Compassion

Having read this post by Niadis, I was inspired to write more in depth about how passion relates to my spirituality and personal world view, as well as my devotion to Apollon. I never really put much thought into it, but compassion plays a large part in who I am and how identify with the world around me. I really think that is part of what drew me out of the so-called hermitage of my teen years and early twenties into being a part of my communities, because there is a part of me that just feels an instrinsic need to be of some assistance. By all means I can still hermit myself with the best of them and find a necessity in having a certain amount of my time to myself and in peace for thought, worship and study. However, it is funny that these same instinctual needs were ones that caused me to withdraw into myself at a young age.

I have always possessed a degree of empathy for others, and also had sensitive feelings in my childhood. So when others were hurting I also felt as if I were hurting. Even accidentally hurting a friend’s feelings would have me tearing up in a matter of seconds afterwards. But the result was that I often also got rejected by those same people that I felt close to, and in the end I stopped trying to make friends by the time I was a preteen in order to emotionally distance myself from others. Likewise the anxiety of other people affected me something awful. I hated being in a room with full of students during exam time…if my own anxiety wasn’t enough it was compounded by the high level of collective anxiety premeating the room. I also started to feel negatively impacted by crowds in general and would be supremly uncomfortable in a large gathering of individuals by the time I entered highschool. Therefore the solitude of my self imposed type of hermitage in which I spent all time when I didn’t have to be in class locked in my bedroom with a pile of books was something I found by in large preferable. Even the isolations that I incurred my devotional hikes through the woods of the national park that infringed into the part of the city I was living in during my highschool years, hikes engineered to bring me closer to Artemis, acted as a kind of refuge. All of it together worked as a system of refuges to seperate myself from people in general and the need to experience compassion. In some ways it was good to have this period of my life devoted to learning about myself, but it isn’t a state that I would recommend for permanence.

As a follower of Apollon, I see the face of the good in acts of compassion for others. Of course I extend this to include the wild creatures loved by his twin but it is especially particular of feeling compassion towards fellow human beings. He is a god who purifies people and ultimately turns no one away from his temple that have approached to be purified, even if such purifications have attached a sentence of expultion from one’s native home (as in some cases where the gods has sentenced those with blood guilt to remote colonies and so being forced into become a productive members of a fledging society) I have never heard of anyone being permanently turned away who was in need of purification. Well not outside the myth of Herakles that is, but I believe that this myth serves a particular function and is not a commentary on the purifications carried out at the temple. In fact if anything the fact that the hero flew into such a rage about not being allowed purification by the misguided priest shows that such a refusal was unheard of. By I digress.

Apollon’s compassion can also be evident in the way that he supports humanity in general. Not only did he provide a message of Zeus’ will to humanity (though he was constrained by certain limits in what he coul reveal), he is also a god who stood up to his father for the sake of humanity. Such case we can see directly in the myth which Zeus was contemplating destroying all of humanity and starting fresh, yet Apollon by his arts convinced him otherwise. He beseeches on behalf of humanity. And the fact can also be seen in part indirectly in the myth of Asklepios whom Apollon gave the art of medicine so that all humanity could benefit in order to escape sickness and disease that we are able to maintain and regain good health. The rage of rebellion into which Apollon flies when his son is killed by Zeus is actually quite severe too as he retaliates against his father. Though this can be seen as a general anger of a father whose son was killed, I think it speakers to greater levels than that since it was not uncommon for Zeus to kill the mortal children of gods that threatened the order of things…as Phaeton, the sun of Helios was likewise destroyed, so Asklepios was destroyed for “robbing Hades” by bringing back the dead. Apollon’s anger against his father though is terrible, which leads me to suspect that it is the lost of his son’s art and his gift toward to humanity that may also be part of the issue, that he destroys the cyclops which makes his father’s lightening bolts. According to myth, relayed by Apollodoros in his the Library, Zeus was so enraged by this unlikely rebellion from Apollon (who is about as close to his father as Athena) that he is inclined to throw Apollon into Tartarus….except he changes his mind after the intervention of Leto, and so instead Apollon is exiled into slavery.

Slavery to mortals, specifically being inslaved to king Admetus but we can see it specifically that he is under the yoke of mortality, probably promotes the greatest compassion because he is the only god of all the Olympians who is flung into mortal form with all of its weaknesses. And is also, as a slave, is dependent on human spirit and generosity. So he was enslaved to a very good kind, and his goodness caused Apollon to love him greatly and bestow on him all gifts (the multiplication of his flocks and heards…that by which wealth was measured in ancient times…according to the playright Euripedes in his play Aclestis. He even gives Admetus a way to escape death, though the solution itself wasn’t to Apollon’s liking if we consider how he rails at death for coming for the youthful Aclestis. It is through such myths that we can truly understand his generosity and regard for humanity….and particularly in the qualities of goodness within humanity which he rewards among which would be fairness and compassion. Certainly the Delphic Maxims appear to touch on the ideas of compassion. It is therefore quite unsurprising that he is the leader of the muses, who bring great gifts to humanity, the grandfather of Hygeia (good health), nor that in Delphi he was described by Pausanias as holding the graces in his hand.

In fashion I consider my fascination with natural/herbal medicine to be attached to the idea of the compassion of Apollon. Though herbs arise from the bounty of nature, the method of healing by medicine derived from them (the art of pharmacy) is of his domain. He reveals the purpose for each plant in how they may be combined and administered to treat certain ailments. Therefore since my nature is aligned to it, as a mature adult I know embrace the more compassion aspects of my nature, including the displays of empathy which often leave me teary-eyed. Even if I make some people crazy with my spontaneous care-giving. Rather than being much of annoyance to me anymore, I see it as positive thing in my life and in my devotion to Apollon.

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One thought on “Compassion

  1. It’s always good to see others speak/write on compassion. I’m not surprised to find that Apollo (fosters? encourages? exemplifies? not sure the word I want here) compassion. I’m also not surprised that I’m not the only one with empathetic tendencies that thinks compassion is good/necessary. Empathy sort of kind of sucks.

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