Contemplation on Compassion

11.01.2013 § Leave a comment

I drove by an animal lying in the middle of the road yesterday morning. By the time I had passed by I recognized it as a cat instead of a raccoon or a skunk. The worst part was that it was still struggling, not dead. My mind hurt to see her body twisting over and over again and all the cars just speeding by, mine included. The scene remained in my mind for a long time, still visible today when reminded.

I was wondering why I felt sadder after I discovered it was a cat. Is it normal that we respond more to beings that are closer to humans? Or how our minds think of a raccoon or a skunk differently than a cat? Also, why is it easier to see an animal that’s dead rather than one that’s dying? We may have sympathy or even empathy, but often we do not act to alleviate other people’s suffering. We are wrapped in our own bubbles. Seeing other people suffer is too great a burden for us; we do not have the courage to take on the responsibility of caring for them. At the same time, seeing a being struggling makes us understand that we are too insignificant to help alleviate their pain—even if it is a small animal.

My father pleaded with me to stay overnight with him on the night before he passed away in the hospital. I was exhausted from staying awake with him the night before and had a backlog at work, so I assured him that the nurse would take good care of him, and I left even though he pleaded and his eyes were sad. He passed away the next morning before I got to the hospital. My coldheartedness towards him has left me with an abiding sorrow ever since.

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