The Tao of Roark

by Peter Saint-Andre

Chapter 22: Compassion

Previous: Chapter 21: Passion

Compassion is the essence of passion in a social context.

Compassion is my recognition that you too are a feeling being, that you too experience the emotional meaning of life in irreducibly individual ways, that you too are capable of pleasure and pain, joy and suffering, triumph and tragedy — that you too have opened yourself to great feeling and to the vulnerability such openness brings.

Can I give you empathy without pity, understanding without condescension, attentiveness without influence, commitment without exclusion? Can I help to bring out the best in you without seeking to direct your life? Can I see what is best for your life without seeking to impose it upon you? Can I treat all people with humanity, some with fellowship, fewer with friendship, fewer still with great love — without falling prey to the traps of in-groups and out-groups, judging without individual understanding, and the false alternative of deification versus demonization? Can I use my broad understanding of life not as a means to ignore your context but as the basis for treating you with presence and perspective? Can I feel great joy in your success while remaining independent in my own happiness? Can I see my relationships as a source of great value without basing my self-worth on the approval of others? Can I give my love precisely because those I love are not my chief reason for living?

These are the challenges of compassion.

Next: Chapter 23: The Inner Life

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