As a pastor working in a neighborhood with the highest concentration of murderous gang activity in Los Angeles, Gregory Boyle created an organization to provide jobs, job training, and encouragement so that young people could work together and learn the mutual respect that comes from collaboration.
Tattoos on the Heart is a breathtaking series of parables distilled from his 20 years in the barrio. Arranged by theme and filled with sparkling humor and glowing generosity, these essays offer a stirring look at how full our lives could be if we practiced compassion.
Erudite, down-to-earth, and utterly heartening, these essays about universal kinship and redemption are moving examples of the power of unconditional love in difficult times and the importance of fighting despair. With Gregory Boyle's guidance, we can recognize our own wounds in the broken lives and daunting struggles of the men and women in these parables and learn to find joy in all of the people around us. Tattoos on the Heart reminds us that no life is less valuable than another.
“One of my favorite books in years. It is lovely and tough and tender beyond my ability to describe.” (Anne Lamott)
“Destined to become a classic of both urban reportage and contemporary spirituality.” (The Los Angeles Times)
“Read, and let your life be changed!” (Father Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation)
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Perhaps the best book I've read in years.
Compassion is God
While Boyle was teaching a class to a group of lifers, one of the prisoners, on the spot, gave his definition of compassion. He ended slowly on, "...Compassion is God." Interestingly, before reading "Tattoos on the Heart," I read Lama Surya Das' "Awakening the Buddha Within." No matter how much I read about Buddhist, it never ceases to amaze me that there are groups of people in the world that actually sit and meditate on love and compassion. I think why this gets me is that Buddhist are perceived as being atheistic in nature. Yet, large numbers of Christians I have met, who believe in God, think constantly on wars and rumors of wars, and of storing up food and buying guns to kill people. They may think about love and compassion, but it sure isn't high up on the list of things to think about. Yes, I see irony in that.
The thought hit me, though, that if the definition of compassion is that, "compassion is God," then my definition of a saint would be: a saint is someone that not only meditates on love and compassion, but takes it into the world and puts it into action. By that definition, Gregory Boyle is a true saint.
Seriously, what is not to like about Boyle? A Jesuit priest that quotes Richard Rohr and Thich Nhat Hanh. A person that cares more about the good things you have done than the bad things. A much needed friend in a world full of enemies.
In my opinion, "Tattoos on the Heart" isn't just a book, but rather a training manual for how to rebuild America. No matter your political leanings, left or right, everyone should put aside their differences and see that this book is the way.
As we do crazy things like send all of our good jobs overseas and then pay people to sit around here doing nothing, "Tattoos on the Heart" shows us how much a simple job can mean to someone. It can mean the world to them. Literally, the difference between life and death. We should fight for every job we can keep here in America, like America depends on it, because it does.
As our foreign policy sees people as less than human, worthy only of carpet bombing, "Tattoos on the Heart" shows us that the way to make humans out of troubled people is not through violence, but through compassion. Indeed, the only winning move is to treat humans like humans.
As a whole, we have tried doing the same things over and over again, and got the same results. "Tattoos on the Heart" shows us a different path. Lets take it and see if something different happens this time. What exactly do we have to lose?