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Archive for September, 2011

In 2008 Karen Armstrong won the 100 000$ TED prize and made a wish for help creating, launching and propagating a Charter for Compassion. After the Charter was unveiled to the world in November 2009, the Compassionate Action Network (“CAN”) launched an effort to create the first “Compassionate City” in Seattle. On April 24, 2010, the mayor and city council affirmed the Charter for Compassion and proclaimed the city’s support for a 10-year Compassionate City Campaign, making Seattle the first city in the world to become a Compassionate City.  Seattle was the first, but CAN (Compassionate Action Network) started the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities when an international wave of interest started for the creation of compassionate cities.

With the unveiling of the International Institute for Compassionate Cities in late 2010, CAN is developing an ability to enable rapid development of compassion-based programs within institutions and political entities (cities, nations, etc.) while supporting a growing culture of compassion that fosters positive, effective, and caring shifts in policy, practices, financing, education, employment, health, and community support. Hopefully you are reading this and seeing a need for such a campaign in your city, but it may seem a little big for a project and exactly what are we to do? It is simple:

Becoming a Compassionate City, Region, or Nation

The Charter for Compassion is a cornerstone of the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities. The Campaign is an initiative of the Compassionate Action Network (CAN) and supported by Institute, which is a part of CAN. The Campaign is an effort to bring a culture of compassion to cities, regions, and nations world-wide.

There are four types of campaigns for cities (as well as counties, states and provinces, regions, and nations):

  1. Candidates
  2. Affirming Cities
  3. Compassionate Cities
  4. Model Compassionate Cities

These are described in more detail, including requirements for each, on the Campaign page of the website.

Getting started?

Getting started is as easy as completing these five simple steps:

  1. Personally affirm the Charter for Compassion. Ask everyone you know to do the same.
  2. Join the Compassionate Action Network. It’s easy and its free.
  3. Start a group for your campaign. Just go to the Groups page and click on “+ Add” at the top right of the page.
  4. Join the International Institute for Compassionate Cities group on the network.
  5. For more information and support for your campaign, submit a Participation Inquiry using the convenient and easy to use electronic form on this website.
  6. Visit the Institute Resource Center. Download and read the Developing a Compassionate City Campaign (PDF, 190 kb).
  7. Contact us if you have questions, ideas, etc. We’re here to serve your campaign.

Already started?

If you’ve already started your campaign and would like to get support from the International Institute for Compassionate Cities, follow these five simple steps:

  1. Personally affirm the Charter for Compassion. Ask everyone you know to do the same.
  2. Join the Compassionate Action Network. It’s easy and its free.
  3. If you haven’t done so already, start a group for your campaign. Just go to the Groups page and click on “+ Add” at the top right of the page.
  4. Join the International Institute for Compassionate Cities group on the network.
  5. For more information and support for your campaign, submit a Participation Inquiry using the convenient and easy to use electronic form on this website.
  6. If you’re looking for ideas for your campaign, visit the Institute Resource Center. You can download and read the Developing a Compassionate City Campaign (PDF, 190 kb).
  7. Contact us if you have questions, ideas, etc. We’re here to serve your campaign.

What does it cost?

There are no fees, dues, or other charges for becoming part of the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities. The International Institute for Compassionate Cities exercises no control over your campaign; rather we serve solely as a resource to assist you in moving your campaign forward.

So if this sounds good to you, get up and get it going! I am planning on starting a reading group based on Karen Armstrong’s book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, and then take it to the streets! There are already many cities that have taken the pledge, so why wouldn’t your community also join this campaign. Here are some testimonies of the positive effects that are already being felt around the world:

In a court room near a confirmed Compassionate City, a particularly scathing clash between two attorneys escalated. The judge stopped the trial. She pointed out that there was a Compassionate City nearby and, since the people there were aspiring to compassion, so will those in her courtroom. The trial continued with respect, understanding, and — most of all — compassion. The juror reporting this was astounded.

In August, I spoke with a school principal of an alternative high school in Colorado. She told me her students had asked that the school constitution be replaced with the Charter for Compassion. They decided that they should make compassion a central focus of their lives. It was obvious that she was deeply touched and proud of these young people.

People have also made personal pledges to bring to their everyday lives. Here are just a few examples of the different commitments that people are undertaking:

– I will commit to one compassionate action every day.

– I will commit to using compassionate language.

– I will commit to teach my children how to love, care for, understand, and provide compassion for others.

– I will have more compassion for myself.

– I will commit to seeing myself in my enemy.

– I will learn how compassion is applied in my faith, moral, and spiritual tradition.

– I will commit to learning more about my world.

Hunger for compassion and compassionate action can not be denied, the Institute has never recruited a city, county, country, school, business, or other group. They search for and find them. Let’s start making a better world today! I know that this is something that I will be doing!

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Tonight I got a call from my parents, these calls have become so mechanical and sterile that it seems to be affecting me more and more as times goes. Always conversations about what other people are doing, what new “stuff” they got, and of course talks about my finances and roles that I “should” be fulfilling in society. I have fought for many years for them to “get” me, to make them understand that I might not fall in the normal boxes that society has laid out for us. I seriously think that my parents don’t know the “real” me and that they don’t want to, there always seems to be awkwardness and closure when I try to actually talk about the things that “matter”.  I feel that I am a disappointment to them to some degree, yes, I have a job and education (not what they probably wished it was) and am still an upstanding member of society, whatever that means. I don’t however live in the nice house in the suburbs with the pool and the 2.3 kids whom I drive around to soccer practice etc. I live my life in fear of being judged by them (and if I actually made them see everything that lives in my heart I would be rejected) and set up against an ideal which I will never be. I don’t care for these material needs and find that there is much more important work to be made out there, I want a life of service filled with compassionate action. One thing that my meditation practice has done is definitely wake me up and gave me the drive and passion to try to live everyday with the most compassion and kindness that I can, that is what I find should define my upstanding member of society status.

I truly feel that they don’t know me at all, and that saddens me, and what saddens me even more is when I have tried to open up to them I just get an awkward “huh huh” and the conversation being changed or ended. One good example that I can think of is what I have asked for christmas and my birthday for the past 5 years. I have asked them to make a charitable donation in my name, an altruistic act by most people’s standards, and to no avail have never gotten it. I feel alone and misunderstood during these moments, like they are not listening to me and not making an effort to understand what is important and has meaning to me.

This makes me think of something that Vinny said in the first episode of the MTV show, If You Really Knew Me, that all he wanted his whole life was to be heard. This gets me thinking, isn’t that what we all really want in life? I think of the inmates that I saw in the penitentiaries during my volunteering, I always thought that most of these people would probably not be where they are today if they had just been heard in the past. This is a basic and natural human craving, and one that, if fulfilled, can have such a positive impact in the life of anyone. I find that it is completely absurd that we live in such a “civilized” world and that we still are not able to sit down and listen to each other, to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and “drop the waterline” if you will.

Albert Camus spoke of alienation, his theory of the absurd was born from the unreasonable silence from the world. We are left alone in a world that is meaningless and silent, so how are we to live life that has no meaning. The absurd is a central idea that I have personally wrestled with, and Camus’ understanding of the absurd is what has made the most sense. For Camus, happiness is fleeting and that the human condition is one of mortality. This was not to be morbid, but to help us have a greater appreciation of life and happiness. In his text, The Myth of Sisyphus, this dualism becomes a paradox: We value our lives and existence so greatly, but at the same time we know we will eventually die, and ultimately our endeavours are meaningless. While we can live with a dualism (I can accept periods of unhappiness, because I know I will also experience happiness to come), we cannot live with the paradox (I think my life is of great importance, but I also think it is meaningless). Camus suggests that ‘creation of meaning’, would entail a logical leap or a kind of philosophical suicide in order to find psychological comfort. But Camus wants to know if he can live with what logic and lucidity has uncovered – if one can build a foundation on what one knows and nothing more. Creation of meaning is not a viable alternative but a logical leap and an evasion of the problem. He gives examples of how others would seem to make this kind of leap. The alternative option, namely suicide, would entail another kind of leap, where one attempts to kill absurdity by destroying one of its terms (the human being). Camus points out, however, that there is no more meaning in death than there is in life, and that it simply evades the problem yet again. Camus concludes, that we must instead ‘entertain’ both death and the absurd, while never agreeing to their terms.

Camus made a significant contribution to a viewpoint of the absurd, and always rejected nihilism as a valid response.

“If nothing had any meaning, you would be right. But there is something that still has a meaning.” Second Letter to a German Friend, December 1943.

Camus’ understanding of the Absurd promotes public debate; his various offerings entice us to think about the absurd and offer our own contribution. Concepts such as cooperation, joint effort and solidarity are of key importance to Camus, though they are most likely sources of ‘relative’ versus ‘absolute’ meaning. Something that I think we could bridge the Absurd with Buddhism and meditation practice is this notion of relative meaning, we all know that everything is impermanent and is always changing, thus absolute meaning is impossible in our daily lives. I know that some of the teachings of the Buddha are true, but our relationship and understanding of them changes with time as our practice progresses. I have bared witness to this already in my practice and know that it is just the beginning. I guess I could use Camus in what I am living right now, the absurd (and the absurdity of my relationship with my parents) is something that I must co-exist with it and necessarily agree to its terms. One day maybe, I will be able to have an honest conversation with them, and actually be heard.

 

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