Iran: Compassion in Chaos

Steve Silberman reflects on a picture from the Iran elections of a protester helping a wounded riot policeman out of the crowd to safety:

Steve Silberman
15 June 2009
A backer of Mir Hossein Mousavi helps evacuate an injured riot-police officer during riots in Tehran on June 13, 2009. (OLIVIER LABAN-MATTEI/AFP/Getty Images)

I thought about how powerful and potentially transformative Buddha’s teachings of compassion can be not just in the meditation hall, but in the streets, when all seems like chaos, and life and death are at stake. A moment before this photo was taken, the policeman and his benefactor were surely on opposite sides of the bloody conflict. The foundation of such benevolent acts is hardwired into our brains, in the form of mirror neurons that enable us to feel what other sentient beings are feeling, even before we have a chance to think about it. By aiding a man who was, temporarily, his “enemy,” the young Mousavi supporter in green sent a powerful message to the world: ultimately, we’re all on the same side. We can “vote” every day to create more suffering in the universe, or help relieve it, in whatever situations we find ourselves in.

Ed.’s note: You can see the original post from which this photograph (“Image #29”) comes, here.

Steve Silberman

Steve Silberman

Steve Silberman worked as Allen Ginsberg’s teaching assistant at Naropa University in 1987 and as Philip Whalen’s personal assistant in 1993. He is the author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.