A Compassionate Life.

I seem to have got over the self-indulgent whining of the last post (although, isn’t that one of the whole points of a blog?). For now, anyway.

I might put some sort of disclaimer in  the title next time so that people are forewarned and can just click on by.

Last week wasn’t a total loss, however; there was quite a serendipitous occurrence. Within the comments responding to my guest post over at Tamara Out Loud, there was reference to a radio interview on BBC Radio 4 titled “Faith and Doubt’.  It included a panel of 4 people, discussing their perspectives on, as you would imagine, religion, faith and doubt.

Well. Talk about a whole treasure trove of enlightening ideas and ‘yes’ moments. So much resonated with me, and it’s really worth a listen if you have a spare 43 minutes.

One of the points that stuck with me was the idea that most of the great faiths, including Christianity in the past, expressed religion as a form of action. You learn by doing; it’s a practical knowledge. You don’t learn to swim by reading a book, for example. The actual practice is more important than the theory.

When applied to faith,  this practical aspect serves both the practitioner and other people. If you are driven to act in an altruistic way because of your belief then many benefit. There is the idea that as people move away from institutions, or if it is purely an internal dialogue and journey (hello, me) then the practical aspect disappears. Religion, as an intellectual construct, is fairly self indulgent and, if it is just tied up with the Ego (MY Belief, MY church) then it is little more than a form of idolatry.

Now, this is something that I’ve discussed before- the importance, as I see it, that religion be a force for good. A way to inspire people to be proactive in improving the world.

One of the panellist featured on the program was Karen Armstrong. She is an ex-Nun, and now writes and speaks on the major world religions. She seems thoughtful and perceptive, and she often just plain makes sense to me. Last year, I bought her book ‘Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life’, and promptly put it away in a cupboard. I do this a lot, actually. I know that I will want to read a book one day, I’m just not quite ready for it yet (This is useful on so many levels; it enables my need to spend money somewhat compulsively and helps my desire to self improve at some intangible point in the future). Given that this book seems like an action plan, and they are not my particular area of expertise, I wasn’t ready for it. But, now I’ve been thinking about intellectual constructs vs. practical action, and how important taking the step is, I’ve decided that its time. There’s the worry that she’s actually going to require me to do stuff though, which as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, makes me uncomfortable.

This is a perfect time to segue into why it’s a hard to be an activist AND an introvert. Stand by…

7 thoughts on “A Compassionate Life.

  1. I think one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in the Christian faith is realizing that our “action step” isn’t just reading. So many value reading the Bible over serving others, and I just don’t understand that mindset. I fail to see how reading the Bible can help affect change or propagate the Gospel.

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  3. Ooh . . . l like this post a lot. Welcome back. (I did notice you were “missing” for a while.) Congratulations on baby #4. I don’t remember how old your other boys are, but they are pretty young? I’m sure the volume of your home is similar to ours. Hope you are feeling better; I only had mild sickness with my pregnancies and I was pretty much a wimp with that as it was. Your comment above made me snicker a bit. I can see how memorizing a verse or two (as an adult) can help you to have something to focus on, meditate on, or whatever, but I NEVER understood the programs that teach children/toddlers (!) to do so. I know adults who can “quote” 1/3 of scripture, and 4-year-olds who can spout off entire verses, but why? I do believe reading the Bible IS important (I do it myself mostly every day) but if I’m not also DOING something, showing my children that this is how we are kind to others, what’s the point? As Adrian said, being knowledgable about the Gospel is not an action.

  4. Hey, morning sickness is all relative. Don’t feel you were a wimp. I’ve never been hospitalised, so my ‘I vomited 15 times today and twice was on the dog and spent 3 hours on the sofa crying for my Mummy’ anecdotes pale into comparison with some peoples!
    I’m terrible at memorisation anyway. My favourite bit of the Bible is that ‘walk humbly’ bit from Micah and I can’t even remember it! And the only reason that I even know that it’s from Micah is that ‘Micah’ is a possible name for Boy Number 4, and I decided that I’d better read it last night to make sure there wasn’t lots of rape and killing babies in it 😉

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