Paradox, it’s all paradox. Now I need to find out a dictionary definition of the word. I know what I think I mean, but I’m going to check it out. This last few months have been an interesting period for me, where my curiosity spurs me into looking at some artefact or a piece of writing or just every day life, and the overwhelming sense of paradox seems to be shouting at me, as though it needs me to acknowledge its existence. Much like your toddler keeps hitting you to get your attention when you’re chatting to a friend, or the dog maintains a particular behaviour until you capitulate and fetch the lead. What is paradox trying to teach me?
This is what I found
1540, from L. paradoxum “paradox, statement seemingly absurd yet really true,” from Greek paradoxon, from neut. of adj. paradoxos “contrary to expectation, incredible,” from para- “contrary to” + doxa “opinion.” (1)
Seemingly absurd seems to sum it up quite neatly. It is this absurdity that keeps cropping up like fungi all over my days. Todays paradox that is in my mind is the huge gap that seems to be opening up like a chasm between the things that are spoken about and written about, and the deeds that are done. Take a simple example, last night I was watching a really wonderful television programme about the African wildlife, I had simply tuned in by accident really and was transfixed by the documentary about elephants. It spanned decades of time, so we were watching elephants in their natural habitat dealing with birth, death, and drought conditions without any intervention. ( Except when man had intervened in a negative manner, then the vets did help out). This footage of elephants caring for their young , sacrificing their needs to fulfil the needs of the herd, coming to terms with the death of close family members, moved me to tears. Elephants exhibit behaviours very similar to those we do, they get excited, they get sad, and they clearly have compassion for each other.
Then I watched a hard-hitting drama about gang crime, showing the horror of human interaction when compassion is absent.
Compassion is something that is big at the moment, it is talked about alot in the media, in the science community , amongst politicians. Society knows compassion is an important theme that has meaning to us, but somehow the talking about is has become bigger than the doing it. I don’t think you can teach compassion, you can teach about its relevance, you can recite feel good phrases that occupy thought. But compassion is modelled, not preached. One of the issues that complicates people acting with compassion is something fashionably termed ‘ compassion fatigue’. Put a name on it and its worth a research paper somewhere. Compassion fatigue is a response to the overwhelming amount of information we all have to filter living in the modern age. That can be compensated by thinking. Simply thinking about what you can do, what you are able to , and what you want to do will take us all somewhere better. Some problems are complex and cannot be improved by individuals. All the complex issues need cooperative teamwork to produce results. Humans are good at cooperating , it’s why we haven’t died out yet. What we need to remember is to engage with each other, act with compassion toward one another, we don’t need to even like each other to do that.
‘Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others. It crushes and destroys the pain of others; thus, it is called compassion. It is called compassion because it shelters and embraces the distressed.’ – The Buddha
Think elephant, and be the best human you can be. Nobody said it would be easy, and the person that needs changing the most in my world is me. Probably the same for you. Help me out here, and send me a message. Does this strike a chord with you? How the messages don’t reflect the society we are in? There’s an interesting website I found, which I will be returning to, I don’t know if it will be an effective vehicle for changing behaviours, but there’s no harm in trying.
(1) (Source Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):
Dictionary.com, “paradox,” in Online Etymology Dictionary. Source location: Douglas Harper, Historian. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paradox. Available: http://dictionary.reference.com. Accessed: August 23, 2012.)