June 13, 2010

Limiting Compassion Through Filtered Lives.

As Our World Expands, Our Focus Narrows.

I recently purchased a MacBook Pro. Giddy like a child, fingers tingling with excitement to get tapping on the keys, I began personalizing my settings. I started with the general appearance options and slowly made my way to the intimate Internet preferences. As I stared at the blank ‘Bookmark Bar’, indicating the sites that I consider my favorites, I began to think about the implications of which sites I would see every time I pulled up my browser. What do those sites say about me and my openness to the emotions of the world?

In this age of technological brilliance we find ourselves faced with a multitude of avenues to expand our world via the accessibility information and social networks. Within the realm of all these choices that we are privileged to make, we have the ability to expand our worlds, our own personal universes, on our terms. This ability to broaden our scope yet narrow our focus becomes increasingly critical when it comes to information discretion. The more information that available to us the more there is a need to control the inflow of influence in our lives. Although we are expanding the spacial area of our cyber reach, are we really expanding the quality of our connections with humanity?

These choices entice us to question our intentions. While it is empowering and comforting to carefully construct our own bubble of connection and influence, we first should question what effect these choices have beyond our own gratification. Choices like what news to ‘feed’ and what to ignore, which people to ‘friend’, ‘follow’ or ‘block’ and whether to ‘become a fan.”  We are forming our centers of influence. We have the ability to pave our own information paths with whatever stones, bricks, concrete or golden tiles we so desire; however, these choices are ascribed with a personal responsibility that I think many of us take for granted while allowing the weight of these choices to go unnoticed.

Is ignorance bliss?

Is knowledge power?

Our ego’s default is set on self-preservation / self-gratification mode protecting itself in fear of being vulnerable and hurt. It keeps us comfortable; however, comfort leads to complacency. Subjecting yourself to elements outside of your comfort level awakens and expands aspects of yourself that would normally lay dormant.

Just as an example, take Siddhartha Guatama, the son of King Suddhodana. Siddhartha had been sheltered and shielded from all suffering to preserve the sanctity and purity of the future king. It wasn’t until his 29th year, when he chose to walk among his people for the first time that he was subjected to, or even remotely aware of, poverty, aging, disease and death. Having acquired this knowledge of suffering, he traded his gilded life of a prince for the life of a mendicant armed with the unyielding desire to free all sentient being from suffering. That knowledge and awareness was the power that stimulated compassion and incited great change.

My concern is that, with our innate drive to be happy and to avoid our own suffering, we may be filtering out that which fuels compassion. How can we feel compassion without bearing the pain of others? Aristotle says, “We cannot learn without pain.” Allowing yourself to experience the suffering outside of your world stimulates and fuels compassion which will then motivates change. Simply ignoring these heartbreaking aspects of the world will not make them go away.

As I pondered my choices of web pages, blogs, and news feeds to add to my bookmarks, I realized that I had created a very clean and sheltered bubble around myself. To a certain level, I was allowing myself to stay ignorant to the world outside of my own carefully constructed and protected kingdom. Of course we all have our causes and philanthropic concerns, but are you really aware? Like the treatment of chickens for meat and eggs in the U.S., the amount of maternal and fetal deaths in Africa due to unskilled maternity care or the global famine and poverty statistics? It is overwhelming and heartbreaking to think about the suffering of the world but, if you were to open your hearts and your minds beyond your normal comfortable boundaries, what kind of changes would it spark in your life?

Are your choices made out of fear and self-preservation, or empathy and compassion? Ultimately, you are the person in control of your own personal settings, preferences, firewalls, and filters. Do you want to open your mind and heart up to the real world or just the world you choose to acknowledge? Be mindful that as our world expands with the aid of modern technology that you don’t filter out the fuel for compassion.

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