Recent international headlines have illustrated repeatedly why it is more advantageous for world leaders to promote increased investments in compassion-based policies likely to further mutually-advantageous cooperation than to implement actions or language likely to intensify disadvantageous divisions.
The triumphant rescue in July of twelve members of the Wild Boar Thai soccer players in Northern Thailand confirmed that #CompassionSavesLives is much more than just a useful hash tag. The wildfires currently engulfing entire sections of California in the U.S. have struck many as evidence of the price paid for neglecting to exercise sufficient compassion toward Earth and failing to heed signs of global warming. Yet, even as the 2018 global heatwave fuels multiple fires and some key officials incredibly appear completely oblivious to them, individuals and communities are banding together to help families displaced by the infernos find ways to somehow rebuild their lives.
Truth, Power, and Compassion
The concept of "speaking truth to power" is a useful one which has helped many people find their voices and employ them to take stands both for and against important issues. Indicating a willingness to confront uneven odds, speaking truth to power is an important part of the process of going beyond simply complaining about injustices to actually correcting them. Unfortunately, too often too much of what needs to be included in decisive dialogues, like the priceless value of compassion, gets garbled in the digitized noise of a 24-hour news cycle. Worse, such noise is sometimes used as an opportunity to dismiss citizens' rightful input.
While I have strove nearly all my life to be a "literary artist" worthy of the description, recently I have found myself somewhat compelled more and more to include visual art as a means of speaking compassion to power. Yes, I use the word compassion in this context to re-emphasize its importance as defined and championed by Charter for Compassion and partner organizations. But I also use it in the sense of exercising compassion towards those leaders who seem doubtful of its ability to correct a multitude of wrongs. Or who needlessly fear what it might cost them on personal, political, or financial levels.
The compassion exercised towards these members of our beloved extended human family is done so with hope they will find the courage and integrity needed to make the kind of hard ethical choices which do indeed save lives, sustain communities, and heal toxic environments.
To Sing a Song of Love and Compassion
In my description for a recently completed work of visual art titled "Song of Love and Compassion" I wrote these words:
What I see and feel is a small tribute in the form of a visual ode to the ordinary folks of this world who continue to give life invaluable meaning just by treating each other with such tax-free things as kindness, compassion, and mutual respect.
I did not specifically mention family members of the Thai soccer team recently rescued from the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non in Northern Thailand but I had been thinking about them. A lot. It could have been so easy for them to give in to rage and despair directed at the young coach, Ekapol Ake Chanthawong, a former monk and orphan who had been responsible for the boys' safety. They, however, chose a different response based on empathy and hopefulness. In so doing, they helped strengthen the coach's courage and resolve to see his team return to their loved ones.
Demonstrations of compassion in mindful action is something that always inspires me. But the spirit of forgiveness exercised by the family members even while it appeared likely none of their children would survive was a phenomenal aspect of this real-life drama which the media noted but then quickly moved past. It brought tears to my eyes and the haunting beauty of their concern remains with me like this demonstration of compassion as art in Aretha Franklin's and Elton John's performance of Border Song, singing and calling for international peace in 1993 as so many are doing right now, in 2018:
Most importantly perhaps, the Thai families' collective compassion once again reminded the world of how much power resides in all of us to invoke positive change regardless of political, social, geographical, or financial status.