It’s just one word, but in my view it’s easily one of the most important words that will come up in this project. In a social media fuelled culture of instants, where it’s all about an immediate ‘Like’ or ‘Love’ react to a picture, which is just a snapshot of our life, I feel like it’s easy to translate this attitude into real life.
We’re inevitably more inclined to make a much quicker judgment on someone, because that’s what we’re forced to do on social media. As I’ve mentioned before, I think ‘cancel culture’ is a product of this, because all it takes is one controversial comment by a celebrity, and they’re ‘cancelled’.
But is that one comment, or that one image, really representative of what that person’s actually like?
Having said this, social media can sometimes have a really positive impact in improving our willingness to see life from someone else’s perspective. Apps like Instagram and Facebook give people an amazing, far-reaching platform to share their story, and to shine a light on where they’re coming from, in their own words - take the #MeToo campaign, for example. It doesn’t all have to be filtered through a biased news report anymore (sorry, I’m hating on the news again…didn't someone say something about cultivating compassion…?)
From the Buddhist texts and teachings that I’ve read, there seems to be a really strong emphasis on removing judgment. In meditation, for example, it’s key to dispel any expectations or pressure that you put on yourself. If a weird idea or image pops into your head while meditating, you just stick a pin in it and label it neutrally as a thought - you don’t judge it.
Applying this to how we treat other people, I think it’s almost impossible to be truly compassionate without having some level of empathy alongside it. It helps so much in our quest to be kind and understanding, if we genuinely do understand where the person is coming from and why they’re acting as they are.
On a personal note, I know that if I’m stressed or upset with myself about something, it can impact how I react to other people. I might be a bit shorter with them, and have less patience. This experience is useful in that if anyone is particularly short or impatient with me, my initial reaction might be one of annoyance. But if I step in their shoes for a moment, I can appreciate that, like me, it’s just because they’re stressed or upset about something, and that’s why they’re taking it out on those around them. This helps me react to them not with anger or annoyance, but with compassion.
I know I might sound like a broken record (ironic given that I’m trying to combine these teachings with music…!), but this again links back to the idea of us all sharing common ground in that we’re all human (Song 2). We often share similar emotions and similar reactions to those emotions, which can help us greatly in empathising with others.
“So on we go, his welfare is my concern, no burden is he to bear, we’ll get there”
Everyone’s fighting their own personal battles, however small or insignificant they might look from the outside. This song highlights that we’re all on the same road in a way, we’re all trying to figure our lives out, so why not help each other on our journey?
“While we’re on the way there, why not share? And the load doesn’t weigh me down at all, he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”
They might be singing specifically about brotherhood, but this can be applied to all our relationships in life. Everyone’s suffering is valid, so just as the Dalai Lama says we shouldn’t judge ourselves, he also says that we shouldn’t judge others. This will help make those around us happier, as well as bringing us closer to them and again, tying in with Song 8, this makes the world seem a much friendlier place.
I want to finish today’s post with one of the (only) useful things I got out of A-Level English, because I think it perfectly summarises what I’m trying to say. It’s this amazing quote from Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird -
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”