In a week that has seen the massacre in Orlando and the brutal murder of a Member of Parliament in the UK, it demonstrates the capacity for hate that exists within human beings.
There have been vigils, rallies and public demonstrations of solidarity across political, cultural and national divides which prove the power of human spirit to unite and triumph in the face of adversity.
We do not know the exact circumstances and the complex chain of events which lead two disturbed individuals to inflict such horror. Many theories and propositions are put forward to try and explain such barbaric acts.
What we can say is that deep-seeded hatred was involved – hatred for what someone is or what they stand for and represent.
Our society has encouraged a toxic and damaging discourse. On any event or issue we seem determined to have ‘them’ versus the ‘other’ in an intractable and seemingly unresolvable dispute.
We individually can accept that life is complex and yet our society continues to function on the basis that there are only two sides to every argument.
And whilst it makes good TV, good debate, surely we are now at a point in our human evolution to accept that there are a multitude of opinions, views and perspectives on issues.
We need greater perspective. In biology the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) is the most recent organism from which all organisms now living on earth have a common descent – in other words all life on earth shares biochemistry.
LUCA creates a perspective with which to consider our common humanity and our inextricable link with one another and our world.
It also demonstrates the diversity and complexity that makes life so challengingly beautiful.
I propose that we need to do two things. Firstly, there is a time to be still. To say nothing. To quietly reflect. To stand in solidarity. This creates the space for perspective.
We also need to underpin our entire discourse, our interaction with each other with compassion.
Compassion is about a concern for others, an understanding, a kindness, a tolerance – a warm-heartedness.
I watched the outpouring of solidarity and grief around both of these tragic events. Human solidarity. But I have also watched many react with anger and hatred. A need to target and blame someone.
Last year I wrote a blog entitled “Defending Equality; Promoting Compassion” in which I talked about growing up as gay man in Northern Ireland. I urged all sides in the debate around civil marriage equality to underpin all their arguments and their beliefs with compassion. (At http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/10/30/defending-equality-promoting-compassion/)
This week, I witnessed a lack of compassion by some who appeared unwilling or unable to accept that the Orlando massacre was an attack on the LGBT community.
Sadly I also saw a lack of compassion from some within the LGBT community. I fully understand and respect the anger of many within the LGBT community as to how they have been historically treated and the struggle which continues around realising equality.
But I am quite certain that anger, vitriolic language and hatred will not result in a society underpinned by equality, respect and love.
Whether it’s marriage equality, gun control, immigration, abortion or austerity – we must ensure that we conduct our discourse, debates and discussions grounded in compassion.
This begins with each of us taking responsibility in our conversation, our interactions with each other and our social media use. If we underpin our opinions with compassion, it will lead to a more tolerant, kind society.
We are human and therefore anger, hatred are natural responses, especially when we see ignorance or are met with intolerance and hatred.
But hatred does not counteract hatred. Compassion allows us to move the narrative to one of respect and understanding towards love.
We must be compassionate with ourselves before we can be compassionate towards others – let us be gentle on ourselves and accept our frailty as human beings.
We must then be gentle towards others, even those who hold diametrically opposed views to us. We have to accept that this is a natural consequence of the complexity of our human race! If we accept this premise, then each of us can begin to challenge ourselves – how can I be more compassionate in what I say and how I relate to others?
I believe in the power of the human spirit and that our common humanity is greater than anything which can divide us.
Astronaut Tim Peake said yesterday as his space capsule landed safely in Kazakhstan “it’s good to be back on earth”. In the infinite universe it remains our only home.
Let us begin an age of compassion.
Compassion is the key to unlocking the power of love which is the greatest gift each of us can give as a human being.