Compassion – personal and political

There’s a common phrase used about Chaos Theory that the flap of a butterfly’s wing can cause a tornado halfway around the world a century later.

Alex Nunn works for Action for Happiness in the UK and is a scholar of the Applied Compassion Training of the Stanford University. I am working at the Center for Social and Development Studies and am interest in the personal and political aspects of compassion. Alex and I met online to share our experiences and theories about compassion.

When I asked Alex to define compassion he started like this:

“Although we’re discussing it [compassion] theoretically it’s very much felt. It’s something that exists within the realm of reality – interpersonal reality – and it is highly adaptive to the complexity and subtleties of our individual self-state of being, the other, the existing relationship and the context. It’s one of the most real things there can be.”

Later on, Alex also talks about the transformative power of compassion:

“The real golden thread for me of compassion is that it turns moments of suffering – whether my own or someone else’s – into something inherently valuable. […] With this level of enmeshed-ness of reality we can never know how powerful an effect, a tiny compassionate action, or one extra drop of compassion in the ocean of global suffering might be.”

I really enjoyed speaking to Alex because the conversation nourished my motivation to act compassionately. What suprised me most was his answer to the question “How do you practice compassion?“.

Watch the Trailer now and decide afterwards whether you want to listen to the whole interview 🙂

Here you can skip directly to the answer you want to hear:

  • 00:45 How come you are so passionate about compassion, happiness and well-being?
  • 09:55 How would you describe compassion?
  • 17:56 Do you need a spiritual background to practice compassion?
  • 22:31 How do you practice compassion?
  • 28:20 Who and what inspires you to be compassionate?
  • 37:02 Do we have time for compassion in times of crises?
  • 43:31 “The flap of a butterfly’s wing…”

Do you know more inspiring books or people? Let us know in the comments!


Thanks very much to Alex Nunn and Action for Happiness!


Lena Schützle is member of the Kontrapunkte editorial team.

Listen to the conversation on Soundcloud or Spotify.


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