Whence Compassion

What Lay Around the Bend?

What Lay Around the Bend?

From our non-time traveling perspective, we are constantly fretting about the future in nearly every aspect of our daily existence.  This happens so often and without pause that we barely perceive it.  Nearly every question, every concern we have, is based on our inability to know what the future holds for us. Whether we wonder about tomorrow’s weather or the latest election, we are invariably fixated on, and fearful of, the future.  It is the great mystery and (some might say) handicap of being Human. There is no obscured message here, this is simply a personal observation.

I challenge you to observe this for yourself.  All that is required is simply turn on the television and wait 5 minutes. You will see any number of examples of local or national news programs commenting on what they think will happen for any given circumstance.  The ever-present drum beat at the core of all their blathering can always ever be boiled down to:

“What will happen tomorrow and

why you should be worried about it.”

These are merely commercial attempts to prey upon a very human concern: what does the future hold and how does it affect me?

Alternatively, you can look within during a quiet moment and attempt to identify the sources of your own worries and concerns in your daily life.  If you can remain intellectually honest with yourself, how many of those concerns revolve around the ignorance of what the future will be?  A good way to identify these concerns is to take note of how many questions that begin with the words, “what if…”

But there are other questions that may be asked beyond mere predictions of earthquakes and flying cars. We need to be asking bigger questions.

meeting dadWhich brings me to the topic of this essay: What effects might there be on a time traveler beyond the golly-gee gawking at your younger, ganglier, Pops McFly?

empty pedestalWhat effect does simple human interaction with the time traveler’s forebears have on his own opinions and outlook?  Could it act to remove a historical character from the pedestal upon which history has placed him?  Quite possibly.  I do not mean this to say that simple human interaction with a historical (or otherwise noteworthy) figure would diminish that figure.  Rather it would act to demystify and actually humanize the personality.

The root of my question then is:  If the time traveler is consistently faced with the humanization of history and historical figures, how does this affect his opinion of Humanity in general?

past and present togetherFurther still, and this is where I am really going with this, what effect does this expanded perspective have on him personally?  Surely with the ability to interact with different eras of humanity nearly side-by-side, the time traveler must feel some effect upon his psyche and general outlook and demeanor, no? Quite literally in one day a time traveler might be able to see the grand arc of human history from the Industrial Revolution in the morning to the Information Age in the afternoon.  How can this not affect a normal person’s core?

Is it likely that the expanded perspective that time travel offers provides an expanded sense of compassion and understanding?

From my own observations, I am inclined to believe that the larger effect on the time traveler may be that the “halo” or “horns” that history placed around historical figures and peoples from our past(s) have been replaced with actual understanding and compassion, considering their broadened perspective.   These peoples are no longer characters in a story called “History.” They are real people attempting to make the “best” decisions they can with the information and capabilities given to them.

vitruvian manIf we can reasonably assume that a time traveler is human and comes from the planet Earth, then he must share all the aspects that being human entails. Both Virtue and Vice will be a part of his character.

But in spite of his ‘human-ness,’  a time traveler’s broadened perspective allows him to rise above, in some measure, the normal fears of the future that we all deal with on a daily basis (while he is in the past).  Because of this ability to separate himself from these daily fears, he is able to maintain a somewhat emotional separateness from those he interacts with.  It is this separation and ability to observe from afar that I am indicating must be inherent to a time traveler’s experience.

observing humanity from afarI do not mean to imply that this separation places the time traveler on any pedestal in any holistic sense.  He is just as much a victim of fate as anyone is, but the stage upon which he plays is merely different.  I posit however that his ability of dispassionate observation, this separateness, actually imparts a greater appreciation and compassion for Humanity than might otherwise be experienced.

In researching this essay, I was (not so) surprised to find that there exists an analog available to us here/now regarding this acquired compassion. This effect, called the Overview Effect, has been documented in numerous astronauts from many nations who have returned to Earth from short and long stays in orbit.

earthIf an expanded understanding of Humanity and love and compassion for one’s fellow man can be had by merely traveling a couple hundred miles straight up, is it so hard to believe that a man who traveled a couple hundred years straight back might experience a similar outlook?

As Ever

Temporal Recon  

donl“Intellectually, I knew what to expect. I have probably looked at as many pictures from space as anybody…so I knew exactly what I was going to see…. But there is no way you can be prepared for the emotional impact… It brought tears to my eyes.”

 Astronaut Don L. Lind

edwardg“You see how diminutive your life and concerns are compared to other things In the universe… The result is that you enjoy the life that is before you… It allows you to have inner peace.”

 Astronaut Edward Gibson


“The actual experience exceeds all expectations and is something that’s hard to put to words… It sort of reduces things to a size that you think everything is manageable…. All these things that may seem big and impossible … We can do this. Peace on Earth – No problem. It gives people that type of energy … that type of power, and I have experienced that.”

Anousheh Ansari

makarov“Something about the unexpectedness of this sight, its incompatibility with anything we have ever experienced on earth elicits a deep emotional response… Suddenly, you get a feeling you’ve never had before… That you’re an inhabitant… of the Earth.”

Cosmonaut Oleg Makarov

For more information on the Overview Effect, go here.


5 thoughts on “Whence Compassion

  1. Emotion was given to humanity by evolution for a reason. Yet, this same “gift” from mother nature can also lead to the slow destruction of our species. The constant concern and fear for the future is many times the source for human anxiety disorders and depression. Unfortunately, the therapy of being able to travel through time or view the earth from space isn’t available to everybody. So, the question becomes, how exactly can a human being control these emotions? How can we eliminate the fear and worry without being able to step onto a mountain top to see how small our problems are? At the same time, sometimes stepping onto that mountain can create a sense of helplessness as if the world is too big to be saved by one person standing in awe. It’s part of the human condition. Our intelligence allows us to come up with many more outcomes of problems. Perhaps, without this fear of the future, humanity would not accomplish much. But then again, are the so called accomplishments worth the suffering?

    • The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

  2. Appreciation, Compassion, Forgiveness, Humility, Understanding & Valor. How many of us are familiar with James words? Titor too? Many years of research. Is the black swan event near?

  3. Genesis 1:26

    “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”.

    Many years I have pondered this very sentence, as to the degree of literal translation we could interpret from it. And, after many years of thought and learning I have come to the conclusion it is 100% correct and literal. Mankind was made in His image as well as His likeness from soul to body. From feeling inside to out. From flesh to bone. From the highest of loving thought to action as the consequence of such thought.

    Yet, while still in our probation period on earth as human, we are infallible as well, according to the choices of our own free will. We are imperfect, no matter who perfect we wish to be. Yet, someday our weaknesses will fall, and our strengths in His likeness will remain. It is the promise we were made by the one who gave us the ability to feel compassion from the beginning.

    Just yesterday I was asked to read the biblical definition of the word “revelation” in the bible dictionary. After gracing the words with my eyes, I was left feeling as if I had read the perfect explanation of the experience each of us will gain in this lifetime in some form. Personal revelation is a guaranteed experience each of us will have, given through the Holy Spirit in order to testify of the truth within God. Some will experience it as deep compassion because of the journey through time. Some will experience it as a deep, unspeakable emotion felt by looking upon the world from hundreds of miles above. Most will find it in the simple unfolding of their life story, with as much awe and emotion as those who have traveled so far. The God of compassion understands each of us, and our needs. And, under the umbrella of His love, our needs will always be met. His scripture states there is a season for all things. This includes the chastening of a world and people who have forgotten compassion, thereby have forgotten who they are and who made them. For God chastens those He loves.

    Someday we all will be brought back to the inherent core of we are and who we were born to be, because we will not be able to deny who made us. We will experience the compassion of our Creator with hope that we once again we will be compassionate, in order to create a new and better world, while understanding the past and our mistakes while looking ahead to what we could be.

    The millennium will be the most beautiful time on earth, with exception of heaven itself. For now, I am happy to witness even a discussion regarding the true nature of who we are. In these times, such a sight is warming. Thank you.

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