Sacred Disorder | Cliff Bostock's blog – 'Finally, I came to regard as sacred the disorder of my mind' (Rimbaud)

Is compassion a lost virtue?

There is a new, wonderful video by Krista Tippett for TED. She is host of the NPR  show “On Being.” I especially like the way she compares tolerance and compassion. Many people inappropriately conflate the two.

Followers of James Hillman’s work will be interested to hear that Krista associates compassion with beauty and notes that her Muslim radio guests often describe beauty as a moral value. That’s quite consistent with Sufism in particular. (Check out Ibn Arabi’s Alone with the Alone.)

Here’s a blurb about beauty from an interview with Hillman:

London: You write that one of the most stultifying things about modern psychology is that it’s lost its sense of beauty.

Hillman: Yes, if it ever had one. Beauty has never been an important topic in the writings of the major psychologists. In fact, for Jung, aesthetics is a weak, early stage of development. He follows the Germanic view that ethics is more important than aesthetics, and he draws a stark contrast between the two. Freud may have written about literature a bit, but an aesthetic sensitivity is not part of his psychology.

London: And this has trickled down to therapists today?

Beauty is something everybody longs for, needs, and tries to obtain in some way — whether through nature, or a man or a woman, or music, or whatever. The soul yearns for it. Psychology seems to have forgotten that.

Hillman: Yes. Art, for example, becomes “art therapy.” When patients make music, it becomes “music therapy.” When the arts are used for “therapy” in this way, they are degraded to a secondary position.

It’s also cool that the subject of Krista’s talk, compassion, is probably the main goal of Buddhist mindfulness practices. I’m not a good meditator but try to remind myself of the value frequently.

(A good book on beauty and moral values is Elaine Scarry’s On Beauty and Being Just.)

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There are 1 Comments to "Is compassion a lost virtue?"

  • Jesus Regalado says:

    Nice speech, except for one glaring moment of dissonance, namely, when the speaker slammed a Dutch translation of “compassion” as “pity,,” dismissing it as a faulty translation and calling it an “iconic example” of how the concept is misunderstood. Seems ironic, since the whole talk was about the deeper meanings of words. Would it not have been more illuminating to wonder WHY it was translated this way? Could it not be that “Dutch pity” is as compassionate as “our” compassion, or even more so, since it apparently does not carry the negative connotation of a condescending regard for the plight of others?

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