by M. Doretta Cornell, RDC
Earlier this week, a group of us watched the video
Happy, a documentary exploring current research into what people say makes them happy.
Not surprisingly, none of the things touted by television ads appeared in their lists: no fancy cars, or millions of dollars, or huge houses, or the latest tech gadgets. Primary among the things that make people happy are having supportive family and friends, and having a direction in life wider than oneself – and being compassionate.
In one little clip in the video, the Dalai Lama says that every person is born with compassion, that it is as natural a component of humanity as the blood in our veins, felt with first taste of our mother’s milk. We become unhappy in working against that innate direction.
The Science Slant
Current explorations in science demonstrate that having direction is not just a human concept but also a cosmic principle. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit and paleontologist who died in 1955, saw the direction of evolution as the movement of God drawing all matter into the spiritual realm and becoming perfectly united in God. I have been re-reading his work lately and am finding his ideas mirrored in my re-connections with the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations.
Like the elements of the universe, we humans also are moving toward more complex relationships, and modern transportation and communications have opened the possibility of relationships with people around the world. As we meet each other and come to know each other, we begin to understand that all people have the same needs and desires, and we are finding ways to meet the needs of all people.
Both Teilhard’s writings and the actions of the humanitarian agencies of the UN and the “Civil Societies” (UN lingo for NGOs or any entities that are not governments) show our increasing capacity for collaborative compassionate action.
Hope at the UN
Despite the continued outbreaks of violence, more the world’s people, and many of their governments, are recognizing the futility of violence to resolve the major problems of the world. The most vivid example of this for me was the recent refusal of the UN Security Council to sanction the bombing of Syria for using chemical weapons. No one defended that atrocity, but many saw that there were more effective ways than bombs to end it. Sure enough, a political resolution was quickly agreed on, and Syria is shipping the chemicals out of the country to be destroyed. The fighting in Syria continues, yes – but the proposed bombing would not have ended that, either, and bombing would almost certainly have meant the release of the chemical weapons on a larger number of Syrian civilians. The current talks among the groups fighting offer yet more hope for an end to the conflict.
Commission on Social Development
Even more striking and hopeful to me are the efforts of both governments and local and international organizations to find ways to alleviate the major injustices of the world. This past week and next, for instance, the Fifty-Second Session of the
Commission on Social Development is taking place at UN Headquarters in New York. People from around the world have gathered to share both the needs of people most affected by poverty, injustice and environmental devastation, and solutions that are being practiced.
Subjects of the meetings are the conditions of Earth’s oceans and forests, social conditions that hold people back in poverty, such as lack of water, sanitation, and food; economic inequality between groups in a society; inequality of opportunity and representation for women and girls; conflict resolution; and peace-building both to prevent and restore in the wake of conflict.
The search for solutions at the Commission is rooted deeply in compassion: recognition of the sacredness of each individual as a human being and the rights inherent in being human. Recently great efforts are being made to include people from least developed nations, allowing them a voice in creating the solutions and keeping the rest of us aware of how our choices affect other people’s lives..
Responsibility and Compassion
More and more, I hear recognition that we in developed nations are responsible as brothers and sisters to be more compassionate toward the people who are poorest and those with least opportunities to thrive on their own. We are also acknowledging that we have responsibility for the situations of many of these people, from the lingering devastation of a colonial past to the depredations of transnational corporations whose only goal is profit, usually at the expense of human rights and environmental integrity.
Seeing all this compassion-in-action brings me hope that the directions we choose can creat a better life for all peoples, and renewed ability to live in harmony with Earth’s processes and resources, so that all can thrive into the future.