Saturday, July 11, 2009

On compassion, or the lack thereof excerpt from...
Zeno's Conscience
by Italo Svevo

I was unable to offer him any comfort. It really offended me that he should believe himself the unluckiest man in the world. This wasn't an exaggeration: it was an outright lie. I would have helped him, had I been able to, but it was impossible for me to comfort him. In my opinion, even someone more innocent and more unlucky than Guido doesn't deserve compassion, because otherwise in our lives there would be room only for that feeling, which would be very tiresome. Natural law does not entitle us to happiness, but rather it prescribes wretchedness and sorrow. When something edible is left exposed, from all directions parasites come running, and if there are no parasites, they are quickly generated. Soon the prey is barely sufficient, and immediately afterward it no longer suffices at all, for nature doesn't do sums, she experiments. When food no longer suffices, then consumers must diminish through death preceded by pain; thus equilibrium, for a moment, is reestablished. Why complain? And yet everyone does complain. Those who have had none of the prey die, crying out against injustice, and those who had a share feel that they deserved more. Why don't they die, and live, in silence? On the other hand, the joy of those who could seize a good part of the food is pleasant, and it should be displayed in broad daylight, to applause. The only admissible cry is that of the triumphant. The victor.