Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ode Interviews Author Marc Ian Barasch on Compassion

Ode Magazine interviews Marc Ian Barasch, author of The Compassionate Life: Walking the Path of Kindness.

Ode interviews author Marc Ian Barasch on compassion

Marco Visscher | June/July 2009 issue

Marc Ian Barasch
Photo: Larry Laszlo

Ode met up with Marc Ian Barasch, author of The Compassionate Life: Walking the Path of Kindness. In his newly released book, Barasch—editor, writer, filmmaker and founder of the Green World Campaign—explores how we can open our hearts to others and to the world at large.

Can compassion and kindness survive a recession?

"Compassion isn’t just a smiley-face emotion that blooms in giddy times when everything’s coming up roses. The literal meaning of the word comes from the Latin compatior—to suffer with, to feel with. It’s about removing that clanking suit of armor that keeps us from being touched, that blocks our authentic responses. I’m not sure people were more compassionate in the so-called successful economy. All those Darwinian TV shows: You’re fired! Get off the island! Triumph doesn’t necessarily make individuals kinder. But when things go downhill, community becomes less dispensable. If everyone’s feeling vulnerable, it can restore that feeling of ‘We’re in this together.’ Compassion grows out of a willingness to share the human condition, not just the pursuit of happiness."

How can we create a compassionate world?

"We have to transform an unsustainable global system—it’s not compassionate to grind up our planet for disposable consumer goods, or ignore human misery. But we might also transform ourselves. The inner traditions advise us to pop out of that stream of discursive thought that characterizes everyday mind, and encounter each other without preconceptions. I’m a lifelong student of Buddhism, but even the esoteric doctrines come down to this: Stay awake and be kind."

You talk about "green compassion." What is that?

"It’s environmentalism as if people mattered. ‘Green’ is not just saving biodiversity and boosting clean tech, but supporting sustainable rural economies, rights of women, indigenous culture. In my work with Green World Campaign, we help villages on degraded land on three continents by fostering the ancient symbiosis between humans and nature. Agroforestry, for example, is a method dating back to prehistory that integrates trees and food crops, restoring productive soil and natural ecology. And more healthy trees means less CO2, which mitigates climate change. We need to do things that serve both people and planet."


Book Excerpt: The Compassionate Life, by Marc Barasch

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