raven song

February 8, 2011

Mercy and prisons a measure of our society

prison barskuan yin 01shakespeare 01 web

A thought kept pinging in my brain space , ‘let the quality of mercy not be constrained’. I was thinking about the need for a public discussion on prison reform during the lead up to the coming state elections in NSW Aust. Our 11,000 prisoners are often the forgotten ones. I wondered whether our seeming inability too look with compassionate and kind eyes on the rehabilitation of prisoners reflect on the quality of mercy in our society. Maybe  prisoners fulfil a psychological need in many to appoint a convenient scapegoat representing the demons responsible for our own suffering. I was talking with a friend about the pinging thought ‘let the quality of mercy not be constrained’ and my knowing it was part of our literary heritage, maybe the bible. Friend said, I think it is Shakespeare maybe Merchant of Venice. Later he emailed the quote:

“The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.”
Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1(lines 181-6)

Shakespeare speaking five hundred years ago, maybe repeating the call 2500 years ago  of the goddess of compassion in Buddhism Avalokitesavara who it is said has the supernatural power of assuming any form required to relieve suffering and  is better known in her later Chinese manifestation as Kuan Yin, she who listens to the sounds of suffering. This call has echoed through the ages from Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and most poets. In contemporary times we have Gandi, Mandela and the lesser known  Maha Ghosanda . Is it yet time to think that we can use this view to look at a more useful, functional and compassionate prison system. I would like to draw our potential new leaders attention to Shakespeare’s quote that mercy ‘becomes the throned monarch better than his crown’  – perhaps join in the call.


March 15, 2010

try to be a little kinder

Aldous Huxley, famous author, said at the end of his life “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder”

An important part of new dreaming. Les my next door neighbour sets a great example for this:

– he was driving home at night into the village and came across a large dog on the road. It had just been hit. He stayed with it. I asked was it in pain and what did you do. He replied, it was quietly dying I just patted it and talked kindly to him, I wanted him to experience that as he died.

– he was coming out of a car park at work and a Muslim women with a scarf, flagged him down. She asked him for directions to a place nearby, she was lost and going for a job interview. She was not understanding the directions, so he said follow me, he drove for about ten minutes then stopped at the address, it was a flower shop. She got out and gave him a Muslim blessing and some bread from her shopping basket.

Part of Les’s week. Part of new dreaming, being a little kinder. Share some ‘being a little kinder’ stories with us.

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