Thursday, June 7, 2007

95. To care deeply is to hurt deeply

It is far easier not to care, so much so that I am often envious of those people who seem to wander through life unaffected by the world around us. Perhaps, on some accounts, this is not a completely fair observation; however, I do know that if you do not care, you cannot get hurt.

For those that engross themselves in life, there are a number of injustices that must be reconciled. To care, and debate, about the consequences of each human action can make life a nearly unbearable endeavor. I have written of these instances consistently over the last four years. For example, to eat a hamburger can move some to tears over the life and death of the cow. To wear a diamond ring may bring to mind the wars fought over such luxuries. To read of war wrenches the soul of all the young lives wasted. And to witness the homeless and impoverished can be infuriating when we consider the incredible wealth shared by so few. It is easy to be a social critic; there is much to be critical about.

For those involved with social issues, there is a difference between caring, sharing compassion and offering support. The distinctions that follow are mine, as dictionaries tend to indistinctly blur their interpretations. There are a number of ways to live our lives, but it is a mistake if we do not realize that every decision we make has an effect on a number of other social, political and environmental conditions. On the other hand, to fret over every decision would bring our lives to a mental paralysis. We must consider a balance, one in which we support some issues, and truly care about others.

To care about an issue is to be willing to make a personal sacrifice in order to change things. If one cares about something, the passion is often consuming- to the depth that it affects one's soul. The level of activism nears obsession, as one makes personal sacrifices and works to persuade others. The sacrifice includes opportunity costs, and it may be financial or political as well as a significant time commitment. Many activists are even willing to go to prison in support of their cause.

Compassion is the recognition that an undesirable condition exists. It is cognitive-driven ideology, not an action-driven movement. There is typically an emotional involvement, usually sympathy; however, this emotional state is not strong enough to inspire more than a moderate amount of action.

The support of an issue or condition is generally an agreement that the condition exists and with those taking action. It lacks cognitive emotion, and any action is usually symbolic. The support at this level does not include the willingness to research the subject; much less make any personal sacrifices.

Vegetarianism, in terms of animal cruelty, is a simple example. Some people will support the issue, reacting only to the worst examples- such as those covered through the media. Those offering compassion to the issue may adopt the vegetarian ideology- perhaps also becoming vegetarians. However, those that really care about the issue, not only become vegetarians or vegans, but they also donate time and money to the cause. They attend lectures, inform others and maybe even get involved in picketing or protesting the worst offenders. For these people, it is often difficult to understand why everyone does not share their beliefs.

These ideologies require us to make personal decisions. Individuals must decide for themselves what level of commitment to submit to. I attended a lecture recently in which the speaker made this point, "People often say they love animals, but by eating them, they are supporting the miserable conditions in which they live and die." It is easy to understand that every chicken we eat encourages farmers to grow more chickens, as quickly as possible - often through methods that have proven the most profitable, regardless of the affect on the chickens. And under the assumption that most people know this condition exists, it is unfortunate that more are not willing to put forth the effort to alter their eating habits - because reality suggests that it takes more than the passion of a few to make a difference.

Most commit to their passions and either gloss over the rest or ignore that certain conditions exist. Life can be an overwhelming, but I am convinced that a little effort could make the endeavor better for everyone.

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