Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2015 #4: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong

The real take-away here is in Armstrong's final chapter: "The mythos of compassion tells us what to do. Instead of becoming depressed by our repeated failures, we should remember that constant practice does indeed make perfect and that if we persevere, we too can become a force for good in the world" (192). Armstrong's big picture targets compassion as a force that has the potential to bring about peace on a global scale. Whether or not this is true is hardly the point--a case for everyday empathy is relevant no matter what the context. Her most valuable insight is that it is difficult and takes practice. She includes practical exercises for empathy and compassion, and avoids the patronizing and moralistic tone that so many books of this nature seem to adopt. She extends the work of Joseph Campbell from the theoretical to the practical.