As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society – things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbour seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
E. B. White
(I found this at Letters of Note.)
“Sympathetic but subtly critical, Vertige presents itself as a psychological portrait of the escape and/or contestation tactics of the decade’s youth: while war, violence, famine and poverty continue to devastate the planet, these youngsters seek refuge in the hedonistic haven of sexual liberation, lysergic research and communal fictions.”
“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”
― Andrew Boyd, in Daily Afflictions: The Agony of Being Connected to Everything in the Universe (W W Norton & Company, 2002).
Comparative religion scholar Karen Armstrong on the roots of religion and the challenge for our time.
Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
— From God Bless You, Mr Rosewater (1965)
Let us not think that because we are less brutal, less violent, less inhuman than our opponents we will carry the day. Brutality, violence, and inhumanity have an immense prestige that schoolbooks hide from children, that grown men do not admit, but that everyone bows before. For the opposite virtues to have as much prestige, they must be actively and constantly put into practice. Anyone who is merely incapable of being as brutal, as violent, and as inhuman as someone else, but who does not practice the opposite virtues, is inferior to that person in both inner strength and prestige, and he will not hold out in a confrontation.
This was the commandment, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,’ but when the commandment is rightly understood it also says the converse, ‘Thou shalt love thyself in the right way.’ If anyone, therefore, will not learn… to love himself in the right way, then neither can he love his neighbour; he may perhaps, as we say, ‘for life and death’ cling to one or several human beings, but this is by no means loving one’s neighbour. To love one’s self in the right way and to love one’s neighbour are absolutely analogous concepts, are at bottom one and the same.
~ Søren Kierkegaard, from Works of Love (1847)
The subject experiences a sentiment of violent compassion with regard to the loved object each time he sees, feels, or knows the loved object is unhappy or in danger, for whatever reason external to the amorous relations itself.
1. “Supposing that we experienced the other as he experiences himself — which Schopenhauer calls compassion and which might more accurately be called a union within suffering, a unity of suffering — we should hate the other when he himself, like Pascal, finds himself hateful.” If the other suffers from hallucinations, if he fears going mad, I should myself hallucinate, myself go mad. Now, whatever the power of love, this does not occur: I am moved, anguished, for it is horrible to see those one loves suffering, but at the same time I remain dry, watertight. My identification is imperfect: I am a Mother (the other causes me concern), but an insufficient Mother; I bestir myself too much, in proportion to the profound reserve in which, actually, I remain. For at the same time that I “sincerely” identify myself with the other’s misery, what I read in this misery is that it occurs without me, and that by being miserable by himself, the other abandons me: if he suffers without me being the cause of his suffering, it is because I don’t count for him: his suffering annuls me insofar as it constitutes him outside of myself.
2. Whereupon, a reversal: since the other suffers without me, why suffer in his place? His misery bears him far away from me, I can only exhaust myself running after him, without ever hoping to be able to catch up, to coincide with him. So let us become a little detached, let us undertake the apprenticeship of a certain distance. Let the repressed word appear which rises to the lips of every subject, once he survives another death: Let us live!
3. So I shall suffer with the other, but without pressure, without losing myself. Such behaviour, at once very affective and very controlled, very amorous and very civilised, can be given a name: delicacy; in a sense it is the “healthy” (artistic) form of compassion. (Ate is the goddess of madness, but Plato speaks of Ate’s delicacy: her foot is winged, it touches lightly.)
~ Roland Barthes, from A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments pp. 57-58