Many distinguished people come through Aspen and the valley. Some to play. Some to think or teach. Some to misbehave. Some to raise big money, throw a party or celebrate a cause. I've played with some, partied with some and even misbehaved with a few of them.
If we had a wall of fame that featured all the big names of those who have crossed the Maroon Creek Bridge it would stretch from Ajax Mine to the Starwood Hills.
In 2008 the Dalai Lama came to the Aspen Institute with a simple message urging compassion. Among other things, the Dalai Lama suggested that being compassionate and practicing compassion is actually good for the person giving and receiving it.
This message represents the distillation of mind that comes with long hours of contemplation and meditation. So simple. The Dalai Lama has already done all the heavy lifting for us. He refined the message to one word, compassion, and all we have to do is practice.
According to science [practicing compassion] makes the body better and the immune system stronger. So many people spend their money on medicine and sleeping pills. People that have compassion dont need these, he said in a lecture in Aspen.
So the Ambien, the Zoloft, the purple and blue pills, the scotch, the white wine, the coffee, the weeds, tinctures, powders and preparations can all be replaced with compassion? This is going to take us some time.
Wouldnt it be cool if the Dalai Lamas message got equal billing on TV? The ad warning of possible side-effects include stomach bleeding, lightheadedness, itching, heart palpitations, suicidal tendencies, and, on rare occasions, dryness of mouth, could be followed by four hours of compassionate silence with a whispered warning at the end: Side effects of compassion include peace on earth, the end of poverty, a good nights sleep and spiritual enlightenment.
These days of panic, division and mayhem are ripe for some compassion. I wish it for you.
A lot of the world's religious leaders preach a variation on that theme. So people get to believe whatever they want. In theory, regardless of the religion, as long as we get the message and then practice, we could all get along. A dream.
My mom took me to church when I was a kid. Through my trainings and teachings and ministrations at the altar I learned a lot. I'm sad to admit that I was often let down by the effect of those words on some of my co-worshippers once the services wrapped up.
Believe it or not, some people, even some in my own family, would not heed the words of love and compassion that they just heard in that house of worship. This might shock you but some people bathe in the glow of Gods word and go right back to being shabby without a second thought.
The rules of the spiritual road often seem simpler when they have one-word names like, compassion, love and unity. You can contemplate the meaning of those words for days and never get caught up in collection baskets, post-life promises and pompous posturings.
Stevie Wonder even sang words of love, hope and compassion in Aspen. I saw James Brown sing songs like Sex Machine in Snowmass. John Denver gave us all a reason to celebrate a Rocky Mountain High.
Despite the current situation it is possible that we will gather again in the glow of the world's biggest singers and thinkers.
Now that we are avoiding each other like the plague, small encounters that we once took for granted carry new weight. It gives us a chance to practice. We are even practicing over the internet in Zoom meetings. I have noticed a bit of compassion creeping into some of these interactions.
There's still plenty of animosity, misinformation, hostility and abject terror to go around. But is there a glimmer of compassion?
Reach Steve Skinner at email@example.com.
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