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Monday, December 7, 2015

Altruism & Compassion: The Next Wave


A wave of material about compassion and altruism has been making its appearance over the past 12 months. It makes you wonder whether it is signalling a change in the world. If people are writing about it, they are thinking about it, and others are buying the books - even if not many others. This tells us there is a groundswell occurring about the subjects, and that is cause for celebration. We know some YouTube videos about violence and depravity get millions of views, and these books are in all likelihood not selling in the millions, but the simple fact that so many have been published in just a short period of time, tells us that even the publishing houses - who tend to be in the business in order to make money - are betting on them. Here is a sampling:
This first listing is one that I have in my personal library and highly recommend. I've gifted friends and family members with it because of the high rating I give it. It is a rather hefty tome, so if you are less keen on reading, you might want to view some of the online videos of talks given by the author about this subject, on TED, on Google Talks, and particularly, this very excellent one where Matthieu Ricard and Richard Gere shared the stage earlier this year in NYC.
There were numerous books published about altruism and compassion as well in the latter part of 2014, but I wanted to simply illustrate what has been printed about these subjects during 2015 alone.
Finally, I'd like to reiterate (as I've said in previous posts ... for example Do You Care Too Much?) that altruism is not selflessness in the sense that you forget about yourself in order to give to another, or help another. Compassion is not pity. It is also not empathy. In both instances, you desire that others be happy and do not suffer. There are gems about this subject in the book by Matthieu Ricard listed above, as there are gems about this precise topic in the talk in NYC (see link above). Desiring that another be happy, and does not suffer is a large part of it. Ricard says altruism has to start with the motivation. Why are you being altruistic? Is it because you want to feel good by helping another? Or is it because you are concerned about another's situation, and that your ultimate goal is to bring that person a benefit? In true altruism, that's your primary motive and your intention. If in addition to that, you also feel good about what you did, that's an added benefit.

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