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Charter for Compassion

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Somewhat in shock that I am posting a link to a Chautauqua Institution lecture by Karen Armstrong, I feel I must reiterate my agnosticism which is not challenged by the lecture.

When I say I am agnostic, I do not mean that I am waiting for God to prove he exists. No, I just admit I don't know. (that's not an invite to discuss scripture either. :hug: )

Anyway back to this important lecture by Karen Armstrong, who has spent many years comparing world religions and like many before her, she has found that the central theme of all religions and "Ways of Life" is the Golden Rule.

I know you are all familiar with the Golden rule because it is in AwesomeDude's House Rules:

Just to elaborate for a moment, let me quote Wiki which sums up this portion of Ms Armstrong's presentation on the Golden Rule.

It exists in both positive (generally structured in the form of "do to others what you would like to be done to you") and negative form (structured in the form of "do not do to others what you would not like to be done to you"). While similar, these forms are not strictly the same; ....

Karen Armstrong writings, won her an award from TED. (TED is a small nonprofit [organisation] devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.)

The TED award was in the form of granting Karen Armstrong a wish.

This is where it gets a little weird, given the recent mentions of compassion here at AD forums.

Karen stated she wanted help to create a Charter for Compassion as an activity rather than a simple proclamation.

The Charter is ready to be released shortly and with support from most of the world's major religions as well as many secular organisations. A feat I would have thought impossible, but certainly with merit.

I can thoroughly recommend her Chautauqua Institution 74 minute lecture. Make yourself a cup of tea, coffee, brandy on the rocks, a snack and sit back and watch this remarkable woman sharing her vision with us all.

I warn only that the tone of the language is oriented a little on the religious side, but hey If I can cope then surely most of you can. I suspect Karen Armstrong is not judgemental of sexual orientation and certainly she is not pushing any particular religion. She wrote a book about her time as a Catholic nun and it did not make her popular with the Vatican evidently. I have also seen criticism of her as a religious moderate, an assessment I don't find necessary to make.

Okay so you don't have the time to go visit TED or watch her lecture? Right then got to the home page for the Charter for Compassion and watch the short video there, which will give you an idea of why I find this whole endeavour so interesting. Hopefully you will too.

Friends we live in torrid times. Again and again, even here in Adelaide, I see references to the difficulties not just of climate change and world catastrophes, terrorism and its horrors, but also to the changes that now face the human race as a world community. The Charter for Compassion will be much needed if it is implemented as conveyed in the above sites and backed by so many people from so many different backgrounds.

Idealism? If it works, I don't care what you call it.

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Friends we live in torrid times. Again and again, even here in Adelaide, I see references to the difficulties not just of climate change and world catastrophes, terrorism and its horrors, but also to the changes that now face the human race as a world community. The Charter for Compassion will be much needed if it is implemented as conveyed in the above sites and backed by so many people from so many different backgrounds.

Idealism? If it works, I don't care what you call it.

Des, I'm with Karen and you. I listened to her talk and the several questions/answers that followed. I found her talk fascinating, stimulating and very thought provoking. I was disheartened by some of the agressiveness by a few questioners. I wondered if they heard the same lecture that I did as confrontation rather than compassion seemed to be their modus operandi.

Karen was very good at staying in a compassionate mode. However, that being said I despair that there are too many negative purveyors of thought in this world to allow such a compassionate world to exist effectively.

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I couldn't view the lecture because to do so I'd need Adobe 9 installed and this isn't my computer. But I can address Rubilacxe's statement, I think. As I?m not seeing the video, I can only imagine what's there.

However, I'll try.

I've been to Chautauqua a number of times. It's a famous institution in the southwestern corner of NY state. It is something of a resort community, situated behind walls and on a lake, an eponymous one. I believe it's one of the finger lakes, but may not be. They may be farther east. However, moving forward, inside the walls are many houses, hotels, the lakefront, recreational facilities, and, because a large component of the Chautauqua Institution is for music, both performance and teaching, many small practice rooms.

There is a large open-air but covered performance hall. All wooden benches in an amphitheater format. That is where the evening concerts are held, and where the lectures are given. I assume, without seeing the video, that that's where Karen lectured.

While there are people of all ages at Chautauqua, there are a predominant number of old people. They summer at the institution and attend the daily music performances and lectures. A number of the lectures have a religious content, but they cover a plethora of topics. Many of the old people, the vast majority of those staying in the institution, have religious backgrounds.

I would assume the crowd attending Karen's lecture was old people. People set in their ways, people espousing strong religious views, people who grew up being told homosexuality was an aberration, people with a strict view of religion and society.

If her views differed from those of this crowd, I'm not at all surprised she got some confrontational questions. She was on their turf. Not all old people are as pleasant and polite as Des and I are, especially when their values are being challenged.

This doesn't excuse them if they were rude.


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The lecture was given in the outdoor ampitheatre, the crowd was definitely gray haired (as I am) but the questioners were most in their 30's. These younger individuals tended to be more 'partisan' to me.

I expected these type of questions with a harder edge--I am just saddened that after an hour lecture delineating the parallel ways the world's religions have come to the same point would have been heard clearer by some of those posers. It is they who will have to be reached along with the naysayers for this admirable wish to be granted.

By the way, of you go to www.fora.tv and register (it's free), you can download the lecture (250Mb) in wmv format.

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Thanks Rubilacxe, I am pleased you found the video of interest and thought provoking.

Like you I wondered if some of the questioners had listened to Karen.

I suspect she is able to maintain a compassionate mode because she preaches what she has learned to practise.

Karen gave me the impression, that she understood that the aggressiveness, in some of the questions came from people who were interested in what she proposed, but were unsure of its validity because of their own life experiences and conclusions. I think she recognised that understanding that her mantra of everyday, all day, is something that takes time and effort to adopt. This understanding allowed her to maintain her composure of compassion. I think she knows that only by example can we hope to spread compassion, but it has to be genuine and not fabricated.

Also being compassionate does not mean isolating yourself from the negativity, it rather means we must be willing to see the horrors, in order to realise the moment, so we might see how best we may care for all parties caught in distress. Not easy, I admit. And not always, is it possible to be of assistance, through no fault of anyone.

Cole, I have seen several of the various Chautauqua lectures available at Fora.TV, and far from finding the people there to be set in their ways, I think they seem to be intelligent and some are definitely religious folk who are not of the fire and brimstone brigade. I could be wrong, but they strike me as thoughtful people, with inquiring minds. Certainly Karen is not beyond stating her disapproval of extremists.

You are correct in saying that many of the audience were older people, but they also seemed to respect and respond to Karen's lecture in a most positive manner. I guess that alone led Rubilacxe and me to be surprised at some of the questioners at least missing the point. I guess it depends on what you bring to that kind of lecture in preparedness to consider another's point of view.

Cole, I hope you get the opportunity to see the lecture soon.

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I didn't mean to suggest the people who go to Chautauqua are rabble-rousers or hard headed right- wingers. Chautauqua attracts really intellingent, learned, good people. The place features daily classical music concerts, name entertainers and speakers like Bill Cosby and both Clintons, the editor of the Washington Post--really top drawer people. The folks that like to attend that kind of performance are intellectually and emotionally interested in hearing what these people have to say, and to enjoy classical symphonies and instrumental performances.

The lectures and music performances are all free. The cost to get onto the grounds is substantial. But the people who attend are generally quite able to afford the place.


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