The Hard Work of Compassion ctd.

If we seek to understand each other, isn’t that the work of goodness? Is it good to make compassion something more than a favor granted to those we deem worthy? But how do we understand those who harm us? How do we live with their deeds? Ta-Nehisi Coates started me thinking about how hard it is to do the work of compassion.

One of the people responding to his post directed me to “Call Me By My True Names,” a poem by Thich Nhat Hanh. This verse seems more than appropriate for any search for goodness and compassion. Here’s a bit of it:

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

This entry was posted in Becoming Good, good vs. evil and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Hard Work of Compassion ctd.

  1. Kelley says:

    Thich Nhat Hanh’s approach has always been one of my favorites, if not one of the most challenging to actually do. His writing tends to be deceptively simple.

  2. dianesilver says:

    I’m beginning to think that this whole idea of goodness is deceptively simple. I mean really, it’s all about just be nice, just be good, just understand and identify with your fellow humans enough not to seek to destroy them. As you struggle up the chain of ideas, it gets hard and harder and harder to pretend that there are easy answers. And I do so want easy answers.

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