Sunday, July 12, 2020

Compassion Is An Experience

                                                                                                    written 5 July 2020
                                                                                              published 12 July 2020

            Humanity is in the middle of an evolution of consciousness, awakening from our illusion of separation, making an unprecedented dimensional shift, from racism to equality, patriarchy to co-creation, duality to unity.  
            "The Alphabet Versus The Goddess", by Leonard Shlain, gives a good explanation of how we became locked into the myth of separation.  The two hemispheres of the human brain process information differently.  The left half is a difference engine, working like a serial processor, where sequence and distinction of differences define perspective.  Logic, thought, and the story of individual self, reside in the left brain.  The right half is a synthesizer, working like a parallel processor, evaluating multiple inputs simultaneously.  Visual, audio, and a sense of the whole, are perceived in the right brain.  
            Shlain suggests that the rise of alphabetic literacy, over 3500 years ago, created a preference for left brain perception of the world, overshadowing the value of right brain perspective.  An alphabet is entirely symbolic, where the shapes have no relationship to meaning.  Letter and word sequence are critical to meaning and a reversal of elements changes the meaning completely.  Sequence and symbols are processed in the left brain.
            The development of alphabets was a powerful tool for communication across space and time.  But increased alphabetic literacy coincided with the rise in nation state domination, misogyny, and the assault on nature and nature religions.  Human culture has been increasingly distorted by the preference of the left brain perception of separation.  This accelerated with the development of the printing press 550 years ago, dramatically increasing literacy.  The industrial revolution amplified this cultural imbalance to a global scale, producing the current suicidal economy which believes killing people and the planet for profit makes sense.
            Moving forward by walking requires movement from first one side and then the other.  Progress in consciousness demands similar balancing movements.  The major religions arising in the last 2500 years all point to a need to expand beyond the left brain egoic self to include the right brain experience of the whole.  Shlain suggests this has been accelerated by recent technological developments, starting with photography over 200 years ago, then radio, and now video over the internet, allowing increased communication by the right brain processes.  The net result is an expansion of compassion and awareness of our fundamental interconnection.
            The two most widely reproduced photos are a picture of a nuclear mushroom cloud, and the picture of the Earth taken from the moon in 1968 on Apollo 8, both engendering an awareness of global unity and common fate.
            In 1955, Emmett Till, a 14 year old black boy, was beaten to death in Chicago for allegedly flirting with a white woman.  His mother demanded the funeral proceed with an open casket, to show what had been done to her son.  The wide spread newspaper publication of those photographs helped expand the growing civil rights movement at the time.
            In 2004, American service men torturing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison, proudly took souvenir photos with their cell phones, which one shared with his father, who was so disgusted, he shared them with the world.  Much of America had the same reaction of disgust, and our national policies changed.
            The cell phone video of the casual murder of George Floyd went viral on the internet, with global reaction.  No dialogue was required, just witnessing the actual event as it unfolded brought the experience into people's hearts.   
            Compassion is an experience, and once felt, it is difficult to ignore.  Humans are hard wired for the right brain qualities of empathy and compassion.  In the last decade, medical science has discovered mirror neurons, which fire both when we act and when we observe the same action performed by another.  They activate when we witness other people's actions and emotions, thus "mirrors" the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.  They play an important role in feelings of empathy and compassion (Wikipedia).
            Compassion is our human birthright, despite the fact that our society devalues those feelings.  The gross failings of our current culture blaze across the daily news.  The only true thing about the past is that it is no longer here.  Compassion must be our guide to creating a better world.