Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rush Limbaugh and the Enemies of Compassion

Jesus Dined with the Sinners

I find Rush Limbaugh's language appalling. I find Rush Limbaugh revolting. I can't stand him.

His misogyny is only one of the many reasons for my dislike. His whole approach to the world disgusts me. He's a bully, and he encourages other bullies to do more bullying. He's hurtful and abusive and mean and small-minded. And vicious.

Shouldn't it be enough to assess him and his work, draw a conclusion, and stand against him in my words and actions?

Well, no, actually. Because doing that only addresses a symptom.

In my shamanic journeywork over the last few years, I had the good fortune to contemplate Jesus from time to time. I've learned a lot from contemplating the man, his messages, and his techniques.

I've been thinking a lot about "Love thine enemies" lately, and trying to get my mind around its purpose and power. I've been thinking a lot about "turn the other cheek". These are very powerful tools, I suspect, if only we actually understood how to use them... and why.

I'm determined to get the hang of these tools, if only because they're so confoundingly paradoxical.

More importantly, I think they're actually a necessary tool in the toolkit (weapon in the arsenal?) of any modern-day Peacemaker ("Blessed are the Peacemakers…"), and Lord knows we sure need some effective peace-making around here.

One other thing I've been privileged to witness is how Jesus heals.

Back to Rush Limbaugh.

Rush Limbaugh is in agony. He's in the kind of pain that only gets alleviated when he, for a moment, can express his rage and pain as an attack on somebody else, and, for a moment, he gets attention. For a moment, he feels like somebody is noticing him. Like somebody cares (about him). It's no surprise that he was addicted pain killers.

What kind of pain must he be in, that doing what he does makes him feel better? Can you imagine that kind of pain?

Don't judge him. BE him.

What would you have to be experiencing to make you behave that way?

A friend posted a link to this fantastic TED talk that hit home. Joan Halifax shares profound perspectives on experiencing empathy:

In it, she draws a contrast between natural compassion and "sentimental" compassion, and shares her experience of compassion in poignant detail. I encourage you to witness her whole presentation. But two points I want to draw forward:

1) Compassion is composed of the ability to see clearly into the nature of suffering. Compassion is when we recognize that we're not separate from that suffering. And when we recognize that our attachment to outcome distorts our ability to be present to the whole scene in which the suffering is occurring.

2) Compassion has enemies. They are Pity, Moral Outrage, and Fear. I was surprised by what she named, but it makes complete sense.

So when I look at Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke, what are the aspects of true, natural compassion that I struggle to embody?

I still think Rush Limbaugh's perspective on the world is horrible, vicious, nasty, and misogynist. I still think Sandra Fluke was wronged. I still hope Rush Limbaugh loses his platform, and will contribute in my own way to that goal.

But I am seeking to capture other feelings and perspectives, too. That Rush is deeply wounded and deeply suffering. And that my inclination to Moral Outrage is interfering with my capacity to actually bear witness to that suffering.

Why is that important? Because I'm not separate from that suffering. And if I don't understand it, I can't help to alleviate it.

If Rush Limbaugh were to die today, the same forces that brought him into this state of misery, and that create a listenership that attends to him, would still exist. What is it? What births it?

What heals it?

If Jesus were alive today, would he dine with Rush Limbaugh? 

If so, for what purpose?

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