Tuesday, August 6, 2019


Received in a newsletter from Ken McLeod, these thoughts on the practice of taking and sending (see my recent book review in The Buddha Diaries) and its relevance to the exercise of compassion. In his essay, McLeod analyses a paragraph from a fictional speech by John LeCarré's character, George Smiley, in which the master spy makes a plea for "the man"--individual humanity--over the group, the belief system, the organization, the political party. Taking and sending, McLeod suggests, is a way we can be a part of the solution, not the problem--what we can DO in a cultural and political climate in which we can easily feel helpless:

"In taking and sending, we take in (italics mine) not only the pain and suffering others experience, we take in their whole world view, the way they think and feel, the way they understand the world, and how they react to what they see and hear. This requires an active imagination on our part, and the willingness to open, understand and experience behaviors and ideas that may be completely contrary to our own values. In the process, we will come to the understanding that, whatever our values, the way others experience pain and suffering is exactly the same as the way we experience pain and suffering. 

"When we send (again, italics are mine) our own joy and well-being, we have to do the same. What would it take for them to experience joy and well-being? How can we send that to them? Again, a creative imagination is called for, and through that creative process, we come to understand that they experience joy and well-being in exactly the same way that we experience joy and well-being. We are not different.

"In short, taking and sending, at least for me, brings me in touch with the essential humanity in each of us in a way that I feel viscerally and cannot ignore for the sake of policies, systems or structures."

I recommend reading the entire essay, at a time when a resurgence of suffering, anger, hatred and confusion tempts us to compound all this by retreating into our own belief systems and condemning others for theirs. 

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