Thursday, November 12, 2009

Do Unto Others...

Today I attended the launch of the Charter for Compassion at the National Press Club.  Sponsored by TED and the Fetzer Institute, the Charter is being spearheaded by Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun.  She left the Church, initially to teach English and then went on to write some very well received books on comparative religion, including my favorite The History of God.

Armstrong argues that all religions boil down to one thing:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  All holy texts, according to a religious leader she quotes approvingly, are merely commentaries on that basic injunction or belief.  It is that tenet - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you - that is at the core of the Charter for Compassion.

As Chris Anderson, Curator of TED, said in his introduction today, "This is not about kumbaya; it is about making a real difference."  I hope he is right.  The challenge is to figure out how to make the charter sing not only to the choir, but to those who don't think about the world - or their lives - in such terms.  Fortunately, many of those present have had experience with just such challenges, including overcoming apartheid in South Africa and segregation in the US.

Here is a video of Armstrong describing her dream for the Charter. One GlobalGiving donor was so inspired by this that he bought $25,000 in GlobalGiving gift cards with the inscription: "Charter for Compassion: Live compassionately, act generously. Match your gift to the need."