He gave a choked cry, screened himself from the pain, and hurried to the door. Teray opened his mind a little more, still screening out the woman’s pain.
Why screen out someone’s pain? To be able to feel the emotions and sensations of another human being is to inherit a gift from which a natural compassion would flow… this was my initial stream of consciousness after reading this passage. But after closer examination, several more questions sprang to life.
- If you don’t screen out someone’s pain, and thus feel compelled to help them, are you helping them to assuage your own pain, or are you helping them because you feel compassion for their predicament? Are your intentions selfish in nature or empathetic? And at the end of the day, does it matter why you are helping, so long as you are helping? I am inclined to say that so long as help is being given who cares what the reason is! Better to be helped for selfish reasons than not to be helped at all.
- Is it necessary to block out someone’s pain in order to help them? Can you be so overwhelmed with the emotion of another person that it incapacitates you? The initial sensation of pain would serve as a call to action, after which you would censor the offending sensations, in order to be able to assist the person in need. In this instance, screening yourself from someone’s pain, could be in and of itself an act of compassion.
- But here’s the question that really got me… is the patternists’ screening of pain, any different than what we already do in our primitive (sans telepathy) society? Our technologically driven society acts as our sixth sense. At any given moment we can access information about suffering in the most remote regions of the globe… but do we? We spend hours on facebook, twitter, and sites devoted to celebrity stalking… but how many hours do we spend following up on the next steps of the revolution in Cairo, or infant mortality in India, or the rape crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or even the maternal health crisis right here in the United States. And even if we do incorporate some NY Times or BBC News in with your daily fluff-news/ social-media fix… do we do anything about it? Or do we read the article, think how horrible it is, and then move on… screening out the unpleasant-ness, and going on with the business of our day?
We live in a world where desensitization is our form of screening. Even if we feel some peripheral sympathy when we read the latest gruesome headline… it is rare that we shed a tear, or feel rage, or jump up out of our seat because we are so moved to make a change.
So, if the awareness of pain and suffering of another does not inspire compassion and action, what will?