"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Seeds of Compassion

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Seeds of Compassion

I have just come home from my alma mater, the university where (as a fearful young woman from the OALC) I was schooled in critical thinking, literature, philosophy, top ramen and rock and roll. Like a fern frond, little by little, my tiny worldview curled open.

Today, much older (as well as happier and healthier), I went back to the University of Washington to be schooled in compassion. With a lucky center seat not far from my teachers, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, it was easy to see the affection between these old friends, one in maroon robes and the other in a hot pink cassock. Both are winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, both tireless advocates for peace and justice, both beloved for their warmth and humor.

With Tibet in the news, the presence of the Dalai Lama seemed even more momentous, more historical. I'll tell my kids about this someday, I thought to myself. Then laughed to realize that "someday" would be this afternoon, when the kids got home from school. I had momentarily regressed there on campus, into the young FREE dreaming of her future. That was a hallelujah moment, let me tell you.

My stomach growling (too excited to eat), I hung on every word and bugged my seatmates to repeat what I couldn't hear. This was not a boring lecture but a dynamic discussion, and occasionally there were stutters, awkward pauses, laughter. A moderator posed questions (submitted by students) to the panel. I didn't take notes, but plenty of comments stuck in my memory. I suppose there is nothing quite so awe-inspiring to a former OALCer as an interfaith discussion marked by love and respect.

As I often do at the opera or symphony, I wished I could teleport my relatives to sit beside me for a moment, to give them this experience.

From memory:

The essence of all religions is love, said a student.

Any religion that abstains from showing compassion to the world is not worthy of the name, said a rabbi.

Life is a journey, not a destination. Our responsibility is for the next step, to do the "next right thing," said an evangelical pastor.

Interfaith dialogue makes us all stronger, like a spiritual Olympics . . . we can all aspire to the patience of the Dalai Lama, and the forgiveness of Desmond Tutu, said a Muslim scholar.

As a parent, whom you cry for, your children will also, said a Catholic nun.

To decrease the emotion of anger, increase the opposite emotion, said the Dalai Lama.

We are made for God. Only God can satisfy us. We are all God-carriers, said Desmond Tutu.

After the forum, I learned that Tutu once said: "I give great thanks to God that he has created a Dalai Lama. Do you really think, as some have argued, that God will be saying: 'You know, that guy, the Dalai Lama, is not bad. What a pity he's not a Christian'? I don't think that is the case - because, you see, God is not a Christian."

Tutu headed the Truth & Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after the fall of apartheid. His clear-eyed approach to forgiveness holds a lesson for us all:

"Forgiveness is not turning a blind eye to wrongs; true reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the pain, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring healing."

This forum was part of a five-day "Seeds of Compassion" event series. You can watch some of the events via webcast and learn more at the Seeds of Compassion website.

If you had a question for the panel about compassion, what would it be?


  1. Free, what a very special moment in one's life! Wish I could have been there with you.


  2. Anonymous, you are spot on! I agree with you that (most) OALCers equate compassion with leniency. I can't say I saw a whole lot of compassion when I was growing up. I see the OALC as the Old Testament/Rule of Law wrapped in a thin cloak of New Testament/Grace. I certainly heard more preaching on The Law than on Grace.


  3. Anon, somehow I missed your post earlier. I found it quite . . well, heartbreaking, really. I had no such experience in the OALC of being forced to ask forgiveness for apparent "wrongs." Whew. It is truly a wonder that you are "well-adjusted" etc. What a pathological way to raise children. Many blessings. Many Trails Home