WHAT MAKES A COMPASSIONATE CITY?
by Ernie Brooks
Everything! A compassionate community is everything, from the animals and humans to the nature and all things that exist in it, both living and static. We may simplify the definition of compassion to a few words, but compassion cannot be simply defined as only involving the intelligent species. In a truly compassionate community everything is acknowledged, heard, respected, and more. Each person has the opportunity to evolve through the school of life and, more generally, each and every thing has the opportunity to just be, to simply exist.
To demonstrate basic compassion, I don’t believe that an understanding of the word ‘compassion’ is necessary, as even that without language or conscious thought can exist compassionately in a community and on a planet. So, perhaps compassion can be measured even without the need of any humanistic characteristics. I suppose I measure compassion simply by the degree of ability of one thing to unconditionally exist along with all other things on this planet and in the universe. Though, the higher consciousness of intelligent life (humans, for example) has abundant opportunity to demonstrate and share intentional compassion, maybe only succeeding through ever more conscious living. The measure of a human’s compassion may be the degree to which one can exist with intention to allow all others things to exist. In the school of life, intention may be more powerfully connected to the measure of compassion than impact. We will indefinitely have an impact on planet Earth and life on it, but the intention of our impact matters to the assessment of compassion.
I perceive that some cultures and communities are more or less conducive to conscious living than others, and that this consciousness can impact compassionate existence. As I learn more and more about planet Earth and its living and non-living things, I feel I have the consciousness to be an increasingly compassionate part of it. I believe each person comes into life in the Earth school for the continued evolution of their soul, and I encourage each person to be as authentic as possible on that journey. I share compassion with other humans as I give each the opportunity to exist as genuinely as possible. Compassion is not merely wishing well for another, as we will have challenges to learn and evolve through. Thus, my definition and basis of measure of compassion is that we wish for others to simply have the opportunity to exist in the way they are and will be. Yet more (and probably more easily recognized as compassion), I want (have the intention for) others to feel and be seen, heard, and loved. As I walk around, I look at people in the eyes and smile. I ask how someone is doing and I really look at them and listen to what they say. I am curious about others, and I often ask the question, “what is that like for you?” to understand other people, rather than to judge with unchecked assumptions. To ask and listen, rather than to assume and define, may be a most frequent opportunity of living compassionately with other intelligent life.
And maybe more and more every day, I am allowing other living things to exist for their own purposes. I demonstrate this compassion by both seeking to cause no direct harm and to protect planet Earth and its life, living increasingly more sustainably, to have as little unnecessary impact as possible. I am constantly working on living a minimalistic and ‘zero waste’ lifestyle, which is compassionate towards ourselves and towards all things. By consuming less, I am both leaving more to be consumed by others and am taking less from the planet that I wish to sustain. With a much longer span than any of the life on it, Earth (with near four billion years remaining) has its own ‘life’ process. In existing as a compassionate part of it, I pursue a life of natural impact, rather than unnatural and unnecessary impact, remembering that impact is inevitable and that the intention of that impact is significant.
Consciousness of the impact all life has is significant too. This is the knowledge that realizes the connection of all things, leading to the theory that truly compassionate existence involves everything. I can live a holistically compassionate life by demonstrating compassion directly to one, while also being compassionate indirectly towards all things connected to that one. And, because of that, I am always discovering and creating new ways to live compassionately. Even my definition, measurement, and practice of compassion described here will evolve with me over time. Compassionate living is one of those great journeys in life that are endless.
~Ernie Brooks currently lives in Palmer, Massachusetts, and is an active member of Worcester, Massachusetts communities where he transplanted from New Hampshire to begin college studies at Anna Maria College in 2010. He is constantly learning about all things as extraordinary and mysterious as the universe and every and any part of it. Ernie seeks to live an increasingly holistic and compassionate life, sharing what he learns through service in higher education, emergency medical services, and dining services, amongst various volunteer opportunities in and around his communities. He shares his love and life most of all with his beautiful fiancée Lizzie.
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