Patrick French: To my mind, compassion is one of the defining characteristics, or qualities, of being human — anyone who doesn’t have it can barely be called human. If you consider all the greatest stories about human beings, from the ancient times (stories like those of the Native American people, of Jonah, or the Buddha, or Basho, and so many others) up to modern ones like Harry Potter, compassion is what marks out the great people, the people who make a difference in the world, known and unknown, regardless of their culture or background. I would want everyone to have compassion for each other, all humans, for other forms of life here, and for our planet and her greater family — the universe in which we live.
ER: What makes a compassionate community?
Patrick French: Being mindful that every other person is a life, equally important, with their own feelings and importances.
Trying always to reduce the gap between rich and poor, between the empowered and the disempowered.
Looking out for other people’s needs, and taking the opportunity to fulfil them, for no personal gain, but because of a value for our shared humanity.
Spending time together, either with shared activities or shared enjoyment, or doing something to benefit the community together with other people.
Being mindful of the fact that each of us is a unique expression of the divine influence, and that we can learn and come to know more about IT through dealing with each other.
ER: How do you measure compassion?
Patrick French: By what it feels like to see or do — it touches both the parties involved, or all, and there’s no cost to anyone in terms of personal gain or loss. It touches people inside, and moves them, and at best causes them to want to do more of the same. It bridges the gaps and differences and chasms between human and human, reminding us of our shared qualities, not our differences. It is in willingness to help, to reach out, to go the extra mile for one’s fellow-human. One act of compassion is not better or worse than another; it might be a wiser choice or less wise, but still as valid. Compassion connects us to the divine influence (whatever you call it), and it is a subordination of “my” will to a greater understanding and purpose — and we feel that, and recognise it, either consciously or subconsciously.
NT: What do you do to contribute to creating a more compassionate community and world?
Patrick French: I am currently housebound, but my wife and I do all we can to promote compassion by writing, email, participating in online conversations and online petitions, speaking with neighbours and on the phone, etc. We try to make understanding and care and patience the hallmark of our dealings with other people. We avoid judgement, and give the benefit of the doubt before thinking that we know what someone is saying, waiting to be sure that we have listened properly. We practice the Metta meditation, projecting care, well-being and lovingkindness from each other, through community, local, and national stages across the world. We refuse to give up on the idea and vision of a world where peace, understanding and cooperation prevail.
~Patrick French lives in Ceredigion, West Wales, UK, a very rural area; a village that consists of about 100 homes spread over several square miles, mostly at some distance from each other, but they all know each other there!
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