Knotholes: Widening the Circle of Compassion


 By Dan Camilli

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”   Albert Einstein

It was yet another classic Florida Chamber of Commerce winter morning, featuring brilliant sunshine, soft billowing breezes and temperatures in the low seventies when I took coffee, notebook and pipe to my lanai rocking chair to engage in yet another session of courting the muse.

As I settle in, pack and light my pipe, and follow the first soft, gray, wispy clouds of fragrant tobacco smoke heavenward, I notice a Gecko frantically scurrying to and fro all about the screen room, desperately seeking a way out of the lanai.  Since my conscience would not allow me to further pursue writing in the presence of this “distraction”, I set down my pipe and French Roast and attempted to capture the small lizard and deliver it to freedom.

Although I am trying to save him, he fears for his life and scrambles away, finally ensconcing himself in a knothole in the supporting beam above me. His fear now keeps him a prisoner. After a time, he pokes his head out to see if the coast is clear; if his nemesis/ would-be liberator has departed, so he can return to his futile, fatal but familiar behavior- choosing a known misery over the prospect of something new and unknown. Slowly and cautiously, he comes out of hiding, staying close to the perceived “security” of the knothole. The proximity of which presents him with the false assurance of safety while, ironically sealing his fate.

The gecko, much like we humans, is both fearful of the new and comforted by familiar albeit self-destructive behavior. Like our reptilian friend, we must each muster the courage and find the fortitude to emerge from our personal and collective cultural knothole and embrace the new with fresh eyes and a willing spirit.

Can we learn to interact in dynamic, new ways economically and socially? Can we find the courage to boldly step out of our collective knothole; our comfortable, familiar, yet destructive societal behavior patterns? Or will the very fabric of our society, indeed, our quintessential humanity, be ripped asunder by unrestrained predatory socio-economic and political systems that co-opt governments and exploit people and planet?

Together we must find the courage to acknowledge that our present social, economic and political structures are inherently destructive. We must boldly assemble new non-hierarchical forms of human organization where everyone has a seat at the table and all voices are heard. And together, draft a new Human Bill of Rights which guarantees the tangible means by which to make the promise of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” a reality for everyone and not just a privileged few.  A living wage, clean air, pure food and water, shelter, education and healthcare must all be recognized as basic human rights and the denial of which universally denounced and prosecuted as a crime against humanity.

The religious, spiritual, and non-believers alike must all begin to, as Gandhi said, “Become the change we want to see in the world.”

We must transcend the old, familiar and limited definitions of family as well as our “tribal” definition of religiosity.

For example, it will no longer suffice for some self -proclaimed Christians to simply attend services regularly and perhaps slap a fish symbol or “Keep Christ in Christmas” decal on the bumper of their gas guzzler while voting for and supporting politicians and policies which treat the poor and the planet cruelly. They must, instead be truly guided by what Matthew (25:40) tells us, are the words of The Christ; “Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Eastern wisdom, through Buddhist Metta (Loving Kindness) meditation and social action, as well as other teachings, also instructs us to practice this loving kindness toward the entire human family and not just our own. For we are planet stewards, and are, indeed, our brothers and sisters keeper. We must learn to share the world with all others.

“If people knew, as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given.”   Buddha

Can we, as a species, emerge from the destructive knothole of Homo Economicus and embrace Homo Spiritualis in time to create a humane, sustainable global society? This is not about communism, socialism or any other “ism”. It’s about the evolution of human consciousness as a planetary imperative.

The essence of evolution, according to Indian philosopher, Sri Aurobindo, is the on-going evolution of consciousness. And if we look around we can, over the last few decades, find much tangible evidence of consciousness evolving. Public attitudes towards women’s rights, African American rights, and LGBT equality are all examples of how our collective consciousness has evolved over but a few generations. Can we now transform human consciousness; widen the circle of compassion to move past our archaic “tribal” mentality of biological family and embrace the “Human Family” paradigm? Perhaps the clear and present prospect of planetary destruction via climate change will provide the catalyst for transformation of our collective consciousness. For it is now a race between transformation and obliteration.

The gecko’s harrowing experience has a happy ending as I wait him out and eventually release him from his fate. Who will save us from our fear-bred, yet comfortably familiar patterns of self-destruction? Who will rescue us from our knothole?

Copyright © 2016 by Dan Camilli All Rights Reserved


Award winning philosophy/history teacher Dan Camilli, The Cosmic Duffer ™ , is the former host of “Nature, Sport and the Spirit ” on radio and author of the “funny yet thought-provoking” golf-philosophy book, “Tee Ceremony: A Cosmic Duffer’s ™ Companion to the Ancient Game of Golf ” available at Amazon. Visit for blogs, columns, podcasts and more.