Friday, April 3, 2009

Compassion

Most of the music I write has a message to communicate. Sometimes it's just a guiding principle as I am composing that winds up as a sentence in the program notes. Other times the message of a piece is integral to the audience's experience. Almost always, it is about awareness. I believe that people's lives would be enriched and more connected if they practiced more intentional awareness. My music is clearly influenced by that belief.

Some things we do work against our awareness, however, and I've been thinking about this as various people have been commenting on the national budget. We often respond to governmental programs from a position of compassion. If we want people to have health care, homes, the basic necessities of life, we are comforted by government-funded programs that tend to these needs. If we want businesses to be successful, for people to have jobs, for retirement plans to be adequate, we take comfort in government-funded assistance for corporations and businesses.

We are a compassionate people in theory, and when we see suffering on any level, we want someone to take care of it. Someone. Not us directly, but somebody ought to do something, right? Sure, it's OK if our taxes are used for it, as long as we can be comforted by knowing that it's been addressed. Then we can ignore it and go on with our lives. Or, if we choose, we can get angry about it without being burdened with responsibility.

I wonder if it is the government's job to be compassionate for us. What would we do as individuals if the government stopped all of these compassion-driven efforts? Would we rise to the challenge and become compassionate people in action? I suppose we could keep getting angry that no one was doing anything. Or we could still ignore the problems and pretend that we have no responsibility toward one another. What builds a stronger society, a compassionate government or a compassionate people?

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