Compassion according to Wikipedia is a response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. While not disagreeing with Wikipedia, I believe compassion is more than a response to suffering. I believe it to be in accordance to its breakdown: com (with) passion (active love). Compassion is "feeling with" a person, animal, or the Earth in general . Compassion envelops joy as well as sorrow. Its truth is not a "feeling sorry about," but a deeply shared understanding. Thus, Hockmah Binah in the Hebrew is the same as Sophia Episteme in Greek. They translate in English into Wisdom and Understanding. Understanding entails a deep embrace of an idea or a person. In the latter, understanding is one with compassion. Thus, Understanding is a form of intelligence that embraces both the "getting of an idea" and a "deep empathy or feeling with". Empathy dissolves the illusion of separation between two beings, allowing for the healing comfort of belonging together.
Today, we need true empathy both in terms of an awareness of what we are doing to the environment and feeling empathy towards the people, animals and plants that are affected by our actions. Compassion is necessary to heal the planet and all Her creatures. That includes plants, animals (air, water and land) people, our self and all other human beings.
Compassion is also the primary state for one who has religious experiences. The term religion stems from the French religere, meaning "to connect" or to "bind together." TRUE religion is that of compassion. The drama shows we see on television shows sporting those Kings and Queens posing as preachers, priests or gurus are NOT about compassion and thus are NOT religious. They are divisive and in opposition to compassion.
Compassion is one with Shiller's poem, Ode to Joy, which is ecstatically sung in Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
Joy! Thy spark flares from the immortal flame,
O' Heavenly born Goddess, we invade thy halidum
Yes, we share the love of Creativity. Compassion thus envelops our sharing of Shiller's joy as well as realizing the deep depressions of Beethoven. The 9th Symphony thus shows that joy and depression are not warring opposites but colors within one spectrum, illuminating each other by their contrast.
Compassion often motivates people to go out of their way to help physical, spiritual, or emotional hurts or pains of another. I would further state that many of those who are intuitive, such as those who are seen as mystics and seers, are deeply grounded in compassion. Indeed, a mystic will oftentimes embrace all in his or her ecstasies.
Compassion does not mean being consumed by the woes of another. The compassionate heart embraces and helps to heal the distress of another by touching and enveloping the "other" with its own health and love.
Wikipedia states that compassion is oftentimes regarded as having an emotional aspect to it, though when based on cerebral notions such as fairness, justice and interdependence, it may be considered rational in nature and its application understood as an activity based on sound judgment. (This distinction reveals an underlying philosophy of dualism: rational=good; emotional=bad. Indeed, true compassion is a holistic response of heart, mind, body, and soul.)
The lack of compassion is one of the basic criteria for the diagnosis of sociopathic behaviors. This disorder has been linked to our modern corporate world and their underling politicians. (http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html)
The importance of identifying with others in fostering compassion is badly needed in this day. In our corporate driven world, instead of being compassion driven, we are affected by the negative physical and psychological effects of abandonment and competition in various dimensions of our lives, harming other people and the behavior of corporations and government. In this, I strongly disagree with the article from Wikipedia which states compassion seems to be characteristic of democratic societies. Of course, it could be argued that Western Civilization, and the United States specifically have lost democracy and instead are living in a feudal society with landowners (bankers) being the rulers of people and government.