RE: Wisdom LO1030
Tue, 02 May 95 16:17:08 EDT

Replying to LO890 --

John Snyder's posting about compassion reminded me of Milan Kundera's
writing about the same concept in chapter 9 of his book, The Unbearable
Lightness of Being: "All languages that derive from Latin form the word
'compassion' by combining the prefix meaning 'with' (com-) and the root
meaning 'suffering' (Late Latin, passio). In other languages-- Czeh,
Polish, German, and Swedish, for instance -- this word is translated by a
noun formed of an equivalent prefix combined with the word that means
'feeling' (Czech, sou-cit; Polish, wspol-czucie; German, Mit-gefuhl;
Swesish-med-kansla). In languages that derive from Latin, 'compassion'
means: we cannot look on coolly as others suffer; or, we sympathize with
those who suffer. Another word with approximately the same meaning,
'pity' (French,pitie; Italian, pieta; etc.), connotes a certain
condescension towards the sufferer. 'To take pity on a woman' means that
we are better off than she, that we stoop to her level, lower ourselves.
That is why the word 'compassion' generally inspires suspicion; it
designates what is considered an inferior, second-rate sentiment that has
little to do with love. To love someone out of compassion means not
really to love. In languages that form the word 'compassion' not from the
root 'suffering' but from the root 'feeling,' the word is used in
approximately the same way, but to contend that it designates a bad or
inferior sentiment is difficult. The secret strength of its etymology
floods the word with another light and gives it a broader meaning: to
have compassion (co-feeling) means not only to be able to live with
other's misfortune but also to feel with him any emotion -- joy, anxiety,
happines, pain. This kind of compassion (in the sense of soucit,
wspolczucie, Mitgefuhl, medkansla) therefore signifies the maximal
capacity of affective imagination, the art of emotional telepathy. In the
hierarchy of sentiments, then, it is supreme."

Next, his posting reminding me of the Moyer's production on Healing and
the Mind. One of the sponsors of this incredible production was the
Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This institute "is a nonprofit,
educational organization that does not make grants but welcomes
partnerships with other institutions (or groups of institutions) and
individuals who are actively working to promote the research and
dissemination of scientifically tested health care methods that utilize
the principles of mind-body phenomena." Persons interested in mind-body
phenomena should know that the Institute publishes a journal called
Advances. I often ask my students to consider the impact of learning on
their physical and mental health.

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