One of the things I like about 3Sharp is that I have a great group of co-workers. We can be heads-down in the middle of the most amazingly deep technical discussion and without batting an eye (or dropping an ASCII smiley) transition into the most esoteric (or geeky — or for extra points, both) topics.
Just now, I was discussing the plight of Co-worker A who was unable to get into a conference call for reasons beyond our control, and somewhere along the way, I uttered the phrase, "Compassion is for the weak." I was referring to the fact that Co-worker A was trying to get hold of Co-worker B, who was also on the conference call, and Co-worker B pointed out that there wasn't much he could have done (since he wasn't the meeting organizer). We all know how this sentiment is normally interpreted — if you're tough and successful, you don't have time (or energy, or a moral obligation) to think of those less fortunate than you.
What just struck me, though, is how our mental baggae is all wrong, even if we reject the explicit "Compassion is for the weak!" viewpoint. Perhaps we tend to think of compassion from a biological point of view. Over in this cell A, we have a high concentration of compassion. Over in cell B, we have a low concentration of compassion. Through the magic of diffusion, we see the compassion work its way through the barrier between cell A and cell B until they've reached some sort of equilibrium. Compassion, according to this model of virtue, is a hoarded commodity, reduced as we share it with others.
I don't think that's at all true.
I think compassion, like other virtues, are an inexaustable, renewable resource. Use what you have on-hand before it goes stale, to make room for the fresh new stuff rolling in. The less you permit yourself to obstruct the flow, the more can flow through you. It's never yours to begin with; you're just the channel, the vector. As we learn how to handle a small flow of compassion, it teaches us how to remove the obstructions we have buried deep inside us. We are weak vessels, clogged with the debris and detritus of years of pain and focus on ourselves. We are weak — and compassion teaches us how to rid ourselves of the weakness. How to be strong for the first time in our lives. How to be healed, to be whole. We cannot ever be whole and healthy by ourselves, cut off from all congress.
Our society teaches us to sneer at people who rely on crutches to get through their life. When you cannot walk — when you can barely hobble through each day — a crutch is a life-saver.
Compassion is for the weak.
May we all embrace our weakness.