There are not many books that I would recommend everyone read, for there are indeed different strokes for different folks, but this is definitely book I would recommend to everyone on the planet. Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life stands alone as a book, but is also a support text for her visionary Charter for Compassion. Go to CharterForCompassion.org for more info. The very idea of setting out a 12-step program like those used in Alcoholics Anonymous points to the very real need that we must first realize “we have a problem” in the world. Armstrong not only identifies the problems caused by a lack of compassion, she also sets out a very logical plan to address this on a personal, community, national and global level. That she does so by concisely using examples from throughout history and across all faith and cultural traditions points to the only obvious solution available to us: living in compassion. I’ve rarely read a more intelligent and lucid approach that capably speaks to every person and every culture. This is a book I will read and refer to again and again. It is not a book to read and place on the shelf, but rather a book to live by, an attempt to shift the weight of intolerance towards the concept of compassion and understanding. Armstrong acknowledges that the path ahead will be difficult. It is not a rosy, feel good approach.The charge is to engage in a radical way of thinking, one supported throughout our shared human history by sages, poets, philosophers, playwrights, and enlightened leaders. It is a challenge for each of us to do our part, and as Gandhi urged, to be the change we wish to see in the world. I for one am thankful to Karen Armstrong for presenting this in an intelligent, thought-provoking book, and it is my honor to recommend it to readers everywhere.
Copyright, 2015 Robert Baldwin, Before the Downbeat