Old Moon

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I'm reading a wonderful novel set during WW II, much of it in London during the blitz. Daily I go to The Hunger Site and click on the charities shown there, one of which is for animal welfare. The connection between these statements is the question that has bothered me most of my life as to how it is that most of us are more immediately and physically touched by pity and sadness at the pain and/or death of an animal than of human beings.

Is it a matter of becoming calloused of necessity, as George Elliot suggested when she said that if we could notice everything around us we could hear the squirrel's heartbeat and the grass growing, and we should die of the noise? We can't emotionally afford to react fully to everything.

Is it because so much of animal suffering is inflicted on total innocence? So many of the awful things that happen to people are caused by people--like wars and genocide. But what about the random horrors of natural disasters? You can sit in a movie theater and weep in the darkness while the faithful dog starves on his master's grave, and watch TV news with your jaw clenched, but in control, while images of starving children fill the screen.

Way back in Aristotle's day, thinking people learned about catharsis. Is it somehow easier to experience it at one remove?

Another puzzlement.

Oh, the book is The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.

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