There is a Lakotan phrase which traslates into the words of the title. It is a concept that comes back to me time and time again as I see the news, or when in conversation with others. It doesn’t just mean other humans, either. It means all of life, most especially on this planet, as that is our “neighborhood”. The concept is that all of life is from one source, therefore, all are related, all are “family”, there are really no strangers, there are just relatives to whom you have not been introduced.
I am aware that this is not always a pleasant concept if you extrapolate it completely out to it’s farthest extreme, for it means that one is related to Mother Theresa, St. Pious the pope, a grasshopper, Hitler, Y’shua, Buddha, Mohamed, a butterfly, Jeffrey Dahmer, and all of humanity and beyond. One wouldn’t mind being related to Mother Theresa, or a butterfly, but what about Dahmer or Hitler, or a cock roach. yuck! But, we must meet the pleasant with the unpleasant.
There is another factor. If I look at Hitler as a brother gone very badly awry, I may still be inclined to stop him any way I can because such horror visited upon humanity must cease, but I quake as I do this, knowing that it is my brother I condemn to death because he has gone horribly wrong in his perceptions and ways. I no longer must be punitive in what I do. I must be kind, and hope that all ends as well as possible for all concerned, for there are no good answers when a human looses their capacity for empathy if they ever had it.
And there, in the word empathy, lies the key to all that comes about. When a human being has no empathy, no capacity to stand in the place of another and experience, even for a moment, the good and the bad of being that other person, there opens an entire array of dark things that become possible for that human to do, that simply otherwise would not even be on the horizon.
So . . . . .
Can empathy be taught? Is it drummed out of a child by neglect or abuse? How do we find ways for this incredibly necessary concept to become part of all human beings? There, I believe is the place where the teachings of the Masters comes into play. Y’shua and Buddha both taught compassion for all, on a moment by moment basis. Not to just high personages of status or means, but everyone. The beggar on the corner, the child, the stranger, the neighbor, all must be treated with kindness.
And though we cannot allow the murderer access to the tools by which he might return to murder as a way of life, even here there must be compassion, albeit firm with unbending discipline, it is only as we see the wisdom of the masters, it is only as we learn to practice the concept of the Lakota people, the Tatanka Oyate, and see all as our relations that we can begin to hope that someday, somewhere on our planet, there will be a shift in consciousness, and all will understand, Mitakuye Oyasin.
All My Relations, Aha!