Faith Voices: Interdependence as Compassion – Marie Venner

Two parts of our faith traditions that are core to our work at Together Colorado are compassion and prophetic voice.

The great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said the following about what it means to be human — “a dreadful oblivion prevails in the world. The world has forgotten what it means to be human. The gap is widening, the abyss is within the self.” We might add that this is true in the degree to which we acknowledge and honor creation.

Compassion is the living out of our interdependence. Today, science joins our faith in understanding that interdependence is key to all living things. There is a habit in the universe of cooperation and interdependence—not rugged individualism. Thomas Merton said, “the whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all living beings, which are all part of one another and all involved in one another.” 

The Dalai Lama likewise lifts up compassion: “We can do away with all religion, but we can’t do away with compassion—compassion is my religion.” In the Qur’an, one of the 99 names for Allah is “Allah, the compassionate one.”

One of our deepest capacities as a species is our capacity to act as if we truly are part and parcel of one another, in joy as well as in sorrow. Compassion calls us to create a society where all are winners and none are losers  an economic system, a political system, a health care system, an educational system  where we all have a fair chance and where the dispossessed are not forgotten, not just the two-legged ones, but all our fellow creatures.

When people of all races march in the name of “Black Lives Matter” and against racism embedded in history, in police and judicial systems, and our other institutions, they are talking about our interdependence. Being human is accepting others’ humanity—your pain is my pain.

Compassion is a way of seeing the world and acting on that vision. Interdependence calls for participation in action. We celebrate the space and community where we come together to do just that in both our local communities and the wider community of Together Colorado.

Marie Venner,
Metro Denver Faith Leaders Caucus 

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