“Compassion is the most important, perhaps the sole law of human existence.” Dostoevsky.
A friend asked me, “Who is your favourite character in literature?”
“Oh, that’s a difficult one; it’s like deciding who your favourite child is,” I replied. “But, let me think… there’s Lucy Pevensie in Narnia, Boo Radley in Mockingbird, Hans Huberman in Book Thief and then I read Striped Pyjamas last year and Bruno impressed me.”
“Your favourite, Jim?”
“Okay, Prince Myshkin.”
“Prince Myshkin in Dostoevsky’s, The Idiot.”
“Well, he was too good for this world.”
“The story centres on Myshkin, who returns to St Petersburg after years convalescing in Switzerland with severe epilepsy. Although he’s a native of the city, he feels like an alien on his return; compassion was absent throughout the self-indulging society, and under his breath he uttered the condemnatory line, ‘Pass us by and forgive us our happiness.”’
I knew there was a shared quality in all my favourite characters, it was empathy. I’m drawn to empaths. Perhaps because my lived experience observes a disquieting deficit of compassion in society today.
I’m not alone. Obama recognised that there is an “empathy deficit” agenda more pressing than the U.S. national economy.