Attention or Compassion?

Following the devastation caused by the recent earthquake in Italy, I have been wondering and worrying too.

I hate it when newscasters talk about their top 'story'. News, especially tragic news, are not stories! They are real events affecting real people in their real lives. I also dislike the voyeuristic media attention that eventually evaporates to leave little of any value for the people affected. What is happening in Italy now, only a couple of weeks or so after the event? Nobody knows....

It is true that there can be no compassion for people in pain without first bringing them to our attention but it is equally true that there can be massive attention without compassion. In fact, too much attention - in particular to the goriest details - can cause numbing which in turn deadens compassion.

To me, there is something unhealthy about the way the media reports what is happening in the world. I quote Barack Obama because, althouth he was referring to government,  I believe his comment is valid for our media also:

"There's also an impatience  [....] that insists on instant gratification in the form of immediate results or higher poll  numbers. When a crisis hits, there is all too often a lurch from shock to trance, with everyone responding to the tempest of the moment until the furor has died down.....instead of confronting major challenges that will shape our future in a sustained focused way".

Joe Klein of TIME Magazine speaks of "the quick-fix, sugar-rush, attention deficit society of the postmodern age" and adds about media reports:  "These are the soap bubbles of public life today. They have become the hasty, capricious, bite-size way that the world is experienced. It has made for slovenly, sandy citizenship".

Worse still, those soap bubbles have turned us into impotent voyeurs who are becoming overloaded with distant human suffering.  And there lies the dilemma: too much suffering and we all switch off - not enough suffering and we treat the catastrophies that befall others as blurred wallpaper we no longer see. I count myself in this 'we'.

I have learnt the hard way that my bleeding does not heal another, my suffering does not take anyone else's pain away, and my sinking into a black hole does not shed light for anybody else.

I also know in my very soul that compassion for another is central to who I am. So, I asked myself this good old coaching question:

In what way could I remain compassionate without draining my much needed energy?

It only took me two weeks (no instant gratification here!) for me to come to this piece of insight: I remain compassionate by being compassionate for me. If I include myself in my Circle of Compassion I sit right in the middle of it, where I suppose you could say my Source is. If I stand outside the circle focusing my attention on it, eventually the circle shrinks as my energy gets drained.

I hear some of you thinking '' this is so obvious! Two weeks to get to that!!". Yep. Just goes to show that I can be spectacularly dumb....

I guess that in my circle model, attention is eccentric and compassion is concentric. Attention is like shining a torch and compassion is like being a lighthouse.

Maybe that's just what we need in our ocean of 24 hour news 'stories': not a collection of little torches but a great big lighthouse. This may just bring us all safely back to the shore of our shared citizenship and our common humanity.

I think I've been as sea myself for too long :0) ..........

As usual

As usual- written with clarity and class. Wonderfully thought provoking...(I'm currently visualising a huge circle for me to sit in btw!) x

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