Yesterday, a group of 23 people in Spartanburg–14 at lunch and 9 over dinner–began a conversation on how to build a more compassionate, cooperative community across the differences that often divide us, especially religious ones. The conversations were rich and invigorating, spilling well over the hour allotted them.
Join the conversation here. All are welcome.
The basis of our discussion is a group reading of Karen Armstrong‘s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. Armstrong, an internationally renowned scholar of religion, identifies a common and uniting theme in all religious traditions around the world: the Golden Rule. This teaching–to treat others as we ourselves want to be treated–has the potential to create a culture of compassion that spans the globe. It is already fundamental to our otherwise very different worldviews.
In our discussions this year, we will explore compassion and how to live it without compromising the integrity of our different religious worldviews and in expression of our common humanity.
Armstrong counsels that the job ahead is not easy or quickly done. In so doing she offers a vision of transformation, down to the roots of how we live, that can serve our work far beyond interfaith dialogue:
“People often ask, ‘How do we start?’ The demands of compassion seem so daunting that it is difficult to know where to begin…We are addicted to our egotism. We cannot think how we would manage without our pet hatreds and prejudices that give us such a buzz of righteousness; like addicts, we have come to depend on the instant rush of energy and delight we feel when we display our cleverness by making an unkind remark and the spurt of triumph when we vanquish an annoying colleague. Thus do we assert ourselves and tell the world who we are. It is difficult to break a habit upon which we depend for our sense of self…
“There is no hurry. We are not going to develop an impartial, universal love overnight. These days we often expect things to happen immediately. We want instant transformation and instant enlightenment–hence the popularity of those television makeover shows that create a new garden, a new room, or a new face in a matter of days. But it takes longer to reorient our minds and hearts; this type of transformation is slow, undramatic, and incremental. Each step asks more–and more–and more…you will find that you are beginning to see the world, yourself, and other people in a different light.” (p.23-24)