Saturday, August 24, 2013

Godless Compassion

Some of you might have heard a recent news story about a bookkeeper at an elementary school who talked an armed-to-the-teeth psychotic young man out of shooting everyone in sight. Between her and a 911 operator, he was successfully massaged from the heights of Armageddon grandeur down to a prone position on the ground, hands behind his back, waiting for the police to get him -- all the while explaining that he hadn't taken his meds that day. Sad lad.

The key to this happy outcome, at least for the unshot, was the bookkeeper who kept saying, "I love you honey. Everything will be OK" to the angry young white man with weapon. She was so convincing and heartfelt that when Anderson Cooper swooped in for his exclusive interview, he said to her with a childlike expression, "Can you say that again?" referring to her sweet phrase that saved the day. She looked him straight in the eyes and said, "I love you honey. Everything will be OK." Anderson's face visibly lit up, his body twitched like a puppy being stroked and he smiled. Genuinely. Even I could feel the love oozing through the television screen.

This lady was not parroting a good line that had worked in a pinch. She was able to connect with that feeling in her heart - even on a CNN news special - on cue - for a famous journalist - without blinking an eye. Why? Because she knew that love transcended time and space and that she could dip into that well anytime she so desired. She credited this ability to God and to hearing a sermon in church just a few days before, about calling on Him when one is in a difficult situation.

And this is where she lost me, because she was giving credit away in a vacuum. It was SHE (meaning the selfless identity, not the self-centered ego) that was the generator of that love, it was SHE who has the psychological understanding that this mixed-up fellow needed to be heard and assured, it was SHE who used her brain to navigate the trickiest of death-infested waters to get to the other shore of life.

The Dalai Lama does not believe in the existence of God and yet he is one of the most revered people on this earth for his compassionate nature. Nelson Mandela does not believe in God and yet his example of forgiveness and reconciliation under remarkably difficult challenges has made him an icon world over.

Compassion and love need not be attributed to God. It is built into our hard wiring. Neuro dudes even know where the center of compassion lies within the brain and it is right in its epicenter. Could someone please invent a device akin to a pace-maker that could keep the compassion center sending out its signals to the rest of the behavior-ridden human being? Soon?

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