Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vaughan Marks and the art of compassion

  Vaughan with one of the raffle prizes
Tragically, Queensland skater, Timmy Burdett, lost his father and two sisters in a car crash. Short of funds to provide them with an honorable burial, his compassionate friend, Vaughan Marks, took to the task of raising the required sum. And how does one passionate skater raise money for another skater? 

Vaughan organized skate events. The first was held at Fitzroy Bowl where people gathered to skate and relax. There Vaughan could be seen approaching people with a charity box in hand, encouraging them to contribute. A second and larger event was held at Riverslide Skate Park in the Melbourne CBD. Several skate companies, including Vaughan's own Parlay, generously donated sundry skate gear which was auctioned off or used as raffle prizes at the event. There was music, food, a best trick competition, and much more. Clearly, a formidable amount of planning and organization was required.

Flyer for the Riverslide event 
What is the psychological dynamic underpinning such magnanimity? Let me dig into my tradition for a possible answer. The Hebrew term for compassion, Rachem, is almost identical with the word Rechem, womb. According to Kabbalah, the primary human emotions are kindness, sternness and compassion. Each emotion is aroused through a particular mode of thinking: Kindness flows from contemplating an other's good qualities; sternness ignites when considering their negative traits; while compassion is evoked when imagining oneself in the shoes of a person who is suffering in some way.
Whereas kindness and sternness stem from viewing the other as separate from the self, compassion  involves identifying with the other’s being. And herein lays the connection between compassion and the womb. Compassion allows one to accommodate another person within his own soul as a womb enables one to accommodate another person within her own body.

Wishing Vaughan and all the others who contributed to the fundraising efforts much blessing.

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