Compassion and hypocrisy and confusion

Tibetan Hayagriva mask with Padmasambhava mask...

Tibetan Hayagriva mask with Padmasambhava mask in background, Modern mask of Tibet Hayagriva deity shot in the Traveler’s window Capital Hill, Seattle, Washington taken on Halloween (Photo credit: Wonderlane)


I’d like to write a little about compassion, which was the subject of last week’s discussion, at the barn, and the recent “school shooting” in Connecticut.


It was really interesting to see the response to the shooting on Facebook. I heard about it, probably the way a lot of people did, on the radio, as I was driving around. At that point, I was surprised, and some faint feeling of sadness happened too, I think. I noticed too, how the news media was going into a frenzy, and how this was off putting; of course, in this case it was impossible to separate the importance of this story from the need media companies have to portray shocking and sad stories in order to get attention. This was a terrible event. It was also a media frenzy, and the sadness of the killings seems disrespected by the frenzy itself. If only there could have been total silence, for an hour, on all media sources. Something like that seems like it would have been more appropriate.

The idea of appropriateness is really really interesting. Going home, the sadness (and at this point, I still did not feel much, except some surprise, maybe some confusion) was there, and I logged onto Facebook. I do this many times a day. I realize talking about my experience of the event and my emotions could seem very self-centered. I’m doing this in part because I think it’s significant and not entirely personal. So I went on Facebook, and most of the posts were about the killing. Some were just shocked, and some were very angry and outraged. My friends on FB tend to be very liberal, so there was a lot about gun control and “mental health care.” I’m pretty liberal myself, so I don’t completely disagree.

English: Umanori-Bato-kan-non,katori-city,Japa...

English: Umanori-Bato-kan-non,katori-city,Japan Hayagriva, known as Bato Kannon in Japan 日本語: 馬乗り馬頭観音。千葉県地方で見られる馬に乗った馬頭観音。香取市。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t want this to be about policy issues or liberal/conservative, although that stuff is really important, and part of the picture. What struck me, and at some point, I did start to feel something, not just a faint sadness, something more, as I tried to imagine what it would be like to actually be a part of this first-hand, was the hypocrisy. That is, when you talk to people, or online, most people don’t feel as sad about this kind of death as they think they should be. We have an idea that we should be heartbroken. We don’t know what to say. A lot of times, we write things that make it seem as if we feel more than we do, or are more compassionate than we are.

I feel this way myself. I am part of that hypocrisy too. I think that’s something. If someone is interested in developing some compassion, that involves seeing where we’re numb, where we don’t feel. I think this has a lot to do with that moment of initial confusion- something terrible happened. It didn’t seem right to post pictures of a recent meal, or the kids, or something funny about a TV show. But there was confusion about what to say and what to feel. A lot of people, myself included, said things that made it seem as if our hearts were more open than they really were.

Of course, that’s a shame. It’s a shame our hearts are not more open. It’s a shame we didn’t cry enough. I have not cried. At the same time, we feel self-conscious about that numbness and that hypocrisy, and that’s a good thing. It’s worth remembering over and over. Something sad will happen again, and I think next time, it would be good if my heart was a little less frozen. Seeing that frozenness is a reminder.

These things are happening all the time. I’m also not talking about solutions to violence, or policies.


I imagine that if my heart opens more, I’ll experience more of this confusion and sadness, because violence and aggression happen all the time, and that means I’m shutting them out and ignoring them all the time. It’s important, though, in my experience, not to jump ahead to the result. I don’t know what compassion and love will feel like necessarily. To imagine a compassionate result and then get annoyed when my heart and mind don’t measure up is usually a mistake. The difference is between doing the usual, routine thing, and keeping an open heart when awful things take place. I don’t know what a more compassionate mind will look like exactly. I have some idea, but I don’t want to force it either.

I didn’t talk about practical solutions to violence or policy changes in the US yet. Here are a few very general thoughts.

There is probably some connection between seeing our own hypocrisy, and working with the heart, and aggression. Violence is an expression of aggression. There is also a tremendous amount of aggression in the way people talk about policy solutions. Yes, the solutions, like gun control, are very well-intended, but there is something fishy about an aggressive solution to aggression. At the same time, the solutions seem partisan. What is so crazy about finding some creative ideas? What’s so crazy about considering if the “other guys” might be right, at least about one or two ideas? Although political intentions are good much of the time, it’s easy to forget that the debate itself, and the process itself becomes violent in its own way, and this can’t be a good thing.


About jakekarlins

Aspiring writer and artist, dharma practitioner, yogi.

Posted on December 18, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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