Who Cares? Compassion in the 21st Century 

In 1994 I was struck homeless in the same way Ramdass/Richard Alpert considers he was ‘stroked’—by an intangible force. One day I was relocating from a northern state to a more desirable clime, a week later I was sleeping in my car, realizing my life would never be the same.

Nothing and everything in the previous forty-seven years of my existence had prepared me for the experience that ensued. And while I recognized the spiritual aspect of what was happening, that knowledge didn’t ameliorate the harshness of the consequences, and I often wondered what I had done to deserve such a fate. My experience since then has demonstrated quite clearly that we do not have the control we think we have over our destiny, and begs the question “What is it that actually moves us through this life?”

The query often posed by well-meaning acquaintances, “Why don’t you just get a job?” could not be answered. I knew that this situation was not about ‘getting a job’—it was both a testing and an education: quite an extraordinary education in acceptance, non-judgment, trust and compassion—a curriculum unfortunately not available in our institutions of academe.

I learned, for instance, that however much there was, there was always enough to share—that the amount of food I thought I needed to satisfy my own hunger, when divided to provide sustenance for another, was somehow able to satisfy the hunger of both. Perhaps the act of sharing magically intensified the qualitative value of the food, or perhaps by sharing we precipitate Love. Lovers, as everyone knows, can live on air.

The friendships I made supported me and the kindness of strangers sustained me. I was particularly astonished by the deli manager in a supermarket who, when I’d have only thirty-two cents or some equally paltry amount to my name and request that amount of a particular foodstuff, would then give me a huge portion of that item and proceed to ring up whatever the amount I had mentioned. And I will never forget one fellow in a similar boat to mine who, when once I asked if he could spare a couple of dollars for lunch, took out and looked at the five singles his wallet contained and proceeded to give me three of them.

If we understand that humans are not only expressions of but conduits for the Divine, we understand that although fear might attempt to tell us otherwise, we are not limited by what we either possess or lack. After all, a tree produces more branches when pruned, and a plant more flowers when they are picked.

So if you consider yourself among the evolutionally advanced, walk the talk. “Think globally, act locally” is not just a catchy phrase.

Be an open channel for the energy of compassion to flow though you—on its way it will enhance the Love in your heart and create moments of wonder and awe at events which arise.

Be non-judgmental. If we take the position that need exists in some to awaken compassion in others and open our hearts, we will be the ones who benefit the most.

Trust me on this—I am speaking from experience.

For the past twelve years of ‘homelessness’ I have been the witness to, recipient of, and instrument in, acts of wonder and mystery that defy explanation. Over and over and over the trust I was drilled in proved itself profoundly, with the situations occurring and bounty extended ofttimes overwhelming in their breadth and depth of wonder-fullness.

And while I don’t expect anyone else to willingly embrace the deprivation and suffering I have endured on my own journey— not a position one may volunteer for at any rate—I can honestly say that I don’t regret a moment and have been transformed in ways both simple and profound.

The fact is, whether our lives are a series of cause and effect events or simply a storyline we meander through, the outcome is the same. And whether we are able to manipulate or cajole others to achieve our ends is always a crapshoot. The upshot being: when we lie on our deathbeds what will have been our greatest achievement—the things we have accumulated or the hearts we have touched?

One road leaves us tragically empty, the other filled in an incomparable way. I know the acts of kindness shown me have been light years more meaningful than all the expensive stuff I’ve acquired that has slipped through my fingers like grains of sand.

If we are not evolving into a civilization that understands and meets the needs of all its members as any enlightened family does, we are degenerating into a civilization that is self-righteous and (albeit apparently successful) self-destructive, and will ultimately render itself extinct. Who cares?

Ulupalakua July 2006

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