August 16, 2010 02:33
“Perhaps every generation feels that it is standing at a watershed of history, but our current problems seem particularly challenging.”
— Karen Armstrong, A Compassionate Life in 12 Steps
Religious historian Karen Armstrong has identified a key task of our times: to build a global community based on compassion.
Armstrong has done more than identify this task. She has invited us all to help her implement it. In February 2008 she won the TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) Prize and asked TED to help her create a Charter for Compassion.
The Charter’s goal is to restore compassion and The Golden Rule to the heart of religion and morality. No small mission!
“Before you think of changing your world, you have to turn your attention to yourself.”— Karen Armstrong, A Compassionate Life in 12 Steps
“Knowledge studies others, wisdom is self-known…”— Lao Tzu
“Love is the very difficult understanding that something other than the self is real.” — Iris Murdoch.
Armstrong’s new vook, A Compassionate Life in 12 Steps, outlines the Charter for Compassion principles in twelve educational steps. Just as an addict is trained to overcome addiction in AA’s Twelve Steps programs, Armstrong propounds that each of us can learn practical steps through which to overcome the habit of egocentrism — as crippling an addiction as any.
Another metaphor that Armstrong employs in her vook is based on “The Hero’s Journey.” In seeking to practice compassion — a madly difficult art — each of us embarks upon what designer Jennifer Arrington describes in the Chapter 2 video as “not an easy journey.”
We can all use training in the skill of compassion. A Compassionate Life in 12 Steps, told both in writing and in video, per the Vook format, is Armstrong’s bold introduction to her method.
“Skeptics often say that the golden rule does not work. But this is not a doctrine that you have to believe. It is a method ~ and a method can only be judged if you put it into practice and see whether or not it is effective.” — Karen Armstrong, A Compassionate Life in 12 Steps
Armstrong is neither the first nor the only writer who’s endeavored to mentor fellow humans in living compassionately with others. But her “Twelve Step Program,” and the vook format that intersperses videos with written text and online links, is uniquely tailored to readers today.
I appreciated her practical demonstrations of the twelve steps, and her scholarly quotes from sages like Milton and Shakespeare, as well as from religious texts. I also found the range of people interviewed in the videos moving and inspirational.
This well-taken, subtle vook can be referenced endlessly, every day, and always provide something new.