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Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Pain Mystery of the Outer Banks

We are confronted by a mystery.  Why is it that pain (say childhood pain) can bring about two possible reactions?  On the one hand, it can cause a person to have a heightened compassion deriving from empathy for the pain of others thereby calling forth efforts to lessen or prevent it.  On the other, the pain can be transmuted into sadism in which one wants to increase the pain of others for the sole purpose of enjoying it in reverse empathy (“I feel your pain” becomes instead “you feel my pain”).  The first is a reaction of love; the second is a yearning for perverted justice (perverted because pain is gratuitously inflicted upon the innocent).  This mystery has come to mind recently.  I used to view it as mutually exclusive—either a person was of the first order or the second, but not both.  My recent behavior makes me reevaluate this.  Several days ago in my Florida living room as tropical storm Irene was intensifying off the continental United States, several path trajectories were identified.  With time, the paths became more focused and the hurricane clearly threated such atypical sites as Washington DC and New York City.  As I was watching this on TV an uncomplimentary and evil thought crossed my mind.  “It’s about time,” I thought.  “Let them be the ones to suffer the intense and prolonged anxiety that can come from being in the path of a storm.  Let the New Yorkers scatter and evacuate under great stress and anxiety.”  Yes, my thoughts and emotions were enjoying the exhilaration of revenge.  What an exalting feeling of vindication suddenly overcame me!  Then out of self-interest I immediately squelched the thought.  “I can’t think or feel this way or God will send the next hurricane as a direct hit on my doorstep,” I thought.  If God has anything in common with the paparazzi, he has another unflattering photo of me to add to his files.   

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