There was the story of a central California widow who had fought to have her recently dead husband exhumed, pleading her case that before he had died he had swallowed her diamond ring in some sort of spite and that she wanted this jewel returned. But in the end she confessed that she had not slept for many many weeks and that she had been spending her nights lying on his grave, trying to speak to him, and that all she really wanted was just to be able to see his face one more time.
The inward life tells us that we are multiple not single, and that our one existence is really countless existences holding hands like those cut-out paper dolls, but unlike the dolls never coming to an end. When we say, ‘I have been here before,’ perhaps we mean, ‘I am here now,’ but in another life, another time, doing something else. Our lives could be stacked together like plates on a waiter’s hand. Only the top one is showing, but the rest are there and by mistake we discover them.
All languages that derive from Latin form the word “compassion” by combining the prefix meaning “with” (com-) and the root meaning “suffering” (Late Latin, passio). In other languages, Czech, Polish, German, and Swedish, for instance – this word is translated by a noun formed of an equivalent prefix combined with the word that means “feeling”.
In languages that derive from Latin, “compassion” means: we cannot look on coolly as others suffer; or, we sympathize with those who suffer. Another word with approximately the same meaning, “pity”, connotes a certain condescension towards the sufferer. “To take pity on a woman” means that we are better off than she, that we stoop to her level, lower ourselves.
That is why the word “compassion” generally inspires suspicion; it designates what is considered an inferior, second-rate sentiment that has little to do with love. To love someone out of compassion means not really to love.
To have compassion (co-feeling) means not only to be able to live with other’s misfortune but also to feel with him any emotion -joy , anxiety, happiness, pain… there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.