A few days ago my grandson, Felix Gabriel Xiaoyu was born.
It is wonderful being a granddad all over again. The delight of welcoming someone into your family is special. Holding him for the first time is even more special. Here is life in all its potential. In this little bundle that only weighs about 2.8 kilos (a little over 6 pounds) I am holding a human with all the potential of growth and development that I see everywhere around me when I step out of my home and look at the countless adults making their way through life.
To think that one day he will be walking by his own strength, talking intelligently to his peers and forging his own path as a unique human is an awesome thought.
Yet as I stare at this little bundle of helplessness, so totally dependant on others to feed him, clothe and nurture him I am reminded that he is a picture of all that is precious about life. Life in all its fulness, in all its attraction and vibrancy. Feeling his warmth, watching his tiny movements underline to me everything that we value about life.
What kind of human are you?
Recently I finished reading Human kind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman. Like the author I am hopeful of a future where we learn to cooperate, value and uphold one another. Like Rutger, I also believe in the power of community rather than in each of us playing a zero-sum game, where there are only winners and losers. Yet, the most powerful thing I found Rutger state in his book is in the power of compassion over empathy. Compassion translates into actions, whereas empathy by itself is feelings. Here is one small quote to give you a taster:
To give another example, let’s say your child is afraid of the dark. As a parent, you’re not going to crouch in a corner of the room and whimper alongside your son or daughter (empathy). Rather, you try to calm and comfort them (compassion).
It is precisely this quality of compassion that marks humanity at its best. Felix has nothing tangible to offer his parents today, yet filled with compassion and love, they will tend his every need. That is so natural. In fact, we see this repeated even among animals of all sorts.
Compassion is a true measure
My burning question though is why can’t we sustain an attitude of compassion to all people? (Rutger offers some answers to this, which is where I depart from his basic premises. His take is largely based on how we became competitive once we became landowners thousands of years ago and created distinctions through social and economic hierarchies. He also believes that we have biological biases toward our own people groups, which we somehow need to overcome. I am not denying that there is truth here, but it doesn’t answer the deepest question of “why”? Whether we like it or not, the most basic questions always seem to be beyond what we can measure or observe.)
Seeing the new life in Felix makes me long for a world where every child is held warmly, tenderly and lovingly by people who will serve him or her with compassion. Yet, that can only ever be the case as each of us looks deeply within and asks are we willing to sacrifice ourselves for others? I know that humankind has consistently failed this test, regardless of the many good things we have achieved.
My hope ultimately comes in a power beyond me, a power that was demonstrated within the life of a humble Middle Eastern Teacher who sacrificed himself to the utmost so that this world might know the power of new life. His life, death and resurrection offer hope for an enduring life of compassion to all.
I have come so that they may have life and have it to the fullJesus