Compassion Doesn’t Choose Sides
Recently I did an interview with Rick Archer at Buddha at the Gas Pump. I had not been given any questions in advance, so I had no idea what direction Rick would take the discussions.
The first direction he took was toward my suicide attempt.
The archive of that interview has been up only four days at this point, and between the unedited original video and the official BATGAP video, it has already been watched more than 5000 times. http://batgap.com
The responses have been incredible, and one of the most common comments I have received is thanks for the compassion and “realness” with which I talked about the subject of severe depression.
Rick clearly pushed a lot of buttons with a “chin up” and “it’s just wrong” comment he made, but his remarks were important for all of us to hear. He gave voice to a common frustration that many people feel in not knowing how to relate to others who feel so alone or helpless in their despair. In the same way that one who has never had metaphysical events cannot relate to the scale of confusion that comes from having such profound experiences, one who has never reached such severe depths of despair as to attempt suicide cannot relate to the scale of confusion that comes from hitting a psychological/mental/emotional bottom where death seems to be the only way to finally end the suffering. For the person embodying the metaphysical event or suicidal ideation, everything is far too intimately and individually experienced for most others to empathetically relate.
Since the interview, I have been contacted by academics, therapists, social media groups and individuals who thanked me for helping to illuminate the immense struggles of people seeking to connect and feel less alone, less confused, and less depressed. Many said that just hearing me tell my story made them feel relief; that it was helpful to hear someone admit publicly that as our world is changing it can by REALLY hard to adjust to new feelings, new experiences and new understandings.
Most who contacted me also expressed dismay over Rick’s judgmental “it’s just wrong” comments, which they viewed as a lack of compassion. But I want to urge people who look at this kind of judgment as heartless to reach a little deeper. As I talked about in the second half of my interview, our individual reactions in these times have the power to change the world. Rather than responding to what one might consider to be a lack of compassion with an equal measure of lack of compassion, we can use our own experiences and our own voices to invite greater dialogue and understanding.
We can start by simply acknowledging the vast common ground we all stand on. We can acknowledge that while we may have different perspectives and opinions, we all share a deep desire to be happy and to see others happy as well. We can embrace that in each other right where we are, without imposing anything further into the equation.
Once we’re willing to meet each other where we are, and we open up to both receive and give from a more compassionate place within, we will soon be able to see and acknowledge joyfully that we also share a deep desire to love each other unconditionally. We can admit that we have no idea how to do that yet, but that doesn’t prevent us from finding ways to direct our spiritual life toward that end. Because unconditional love is where we’re heading. It’s what Jesus and Buddha taught and what countless religious doctrines teach. So why not point our spiritual compass in that direction now?
I encourage everyone to aim to gather on our vast common ground and support each other wherever, however, whenever we can. Because every voice, every presence matters. None of us are in this alone, ever.
I love you and I am so glad we’re here in this exciting time together.