Is it possible to develop a sense of compassion from the desert?

Paul Dayton, who grew up around a Quaker sensibility, and became both a world class oceanographer and desert ecologist, recalls a moment in his childhood when he realized that the cacti, cat-claw and agave spines ripping his flesh, “were not enemies, but other organisms simply trying to live their lives in peace.”

“I understood that the spiny cacti, rattlesnakes, scorpions and other venomous creatures were also protecting themselves, and I learned to appreciate their problems from their perspective; by trying to see through the evolutionary eyes of the plants and animals.”

Remarkably, Paul concludes that he acquired his sense of compassion from the desert itself, and those of us who have known him over the decades still feel that sense of compassion in his eyes, smile, voice and deeds.

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