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The Single Most Important Thing for Living

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It's not love. Love is high on the list, but love is limited. We want to believe love is infinite, but love is usually reserved for th...

It's not love.

Love is high on the list, but love is limited. We want to believe love is infinite, but love is usually reserved for those who are close to us, family or friends or acquaintances. It's hard to love someone you have never seen. It's hard to love a needy person who is only an abstraction. We want to, but love is too strong of an emotion. If you loved everyone, really loved them, you could not bear it.

And it is not hope.

I have a great respect for our need for hope. We need to have hope, maybe more than we need to have love. Without hope there is only depression. Hope gives us energy to get through the days and years. Hope motivates. Hope makes us feel happy. Hope is a great thing but is felt individually. It is harder to share hope than, say, love.

And it is not happiness.

We all want to be happy. That is perhaps the number one desire we all wish for, to be happy. But happiness is not something you just do, it is something that has to happen. Happiness is the summation of a lot of other things coming together. Happiness depends on our genetics, upbringing, what has happened to us, attitudes, and many other things. Happiness can be difficult for some people to control although they try very hard.

The most important thing for living is compassion.

I believe, but I'm not yet sure how to prove, that compassion is the single most important thing for a successful life or society. The one thing we can do as a people that would change everything almost in an instant is to start being more compassionate. The one thing you can do as an individual to have a more meaningful live, enjoyable life, and to be a better person is become more compassionate.

The difference between seeing the world through eyes of compassion and not, is the difference between seeing world through the clean air of a pretty green field or through the smoggy air of a dirty city. Your attitudes and beliefs change your perception of the things you experience. If you have an attitude of compassion, you will perceive the events of your life one way, if you do not have compassion, you will perceive those events more negatively.

So what is compassion? Compassion is the belief that every individual should have and the desire that they will have a good life. Compassion is an activity. It is something you do. It is actively wanting other people, and yourself, to achieve a good and enjoyable life. I call this rational compassion. I believe rational compassion is the foundation for a better life for those who live their lives through it and for those who benefit from that compassion. All you need to do is actively want everyone--yourself, your family, your friends, your acquaintances, your enemies, and all the millions of people you never met--to have a good life. That's all.

Contrast this with compassion based on empathy. Empathy is good, but very hard. It is good because we all need to be able to see and feel from someone else's point of view. It makes us a better person. It can also wear you out. This is called compassion fatigue. The rational compassion I spoke of in the above paragraph cannot replace empathy based compassion, but it might provide a retreat when the empathy becomes too hard. Rational compassion should be the foundation that empathy compassion sits on.

How does rational compassion work its magic on you? First, it will move you away from anger. You will still feel anger, but your desire to be compassionate will help you to not let that anger fester. You may be upset with someone, but you still want them to have a good life. This desire will help prevent the anger from getting out of hand. Second, instead of feeling resentment towards groups of people who are different from you, you will understand they just want a good life just as you do. They may have different customs, traditions, and rituals, but in the end they just want a good satisfying life. Third, compassion is a freedom that will help you to enjoy other people more.

It seems almost unnecessary to explain how compassion will help society. Less conflict means less violence and more security. And that means happier people.

Make rational compassion the most important thing in your life. Let it be the foundation for everything else. Let love, hope, happiness, and empathy sit on top of it. I believe rational compassion is a strong enough to support your entire life.

Consider This:
Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. Nelson Mandela

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