Tuesday, November 15, 2005

All we have is a voice...

Compassion is the most human of feelings. It transcends sympathy. It mitigates the mindless barbarity and animal instinct that propel us through our days.

Milan Kundera has this to say about it: "There is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one's own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels for someone, for someone, pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echos."

Last night, at the Human Rights Watch annual dinner, the banquet hall was thick with the word. But when one of the honorees, Salih Mahmoud Osman, a lawyer from Sudan, looked at the audience intently, imploringly, both kindly and combatively, and urged us to understand that "Darfur is not so far from here, not really," did we get that? Did we catch that phrase, in between our mouthfuls of chicken kiev and our well-meaning but somewhat awkward applause?

I can't help but worry that compassion is a load that I'll find, on balance, too difficult to carry.

More later.


At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. You presuppose, however, that compassion is a natural emotion, and not an aberation of the human condition. You must have a more optimistic outlook than I.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

Hmmm... well, not natural, exactly, but human. In that "humanity" is everything that separates us from the beasts. But maybe I'm thinking of it wrong- we are beasts, after all, whatever our pretentions to the contrary.

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that we're more in agreement than disagreement. But humanity is a construction, if we are beasts (which I'm not so sure about) and as a result, I think that it's dangerous to generalize about it's better aspects. Sort of like "Hope for the best, plan for the worst."


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