Compassion: The hope of humanity

Published on June 6, 2014

By Don Murray -  Baseball is usually a civilized game. Players often chat with their opponents while on base. 

They share a low regard for the Umpire’s judgement, especially when called out on strikes. Everyone is concerned when someone gets hurt. The other day the batter, whose name I forget, made a great swing which went around and hit the Jay’s catcher, Dioner Navarro, on the hand. The batter’s immediate response was to turn around and touch Navarro, no doubt expressing apology and concern. (Navarro wore a splint on his finger for a few days, but no bones were broken.)

Even in a highly competitive sport there is camaraderie with opposing players and concern for their well-being. And this extends, more or less, to all sports and to all relationships.

I am making a case here that we have a natural, inherent, drive to be gregarious and compassionate. We live in communities. We depend on one anther. We need people with a great variety of different gifts and skills. Somewhere deep within we know we are intimately connected with the human family and with the earth. We know that everything is at one with everything else. We are naturally compassionate and caring people. 

In the real world that is not always obvious. Many of our other basic drives get in the way. Self-centeredness, pride, greed, jealousy; and we could list the seven deadly sins, and many others. Within most groups there are differences and tensions. Learning how to come up with win-win situations is not easy. Easier to resort to power, duplicity and betrayal.

I like the triumvirate of evils; power, greed and self-righteousness. These are institutionalized in the dark side of governments, corporations and religions.  

They say that power corrupts. Our parliamentarians seem to have lost the human touch in their thirst for power. Indeed, it seems that in our country the very foundations of democracy are being undermined for the sake of power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. We hope it doesn’t go that far.

Corporations often seem to be immune to normal human morality. “The bottom line” is the driving force. Anything for the sake of profit. Poison us with additives, pollute the earth and air, live off the backs of developing countries; what’s the difference as long as we make a dollar, or many dollars.

The dark side of religion is self-righteousness. When we believe that my religion is the only true religion we have the seeds that can lead to terrorism and war. Fundamentalist beliefs carried to extremes are causing carnage that our sheltered western minds cannot comprehend. 

And of course our institutionalized evils are made possible and nourished by the feelings, thoughts, world-views that reside within each one of us. How do we use our personal power? Do we thirst for more money, more things? Do we believe that our way of understanding things, whether it be religious or secular is the only right way? 

However, behind and beneath all that corrupts ourselves and our relationships, there is the push toward friendship and cooperation. Empathy, compassion and concern for the good of all, flows when we get the other crud out of the way. 

All we need to do is broaden and deepen our minds, hearts and souls. It’s my old song that the only route to the future is to grow in vision, maturity and consciousness.

I’m looking forward to next week, beginning tomorrow evening, when our annual Atlantic Seminar in Theological Education will meet at Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, Truro, around the theme “Hope and Compassion in a World of Fear.” Our speakers will be Mayann Francis and Walter Farquharson. Mayann Francis became the 31st lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia in 2006. She has blazed the trail of justice and hope for many people. Walter Farquharson is an ordained United Church Minister. He was Moderator of the United Church in 1990-1992. He is a counselor and Spiritual Director and is well known for his hymn writing.  

Join us for a session or the whole time. For more information see or call Joanne MacIntosh, 893-3392.

Don Murray is a retired United church minister. He lives in Shortts Lake.