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Reaching Across Years of Evolution

Mar 22, 2012

It’s quite interesting to me that from an evolutionary perspective, it was our vulnerability that gave rise to empathy and compassion. In order to care for our offspring, who came onto this planet very helpless, females first developed the capacity to emotionally read, resonate and respond with care. That ability then generalized to men, so men and women now have the same equipment. There is a growing understanding that all mammals have this wiring for empathy and compassion.

I’ll share with you the following story:

“One day I was walking through the Stanford University campus with a friend,” writes Fran Peavy, who is an activist. She says, “I saw a crowd of people with cameras and video equipment on a little hillside. They were clustered around a pair of chimpanzees. The male chimpanzee was running loose; the female chimpanzee was on a chain of about 25 feet long. It turns out the male was from Marine World, the female was being studied, and the spectators were trying to get them to mate. Now the male was eager. He grunted and grabbed the female’s chain and tugged. She whimpered and backed away. He pulled again. She pulled back. Watching the faces of these chimps, I, a woman,” Fran writes, “began to feel sympathy for the female. Suddenly the female chimp yanked her chain out of the male’s grasp. To my amazement she walked through the crowd, straight over to me and took my hand. Then she led me across the circle to the only other two women in the crowd, and she joined hands with one of them. The three of us stood together in a circle. I remember the feeling of that rough palm against mine. The little chimp had recognized us and reached across all the years of evolution to form her own support group.”

To me, this represents the hope of evolution. Our hope for peace and social justice on earth is a courageous presence with the difficulties we encounter. From that presence we can then reach out to each other, and across species to life everywhere. We get into this idea that we humans are different—from each other, from other life forms. In reality, we are of the earth. We are the earth. Let’s reach out to this earth, reach out to others with different sexual orientation, or different race, or different politics, or different bodily forms, and discover the vulnerability and the goodness that dwells in each Being. Reaching out, we discover that the light of the stars shines through us.

Be humble, for you are made of Earth
Be noble, for you come from the stars
—Serbian saying

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Photo Credit: Andrés Meneses


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