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Waking Up: Consciousness and Compassion

Behold beauty

Do you have a special quote you keep at your desk or on the refrigerator? I have a bunch stuck with tape on the side of my desktop and thumbtacked on the cork board hung on wall. I can see them as I write this. Other quotes are still on the pages of books I like, marked with arrows or sticky notes. Today, I just have two food-for-thought pieces I want to pass along—about consciousness and compassion.


From the book The Feeling of What Happens by Antonio Damasio

” … consciousness is the critical biological function that allows us to know sorrow or know joy, to know suffering or know pleasure, to sense embarrassment or pride, to grieve for lost love or lost life. Whether individually experienced or observed, pathos is a by-product of consciousness and so is desire.

… Consciousness is, in effect, the key to a life examined, for better or for worse, our beginner’s permit into knowing all about the hunger, the thirst, the sex, the tears, the laughter, the kicks, the punches, the flow of images we call thought, the feelings, the words, the stories, the beliefs, the music and the poetry, the happiness and the ecstasy. At its simplest and most basic level, consciousness lets us recognize an irresistible urge to stay alive and develop a concern for the self. At its most complex and elaborate level, consciousness helps us develop a concern for other selves and improve the art of life.” (pg. 4, 5).


This next quote is from a card I bought in a shop that sold things made in Tibet. It’s a bit about compassion explained by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

“Usually, our concept of compassion or love refers to the feeling of closeness we have with our friends and loved ones. Sometimes compassion also carries a sense of pity. This is wrong, any love or compassion which entails looking down on the other is not genuine compassion. To be genuine, compassion must be based on respect for the other, and on the realization that others have the right to be happy and overcome suffering, just as much as you do. On this basis, since you can see that others are suffering, you develop a genuine sense of concern for them.”


Your writer on the wing,



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