Bare Bones Biology 055-Susan Crane

Susan Crane created “Ploughshares” as part of her lifetime commitment to ending nuclear proliferation by nonviolent means. Of course she’s only one of so many people who act upon their convictions, even including many people we do not admire. But we do admire when someone gets it right in the compassion department, and then does her homework so that she understands both the facts and the implications of her actions – and then she acts upon her convictions — that’s what I call wisdom compassion. Wisdom compassion looks upon suffering and then tries to understand the causes of that suffering. Wisdom compassion looks at all the levels of human involvement, from the individual level to the community (in this case the communal rule of law), to the level of the corposystem and the ecosystem. All the living levels. Wisdom compassion says: “Let’s look at the root causes of (whatever is the problem) and see what we can do about it that will not cause more suffering from the cure than from the cause.

Susan Crane was interviewed on Sprouts a few weeks ago (Pacifica Radio, not to be confused with Jane Goodall’s Sprouts clubs). Sprouts is hard to find on the web, so I will help you by linking it to my blog. On KEOS radio, 89.1, Sprouts is aired on Sunday mornings at about 6:30. I started listening because I don’t want to miss Bare Bones Biology on Sunday mornings at 6:55. And neither should you. But Sprouts, and sometimes Sierra Club Radio that precedes it, are equally as good as the Monday evening programs you hear on KEOS. So the full story is available on the Sprouts podcast, and I have a copy of that if you want to hear it.

The short version is that Susan Crane broke into a nuclear facility to smear her blood on a nuclear submarine, and has been sentenced to quite a long jail term for this action.

For me the bottom line of this story is the way it demonstrates the difference between heart compassion and wisdom compassion. Your basic heart compassion imagines what it would feel like to be under a nuclear bomb exploding. Your wisdom compassion studies the effects of nuclear technology through the levels.

So to really simplify this, in terms of suffering the nuclear sub gets negative marks at the individual level, and the ecosystem level, while it contributes positively to the economic level. At the level of communal rule of law – it is against American law to smear blood on a nuclear submarine, but it is against international law even to have submarines ready to drop nuclear weapons on anyone.

Clearly, Susan Crane has spent a lot of effort evaluating the complexity of the problem, before dedicating her life to nonviolence. In my perspective, this means she is acting from heart compassion that has been informed by her wisdom compassion to dedicate her life to others in a way that causes the least overall suffering in the world.

Do I believe that Susan Crane went through such an analytical step by step approach to evaluating her actions? Of course not. The stepwise evaluation is only a study aid to help us remember that more is involved, and often more of importance. The point is that Susan Crane evaluated all the parameters, in her own way, to make sure she is not causing more harm than good by her actions.

But wait. There is another, higher level for Susan Crane. Listen to her own words.

“I was at the Methodist church one night preparing for a little gathering we were having, a pot luck, and I was talking about nonviolence, so I had this piece of paper, and I was writing the attributes of nonviolence on it, and on the opposite, violent responses to things. The way the culture often teaches us to respond. And I realized at that moment that all the attributes I had for nonviolence – compassion, love, forgiveness – are the attributes that many of us call God.“

Photograph – volunteers at Brazos Valley Food Bank
Volunteers from the Institute of Interfaith Dialogue
Gause Full Gospel Church
and others

Bare Bones Biology 055 – Susan Crane
KEOS radio 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Transcript at
Audio at