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Compassion & Communication

It's all about how we think about each other, how we talk to each other. In presidential elections--the extent and intensity of disrespect, name-calling and bashing engaged in by the candidates to which they subject each other and the public, showing all the maturity of elementary school children-- is an outrage and insult to our integrity. Civility, respect, honesty and basic human decency seems to have been dropped from our social culture, and it's time to restore it.

It's time we stopped looking at people who have different views from our own as the "other," or the "enemy." We need to listen and attempt to understand where that person, those people, are coming from. Expressions like "Walk a mile in their shoes," and "There but for the grace of God go I," have a point. The Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh asks, "Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other?" In a poem entitled Please Call Me By My True Names, he expresses our interconnection in this way:

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes,
arrives in time to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the 12-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

This is one of several verses describing what he calls "interbeing," the relationship between ourselves and the "other." Were we to have lived the life of that person we are so critical of, we might be thinking and acting in the very same way. We can be just as self-righteous as those we judge so harshly for their hard and fast opinions. If we persist in our arrogant unwillingness to listen and to talk with our "enemy," we are not likely to find a square inch of common ground on which to build a stable family unit, nation or peaceful world society.

Fortunately, there are many people and groups engaged in building bridges to bring together "enemies," listening and talking from the heart to find cooperative, nonviolent ways of living together on this one small planet. We've noted a few of the numerous groups working to bring people together for common dreams and goals.

Now What? Use these resources to learn more and work for change: