Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tidings of Comfort, Joy, and Weltschmerz


The jewel of modern consciousness is compassion. But its worms will become confusion, world-view overload, self-doubt, and paralyzing narcissism. The purpose of Yoga will be to dig carefully through the worms to extract the jewel.
yoga 2.0

Because if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus is just as selfish as we are or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.
Stephen Colbert

...wrote something a while ago called Compassion Can Be Complicated...(the title got changed on me)...citing famous Buddhist Pema Chodron on idiot compassion that causes us to do for others only for the sake of making ourselves feel better, without actually helping anybody...

...but things get even more complicated when the goal is to feel worse...(as, contrary to more simplistic views of human nature, is quite often the case)...

weltschmerz {German, from Welt world + Schmerz pain}: mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state
Merriam-Webster

...there’s a often a fine line between feelings of compassion for the whole world’s pain and a self-indulgent wallowing in a sense of unhappiness-greater-than-oneself...comfortable rapture in a miserable sublime...between making an expansive sense of compassion part of a personal spirituality and forging religion out of depression...

the notion of some infinitely gentle,
Infinitely suffering thing
T. S. Eliot

...worshipping an egotistical and infinitely resentful deity fed with continual sacrifices of pleasure...our own and that of those unfortunate enough to be close to us...a simultaneously self-righteous and self-lacerating attitude of how-can-you-enjoy-yourself-with-so-much-suffering-in-the-world...as if refusing joy here will somehow ease suffering elsewhere...

...the dominant idea, I think, even if it’s seldom stated, is that we have very limited capacities for either joy or compassion...that the two are separate, and greedy, and one takes from rather than feeds the other...that happiness necessitates callous indifference to others’ pain, and real compassion inherently involves turning away from happiness and toward our own pain...receiving only a booby prize of self-righteousness...which might, paradoxically, make you feel good, in a way...though, ironically enough, it’s the complete opposite of compassion...(if often mistaken for it, in some circles)...(if you feel strongly about how much more compassionate you are than other people, you’re probably not)...

...if there’s a spiritual mode I can get with, it would have to be one that allows the parallel lines of joy and compassion to merge...a love that, in the face of suffering, grows only stronger...

10 comments:

Eco Yogini said...

i think i get what you're saying.... I think. lol. thank goodness you wrote that last paragraph though- or I would have been more than a little bewildered. :)

Joy and compassion.

Brenda P. said...

Merry Christmas, Eeyore!

...who, it might be noted, was the only character other than Pooh to compose poetry in the Hundred Acres Wood and the most frequent victor at Poohsticks.

...in addition to being an adorable Weltschemerzer.

TheRiverWanders said...

Lovely post - so many timely observations. I've had the thought that joy becomes a burden when you think it has to be a permanent state of existence. Joy, for me, is usually a fleeting reaction to something outside myself, and much different than peace. I've always thought compassion compares to love in some ways...feeling kinship and benevolence and combining that with action to make someone's life better (without expecting anything in return).

LauraX said...

So much here Dr. Jay...but your last sentence resonates exactly right with my entire being...holding it all...the joy, the suffering, the longing, loss, and precious precariousness of THIS moment, whatever it may be...I truly believe that is the center point of compassion/joy...metta.

bright blessings to you and your beloveds.

nothingprofound said...

Intentional unhappiness is a pointless thing, one based on ideas and principles. Reminds me of a Robert Louis Stevenson quote: "If your morals make you dreary, depend on it, they are wrong."

DrowseyMonkey said...

Very thoughtful.

I've been learning about compassion from a buddhist perspective but the christian perspective keeps confusing me ... and keeps my compassion at a distance.

Compassion, to me, always seemed very selfish. Be compassionate because it's the right thing to do, or because it's what some deity says to do in order to get the grand prize at the end of life, or do it because it will make you feel better - I think that's the worse reason. Anyway ... it all ends up making me angry and lacking compassion !!

I'm still learning.

the walking man said...

Give and think no more on the thing given and receive and think forevermore on what has been given.

sukipoet said...

let us not forget Maitri which Pema also talks about muchly. compassion for the self, compassion for the fact that maybe I am being compassionate for the "wrong" reasons. And so forth.

And don't forget Tong Len. Hope I spelled it right. breathing in ones own or anothers pain, breathing out comfort. that's a compassionate meditation.

I think it is possible to over analyze motivation and overlook effect sometimes.

Well, may you have a holiday filled with kindness, compassion and light. Suki

Anahita said...

Interesting points. I guess I don't consider that "true" compassion (that which is at odds with joy). That's not to say that a compassionate action will always be easy or "make you happy"... just that it will naturally be married to a more deeply-rooted joy because it will spring forth from an action which honors the truth of what IS rather than from an attempt to "make oneself/someone else FEEL BETTER" ... so many of us misappropriate the little power we do have in this life in the name of compassion towards others. Sidenote - I love that term, idiot compassion.

P.S. YES to that last sentence. Yes indeed.

Anahita said...

not trying to comment - spam you, but I was looking through some art images and came across this cartoon. Thought you'd enjoy! http://www.artofdharma.org/?p=1686