claw” Social Darwinists did think what you say: that our animal instincts are “bestial” and uncontrollably selfish and savage, and that only reason can overcome them to a limited degree. That’s not what the modern secular humanists think, though.

    The modern secular humanists (a lot of them) think that compassion IS one of our natural instincts — because it helps us survive. Cooperation with others and mutual caring helps our families and societies and thus our genes survive. That is why compassion evolved. Any tender emotions we feel, like any aggressive impulses we feel, are nature’s way of making sure we do what has been proven to help creatures survive.

    While that acknowledges that compassion is natural, and nature is its source, it rules out any spiritual impulse or emotion that isn’t instrumental, that doesn’t have the interests of the “selfish gene” at its root. In this view we can’t ever really do anything that is not self-interested; this view simply enlarges the concept of self-interest to include the kindly and prosocial impulses traditionally called “good.” We’re not conscious of it but we’re puppets of our genes.

    In other words, they have a very materialistic notion of nature, not at all a mystical notion. Life is only about the endless round of survival and reproduction of bodies. Everything else — culture, love, friendship, art, music, religion — is an “epiphenomenon” of that, a sort of incidental or motivating spinoff.

    I’m not saying that’s what I believe. I’m saying that’s what I have the strong impression a lot of secular humanists now believe.

  137. realpc920 said,

    You are right amba12, and now I realize I did not explain my ideas correctly. There is some overlap between what I said and the evolutionary biologists. But there are also big differences, which I will try to explain later.

    For now I will just say — primitive violent selfishness can be substituted with primitive stupidity. And primitive stupidity leads to bias, intolerance, tribalism, and violence.

    The old religious perspective says we can overcome primitive violent selfishness with spiritual compassion. The newer secular perspective says we can overcome primitive stupidity with improved rational thinking.

    Kahneman’s system 1 and system 2, for example.

    I VERY STRONGLY disagree with both the old religious and the newer secular. I probably have not explained it adequately at all.

  138. realpc920 said,

    And please don’t think I imagine I have any brilliant new ideas!

    I am just trying to explain a holistic/systems theory perspective, which is both scientific/rational and spiritual/mystical.

  139. amba12 said,

    I’m aware that you disagree with both. For that matter, so do I.

  140. LouiseM said,

    Disagreeing with both systems (old religious and newer secular), which I also do, does not require me to dismiss out of hand, all that is involved with both, including stories with meaning, personal experiences, and research done. Questioning the validity or conclusions of some of those elements, yes. Going all or nothing, without consideration for what the story provides and why it has held up as meaningful over time, or what the research has shown and what were the questions or hypothesis behind it as well as questions the findings raise, is not, to my way of thinking, where wisdom and knowledge reside, and not an approach I honor as thoughtful.

    Asking for another’s definition and experience of Compassion is not a test or trap to see if they have any, nor is it off topic to a post entitled compassion. It is the beginning of understanding, the door to something more that places personal experience, awareness and understanding alongside theory, to reflect wholeness.

    When Amba described a personal experience of having two responses at two different times to the same scenario, she added value to the discussion, along with the story of the boy and dog. Why? Because I believe personal experience, stories, and the reality of our lives matters as much if not more than theory in the long run. It’s how we connect to each other. Being angry about other’s belief systems and dismissing them for being wrong in theory rarely leads to connection. Finding the place of connection and working from there matters, because humans are relational “animals”. And at this point in my life, after 61 years of making it through difficulty and experiencing moments of joy, realized connection with others is what matters most to me, regardless of what theory they claim to hold.

    realpc, I’d be interested in hearing you explain more about your “holistic/systems theory perspective, which is both scientific/rational and spiritual/mystical.” Was research the basis of this theory, or do your stories, experiences and awareness factor in to what you believe to be a true reflection of reality?

  141. LouiseM said,

    …realized connection with others is what matters most to me, regardless of what theory they claim to hold.

    Expand that to include connection with self, others and the mysteries of higher power, as therein is the path to greater connection unity and wholeness, individually, as well as one by one and two by two.

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