Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On Compassion & Reading

During a lovely conversation with M.C. while discussing Ink Exchange and Mercy (by Jodi Piccoult), I suggested that reading has made me a less judgmental person. I'm finding that being in the mind of another forces me to analyze what decisions I would have made had I been placed in their situation. And more often than not, I can't say I would have chosen differently.

In books you discover "that there are plenty of examples of exquisitely sensitive torturers, discerning sadists, [and] perceptive tormentors." I find myself feeling compassion for these broken individuals who may have chosen evil paths. I cannot judge them, despite that I loathe their actions. When you live in the mind of another, you recognize another soul that has simply faced more difficult choices or who has more easily fallen prey to their emotions.

I cannot condone, but I do feel compassion.

At which point in our conversation, M.C. suggested that there is a correlation between reading literature and having compassion.

I wonder - is there a correlation between reading and having compassion? Or does reading simply exercise compassion that exists in the mind already? And if one lacks compassion initially, does reading fail to excite compassionate tendencies?

I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

[Quote from: Republic of Readers? The Literary Turn in Political Thought and Analysis, by Simon Stowe; State University of New York Press; Page 49]

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