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June 19, 2020 / Congau


Suffering is bad in itself. Although it may sometimes lead to something good, it’s the only thing that in itself is just bad. (Give me any example of something else you think is bad, and I’ll tell you it’s bad because it leads to suffering.) Compassion, on the other hand, is good, and that seems like something of a paradox since compassion is a form of suffering: Com- means “with”, and -passion means suffering (not to be confused with the modern meaning of the word “passion”). It is bad to suffer, but good to suffer with someone. How can that be?

It is not so much the suffering that is good as the ability to do so on account of another person. The connection, the “com-“, is what matters; the relationship between you and another real being.

It is not difficult to share someone’s joy: It’s enough to touch the surface of their emotions and rejoice and cheer with them. No strong connection is offered and received; no effort is needed to relate to the happiness of a winner. The champion remains remote; he is not like a fellow human being.

But in a sufferer, you sense humanity. You imagine what it would be like to feel his loss and you can emotionally understand him. His pain is not literally yours, but by understanding you get a share of it, and a true relationship is formed.

Understanding the suffering of mankind makes you human, and therein there is joy. You feel the sorrow, but at the same time it feels good because through it you are not alone.

A fellow sufferer is a fellow human being. All those others, the partygoers, the chatters at the local market who tell you they are doing fine, are just mannequins on display.

Compassion makes you real.

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