Bare Bones Biology 113 – Thinking Compassion

A few days ago I heard Ray, at a Dharma talk at Upaya Zen Center, read this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, entitled “Kindness.” If you are reading this on the blog, I suggest you might want to go to the bottom of this page to download the original Bare Bones Biology podcast and listen to Ray’s beautiful rendering:

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye
from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

Well, I’m ashamed to say, as an American, that I never understood kindness until I had spent six months in Japan – I mean kindness as a way of life for its own sake. No strings attached. And that experience is one reason you have the opportunity to hear my thoughts about how we might be able to deal with this crisis that we are in.

I think it’s primarily a crisis of biology; I know it’s primarily a crisis of biology, because I’m a biologist, and that’s why I keep telling you various aspects of how humans interact with the ecosystem. Because the basic problem is not complicated; you can understand it as well as I can. But the solutions are not simple. Unless we want to ride this merry-go-round another time – well I don’t think we have another time for this merry-go-round because, all the other times around – war/peace/war/peace/war/peace/war/peace – all the other times around, the earth was able to provide us with what we needed to try to stay alive and try to solve our problems.

This is no longer true. This crisis is unique, and we cannot solve it by winning a war, or three wars or eight wars or however many wars we are doing right now. In fact I’m inclined to believe that these wars are mostly being staged by the corposystem to prevent we-the-people from understanding that we really are facing a crisis that will require us to hunker down to responsibilities that are very much more heroic than staging wars. We can’t solve it by growing another war.

Neither can we solve it by a concerted effort to teach compassion to everyone without regard to the fact that this is a biological crisis. At the root, it’s a biological crisis. We have never been here before, to the place where knowledgeable people have stated that, in 2007, we used 150% of the earth’s capacity to provide what we need to survive.

You might want to listen to the report on ecology to His Holiness The Dalai Lama, delivered by Diana Liverman from University of Arizona. Begin after the introduction, about 27 minutes into the video ). The powerpoint presentation that accompanied her report, will be linked to this blog under the heading Planetary Stewardship

In Texas or New Mexico, or in any city, you may not notice the devastating changes caused by our rape of the mother earth, because every generation believes their time of birth is normal, and because the damage is being mostly accomplished by destruction of other organisms and other peoples. But we cannot continue to survive by destroying other organisms. It is other organisms that generate air, water, earth and food energy on this planet. We might as well eat ourselves as destroy them, and that is essentially what we are doing.

So that’s why I began Bare Bones Biology. To help us find a way to combine our kindness – our compassion for the welfare of future generations – with basic fact-based knowledge about what the ecosystem requires to stay alive, and we must do this with a rule of law and an educational system that can maintain it.

Bare Bones Biology 113 – Thinking Compassion
KEOS Radio, 89.1, Bryan, TX
A podcast of this message can be obtained here
Or at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References:
http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/news/articles/111021dalailama.php
http://www.Upaya.org
http://youtu.be/OjMWC1Bz2xA (begin after the introduction, about 27 minutes in, or ask me for a copy of the podcast).
http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/2012_lpr/
http://Godlas.myweb.uga.edu/shihabnye.html

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