A soft culture such as ours consists of a diet of compassion. Compassion makes us docile, putting us to sleep. “Let compassion be everywhere,” we chant. “To the north, south, east, west, above, and below. Compassion for everyone!” Then we go home happy, having provided a service to the planet.
Compassion makes us feel good. A soft culture likes to feel really, really good. Workshops, TED talks, self-development courses, spiritual healing thingies all help us feel good about ourselves and each other. It feels good to feel good, so soft and docile, so sweetly happy. Like lying in the warm but not hot sun.
And how, above all, is compassion bred? Ah, through the sharing of stories! I don’t know you, then we sit in a circle, then you share a sentimental story, now I listen non-judgmentally and sweetly, and just now we’re so close. You share a story that you say is “personal,” and then I share a story that I say is “personal,” and then we cry because life is so hard and nothing can be done about it except to be oh so compassionate. Everyone supports everyone else; everyone helps everyone out; everything feels safe, so we can feel vulnerable and raw and really say heartfelt things. What release! What relief from our little miseries!
Who is going to be tough and watch out for you? Not a sentimental person. Who is going to care more for your soul by holding you to account than about your “feeling good”? Who will tell you tough truths? Who look after you when you’re sick or dying?
Have you ever noticed how all this softness, this sickly compassion, and sharing puts us to sleep, making us very, very calm to the point of stupefaction? Ah, sleep… And all this sentimentality: is there any facing up to things squarely? Any looking at things truly? Any probing questions that stun us, that open us, that awaken us?
Running rampant in our culture, sharing is a form of self-deception. Sharing our feelings, we train to overlook everything vital about ourselves and are congratulated for doing so. Sharing glorifies sadness. Sharing is a falsehood, false to life. Thereby do we become softer–and the actual world, not this fictitious one, continues to crumble around us.
Bring back the fieriness.