22 diciembre 2010

with pathos, this time! (a letter to Rebekkah)

Author's note to textual eavesdroppers: Rebekkah needed a letter written to her because compassion is a given, a hallmark, an essential in both her occupational and religious professions, and yet is only sporadically visible in her life. So, let us begin. You are welcome to come along, if you're one of those interesting individuals who likes to read people give it to themselves...

Dear Rebekkah,

Compassion, to feel/suffer with, is not just observing someone in pain or in a hard time. You know that. You might protest that to will feelings and to co-suffer is a bit hard and certainly not your spiritual gift or leadership strength, so let...er... us try to break this down for you. Baby steps, shall we?

Compassion starts with seeing the difference between where someone is and where that person "should" be. After "seeing" the discrepancy, compassion moves to indignation with the status quo. Compassion mature is a rebellion against inertia. It is recognizing that reality left alone is bad. Fully conceived, compassion is a decision to stop and alter the normal flow of events.

Compassion on the multitudes because they are like sheep without a shepherd, and they should be sheep with the Shepherd.
Compassion on the foodless, fasting multitude following Christ because they should lie down in green pastures and have the Lord break their fast.
Compassion from the king toward the debtor servant because a man and his family should not be sold for something so easily forgiveable as money...

Compassion starts with objective reality processed mentally, not necessarily affectively, you'll be relieved to hear. Emotions are kind of a byproduct of the observation/ analysis process. And actually, before the data-taking comes the vision of how reality "should" be. You're an idealist. You like that sort of thing.

Compassion for prostitutes on the streets because... they should be at home being faithful wives and loving mothers.
Compassion for exploited, vampy, hyper-sexual teenage girls because... they should be protected and pure, full of life and light and fullness of joy.
Compassion on those mocked because... we're all mockable, and we all should have a break - permission to be human.
Compassion on the friendless because... no one should be alone in such a weary world.
Compassion on the lost because... they should be Christian! Such things that make for their salvation...! They were invented-- this world was invented!-- for them to be Christian.
Compassion on the child who constantly misbehaves because... he should not be perpetually exposed to shame. He should know the happiness of being good.

Makes sense, yes? Now, let us discuss the friends and enemies of compassion.

the friends and enemies of compassion:

You cannot have compassion without ideals. It needs (as your Abolition of Man-y fact/opinion lesson plans put it) "value language." Shoulds and oughts, betters and bests, good and right are indispensible. The first thing to do is to learn to think "should" without qualifying your statement. To have compassion, you must also kill your insufferable fatalism [obviously, i've imitating my boy chesterton. that adjective could have easily been "bloody" or worse...] and believe that reality can be different than what is. Not only different, but better.

Consequently, cynics will consistantly NOT display compassion because they have grown accustomed to the bad, expect the worst, and find "better" improbable.

To show compassion requires not only ideals but also courage. Thusly, cowards will not show compassion because compassion involves risks, opposition, and possible disapproval.

Compassion worth showing needs good philosophy, true religion, and all the right "shoulds". Self-pitiers cannot be compassionate because they have a bad "should": If they have to suffer, so should others. The self-righteous skimp on compassion (and it's mother, gratitude) because good is calculated as a reward rather than a gift. The selfish lack compassion because they see goodness like a pie that if shared will leave them with less.

The ignorant cannot conceive of compassion because they do not understand the magnitude of the difference between the way things are and the way things should be.

The lazy will not display compassion because the law of inertia demands action by an outside force, and they have no force.

Yes, those lazy, ignorant, self-pitying, selfish, etc. uncompassionate them!
Alright! So we still have not resolved how to move you, Rebekkah, from bicentennial waves of compassion to a more consistant sort of Christ-likeness, although we have isolated some possible factors in the retardation of said process...

ahh. Christ-likeness. Being like Christ. Selah.

Does He have anything to do with it? Do we get to drag Jesus into the discussion? So glad you asked...

Let us forget you for a moment and remember why Christians traditionally cannot get over Him:

...because not only does He have compassion on the pitiable leper, the sad prostitute, the adulterous woman, the hungry multitude, but He has compassion on

the cynical,
the cowardly,
the self-pitying,
the self-righteous,
the selfish,
the lazy,
the uncompassionate!

in short...
on those of us humans who are

(and, oh, Rebekkah. if we as Christians and you as an inhabitant of this earth do not adequately portray that, may both God and the world forgive us... because our sin is worse than we thought.)

Freely you have received; freely give.

So you try to be a disciple of Christ... pues, start taking notes.
Observe (worship), analyze (worship), imitate (worship) His compassions on us.

according to Him,

We should not be orphans, but sons of God. We should not perish but live forever. We should not be enemies of God, but friends. We should not be aliens but family. We should not be hopeless, but expectant. We should not be Godless, but full of Him. We should not be lost, but found. We should not be sitting in squalor waving filthy rags, but bowing, singing, feasting in robes of righteousness. We should not feed on slops, but eat at the table God Himself has laid for us.

We should not be profane, but sacred.
Not liars, but prophets.
Not guilty, but innocent.
Not abandoned, but adopted.
Not despairing, but of great cheer.
Not insane, but of a sound mind.
Not oppressed, but seated in the heavenlies with Christ.
Not strangers, but citizens.

...and certainly not cynical, cowered, self-pitying, self-righteous, selfish, lazy, hard-hearted ingrates.

...but hope-giving, triumphant, compassion-showing, God-thanking, self-forgetting, all-things-to-all-people imitators of Christ who make many rich.

You know, Christians. Not mere mortals, but little Christs.

He is an idealist. He might have some suggestions for treating your compassion-deficiency disease...

Very sincerely yours,
Miss H.