Unconditional Compassion

Colleen - Oakland, California
Entered on October 20, 2008

I believe in unabashed, unfettered, unconditional compassion. I believe that every child who comes into this world has this to give, but through a process of desensitization, it is put to sleep.

I grew up eating standard American fare: turkey sandwiches, ice cream, and hamburgers. I didn’t choose these foods. They were chosen for me. Nobody told me what they were made from, and when I asked, my parents and the adults around me either evaded the question entirely or deceived me completely.

Early on, I learned that animals were arbitrarily categorized in our society – into those worthy of our compassion and those undeserving of it because they happen to be of a particular species or bred for a particular use. Puppies good. Calves food.

When I discovered what had been hidden from me for so long, I stopped eating animals and their eggs and milk. For the first time, I was able to truly manifest the innate compassion with which I had been born, and it was a profound and liberating experience.

However, people didn’t quite react the same way they did as when I was a child. Helping fallen baby birds or taking in stray animals were considered admirable childhood pursuits, but when that very same compassion followed me into adulthood and extended to pigs, cattle, chickens, and other animals killed for human consumption, it was met with hostility and suspicion. The message seemed to be: Limited compassion good. Unconditional compassion bad.

Living fully awake can indeed be painful; after all, ignorance is bliss – but only for those who aren’t the victims. However, I wouldn’t trade the heartbreak of awareness for all the world. After all, only an open heart can break.

When I was a child, I acted compassionately without any thought – as if I didn’t know any better than to respond to those who needed my help. It just came naturally. Now that I’m an adult, I act compassionately with thought, and I regret only that the innocent kindness of a child is valued more than the informed kindness of an adult.

Though the process of desensitization was full and complete by the time I was a young adult, I’m grateful it was not irreversible, and I fully embrace what I hope will be my legacy: unabashed, unfettered, unconditional compassion.