Thank you, everyone, for a great discussion!
Before I go into my own thoughts I’d like to recap a few points that I felt really guided our discussion:
- Judith Butler, “Speaking of Rage and Grief”: resisting that which is satisfying in war–in rag
- Avoiding binarisms to allow for meditation on one’s grief and rage
- Understanding of another in order to bring that person from an outer group to an inner group
- How does this concept of “unknown” lead to our dehumanization of others?
- How are our own bodies barriers or walls?
- How does one learn something new in a situation that only concretizes all they have ever known?
- How may art be used as a creative strategy in order to assist in learning/unlearning?
- Reconsidering the definition of words
A week later, after this class, I am still curious about learning/teaching compassion and the problematics in claiming universalism — “we are of one blood” — while still reaching beyond our own humanness and ego in order to see another’s humanness. So my thinking is that maybe it’s not so much thinking about how “we are all the same,” but rather working against the instinctual reaction to create inner and outer groups. To claim that sameness, and this is very tricky for me to explain, just feels like it could leave a large group out, and though I understand the sentiment behind it my semantics detector is going off. It just doesn’t work for me as an answer. As the video on Teaching Compassion explained, practicing compassion is work. It is an effort. That’s not to say we should be struggling with compassion, but I feel like we should sit with things that appear too easy. Now let’s take this body as wall, our containers being the ultimate barrier. Working against our own subjectivity — our own concepts of reality — would mean considering other’s realities. Because when we sit with our own internal agreements, that’s too easy — should we be comfortable with our own subjectivity when it comes to compassion? Now here come all of my questions…
Would it follow that once we recognize an other’s subjectivity in that they, too, have their own constructed realities, that we have looked over the wall? Then, as Judith Butler explains in Rage/Grief, once I recognize that there is a “you” in relation to me, and that the “you” helps me survive, do we begin to go over the wall? Or are these steps flipped? Or are there any steps at all in breaking beyond our self-barriers? Does unlearning require a physical you, or a concept of you? And once we learn what you is, and that you are your own subject and we are not the same, can we find compassion? But what if we don’t like each other? Then would that require meditation or are we allowed to express a sort of violence? And here we go trying to resist that which is satisfying about violence, yes? To get one’s rage against someone else out. But is it that someone that causes you rage and grief, or the system under which they operate that you are angry against? Does the body become the scapegoat for the system? Where do we draw the line? Where does “don’t be mean to each other” not apply?
All of this rambling and circuitous thinking has gotten me to one place that I feel confident in putting a period mark after, not a question mark. Compassion requires a non-binarial meditation on one’s relationship to an other. It feels a bit Vulcan (*link included to Star Trek reference) to me, understanding the root of one’s emotions in order to take the logical steps — maybe one could say this is a bit of stoicism as well? (*Related: Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations.”) And peace is quite logical! It is not this flighty, wimpy thing. So if compassion is one of the logical steps to take to peace, then what is the logical step for compassion? Meditation. Understanding what compassion is beyond just our own constructed realities, our own barriers.