Time for A New Design – Multi-Dimensional Compassion – Human Stewardship
My relationship to singable songs is to sing them! Lyrics stick in my head, along with tunes. Recording artists and song titles usually do not.
Among songs written and performed as “anti-Vietnam war” protest pieces is a song I know as “New Design”. The lyrics include: “Who’s that standing over in the corner – Mary’s out looking for a lover of hers; went overseas two days ago – I think she’s gonna’ have to find another. … I’m not saying how I think it should be; all I’m saying is it don’t look right to me – Gonna have to find, a new design, gonna have to find, a new design.”I’ve spent time browsing the net to discover whose song it was, and its real title. No luck!
The lines with most lasting appeal to me are: “I’m not saying how I think it should be; all I’m saying is it don’t look right to me – Gonna have to find, a new design …”
Yep! Pretty much all human approaches to “managing our lives, politics, economies” “Don’t look right to me”. Coming up with “A New Design” seems essential. Especially given that much of what we presently think, believe, practice, has “social/political/economic” heritage reaching back thousands of years. Most of what we believe “new” is adjustment of the ‘old’ – the very old.
Wealth accumulation, for example, has been with us for as long back in history as awareness reaches (within ‘systematically organized’ cultures at any rate – from tribal approaches to modern industrialized nations..). Various systems for “wealth re-distribution” are found. These are deemed successful, or not, depending on how the largest portion of the population finds them, or on who claims authority to evaluate.
Warring – for expansion and/or resources has long been with us as well. So has migration of individuals and groups to “find a better (or less dangerous) life”. There has long been willingness to confuse “ordinary human frailty “We all die eventually”, with “socially, culturally, created collateral loss of well-being and life”. We say the first is “unavoidable” and therefore so is the second.
We’ve seen thousands of years of “wealth” existing with “extreme poverty”; power alongside disenfranchisement.
We once thought we had a ‘new design’. We thought: if we can only “tweak” Greek, Roman, and other* models of ‘democracy’ we will assure ourselves of success in human endeavor.
(*”The people of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois Confederacy, …Located in the northeastern region of North America, … comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence … The original United States representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations. In our present day, we can benefit immensely, in our quest to establish anew a government truly dedicated to all life’s liberty and happiness much as has been practiced by the Six Nations for over 800 hundred years.” … from Exemplar of Liberty, Native America and the Evolution of Democracy, Chp.8, “A New Chapter, Images of native America in the writings of Franklin, Jefferson, and Paine”
And ‘tweak’ we did. Left out voices of some, organized voting voices of others, disregarded rights and suffering of those we ‘conquered’ .. all in the name of “something new”. If we had stopped to pay attention to our actions, we might have noticed our “new” form of government, promoting justice and freedom “for all”, included modeling from a people we soon marginalized by intent (the people of the Six Nations!) Unhampered by awareness of this particular inconsistency, we carried on. We, in the United States, have managed to create our own version of extreme disparity in wealth and opportunity – more than once in our history – and we’re at it again. Given that we are of humankind, this should not surprise us.
Nor should it stop us from reaching once again to a “new design”; as this one is increasingly showing its flaws.
In the ever-flowing development of “human unfolding”, there is much complexity. To say so is understatement. More than that – it’s Grand Understatement – perhaps The Ultimate Understatement! Still, any effort at ‘new design’ will have to take extreme complexity into account. On the other hand, a single ‘paradigm shift’ (but a big, comprehensive, one ,”The mother of all paradigm shifts”, might do the trick.
John Cairns Jr, titles an article in the review: “Speculations in Science and Technology” (Vol. 21, No. 1, March, 1998) “Replacing targeted compassion with multidimensional compassion: an essential paradigm shift to achieve sustainability”. (The article can be ordered at http://www.springerlink.com/content/p11x402h23t16349/ .. with all apologies, my personal operating budget is extremely limited, so I draw from the article’s first page, freely offered.)
The author quotes Tolkien: “ “The rule of no realm is mine, but all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?” J.R.R. Tolkien.”
Cairns’ article seems focused on ourselves as stewards of nature, with examination of – for instance – hunting regulations that may enhance one population but without intent harm another, or create environmental imbalance. But I believe key concepts found in his title need to be incorporated into any truly new design we humanfolk concoct: “targeted compassion” must be replaced with “multi-dimensional compassion”. If we are to arrive at a new design, it will need to be comprehensive in scope. It requires universal application, and eventually global practice.
The Tolkien quote points to what is meant by “multi-dimensional compassion” and its operating principles. “No realm” (no lines drawn). “…all worthy things … are my care.” (some possibility for drawing lines by evaluating ‘worthy’ but not if ‘no realm’ is held intact.) “For I too am a steward.” Naming stewardship toward “all”, without distinction of “realm,” captures the paradigm I believe we must embrace.
Multi-dimensional compassion as paradigm is not a new concept. “Unconditional regard”, “unconditional love”, “inter-connectedness of everything”, abound as phrases in popular culture. And “modern, popular culture” cannot lay claim to these phrases, their meaning, as “new”. Ancient teachings from around the globe point to the same “way out”, or “way through”. In recent decades, we have merely reached back and hauled these up for examination, sometimes bringing these into more of our practice.
Whew and gasp! Shall we ever actually take the ancient wisdom to heart – actually bring it into consistent practice? Cairns in only a few title words suggests what is needed: we require “an essential paradigm shift”.
Such a shift cannot be a ‘half-way’ measure. And that is where we are presently “stuck”, I believe. Even though we may claim to embrace “unconditional regard” and the “interconnectedness of everything”, we stick at a ‘half-way’ approach, “targeted compassion.”
“Targeted compassion” in the arena of human inter-actions, is “tribal”. It has ‘realms’. It ‘draws lines’. It begins with “me and my group” and distinguishes ‘us’ from ‘everyone else’: “No matter how much need is brought to me and my group’s attention, we must first see to ourselves”. It rationalizes tribalistic view over a ‘multi-dimensional’ paradigm, which in turn prevents possibility of finding “reasonableness” in accepting stewardship of the whole of humanity, all of life, our very earth.
It is very reasonable to say, and actually experience, that we can’t look after everything and everybody that needs attention – no matter how legitimate the need! The reasonableness of this paradigm allows us to tack on a few additional reasonable qualifiers to stewardship practices: (“We will do more to share material resources, but first we have to fight another war – get rid of ‘the bad guys’;”) (“We know there are great wealth, resource, and opportunity inequities, but that’s ‘nature’;”) (“Suffering is in nature, some (humans and animals) suffer more than others – you can’t change nature;” — this assumes humankind has explored all options;) (“I can do ‘this’ much – then I need a holiday to refresh myself so I can do more later.”)
Targeted compassion is not ‘multi-dimensional’ compassion. Full-blown multi-dimensional compassion challenges our paradigms of ‘reasonableness’. It may mean doing things like converting military transport vehicles and vessels to carry food and medical supplies. It may mean looking at “human habitual practice of wealth accumulation across thousands of years” and agreeing it’s not working out so well on a number of counts.
Shifting from targeted to multi-dimensional compassion may mean convincing ourselves, those in our groups, and those in other groups, that “we are down to the wire” in terms of need to “get real” about who we are and what we intend for life, for the earth.
I do not know how “full” a paradigm of “multi-dimensional compassion” Cairns intends by his title or article. But I like his vocabulary key phrases: “targeted compassion”, “multi-dimensional compassion”, “essential paradigm shift”. I like his Tolkien quote and its phrases: “the rule of no realm”, “all worthy things .. are my care”, “For I too am steward.”
Given thousands of years of “same old same old” re-emerging, despite social, political, and economic structures, I strongly favor more thought on a “new design”. I suggest we take a more curious and genuinely interested look at ourselves as humankind – individually and collected in groups. If a new design is to have chance at being “new”, it needs to take into account what paradigms are, how we acquire them. We need to understand our own normal human tendency to practice “half-way” (targeted) compassion even as we say “muti-dimensional” gives greater success.
To a New Design! – MaggieAnn
(If anyone knows who wrote and/or recorded the song I reference – please let me know! – It’s a Great Song! … Thanks!)