Krista Tippett is a journalist and host of the National Public Radio program “On Being”, which explores the great questions of human life, such as what does it mean to be human and how do we want to live? Two years ago he gave a TED talk at the United Nations called “Reconnecting with Compassion”. The term “compassion” – typically reserved for the saintly or the sappy – has fallen out of touch with reality. Krista Tippett deconstructs the meaning of compassion through several moving stories, and proposes a new, more attainable definition for the word.

“Compassion is a spiritual technology. Humanity needs this technology as much as it needs all other technologies that have now connected us and set before us the terrifying and wondrous possibility of actually becoming one human race,” explains Krista Tippett.

Compassion is often misunderstood in modern society. Although compassion can be similar to empathy and pity, those words are not its synonyms. In fact, compassion goes far beyond simply feeling another person’s misfortune or sharing in one’s suffering. Compassion is a word which is directly related to awareness. One’s awareness of the world gives him or her the opportunity to empathize with other beings… and actually do something about it. Krista Tippett gives the example of Albert Einstein as a person who not only had compassion for other people, but he served humanity through his exploration of technology.

“Compassion is a spiritual technology.” – Krista Tippett


Why does technology exist? Some people argue that technology is developed out of greed. There is no real evidence to support that claim. Most technology comes out of one’s compassion to solve problems. This is self-evident in things like the paperclip. The person who invented the paperclip named Samuel Fay must have realized that his invention saved time. As he connected fabrics to tickets which denoted either prices or other product information, Samuel must have realized something. There is a moment in the inventor’s mind where one thinks, “This technological idea has value.” When one decides to share technology with the world, he or she is embarking on a journey of compassion.

“Compassion is kindness, practicing curiosity without assumptions, empathy, forgiveness, presence, generosity, hospitality, and a willingness to see beauty not just what we see in another that needs fixing. Compassion also brings us into the territory of mystery – encouraging us not just to see beauty, but perhaps also to look for the face of God in the moment of suffering, in the face of a stranger, in the face of the vibrant religious other. Compassion is a sign of deeper human possibilities.”

Bridging the gap between compassion and technology