Sunday, February 05, 2006


Is pity good?

Merriam Webster online defines pity as “sympathetic sorrow for one suffering, distressed, or unhappy”. It’s more than recognizing a sad state of affairs; it involves feeling unahppiness oneself as a result of seeing it in another.

Is pity, particularly pity that’s unexpressed, good for anything? Is it useless suffering, or does it enrich one’s life?

I heard some playwright on NPR declare that a good artist must understand that humanity is “ultimately tragic.” I think it’s strange to think of humanity as ultimately anything in particular. However, I can imagine that the ability to feel tragedy (as opposed to merely recognizing it) could improve one’s experience of life.

I’m interested because the sensation of pity is to a large extent within my conscious control.

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