To anyone with pronounced empathy, I suspect observing humanity causes great pain? Which you are either living with — or — you developed a strategy to insulate yourself from.
Put another way: Being alive begets knowing the majority of the human population is suffering.
Further, it may (or may not), lead one to question the nature of suffering.
Further, it may (or may not), lead one to question the source of suffering.
Finally, it may make you question how your existence contributes to suffering, or relieves it.
Thought Experiment 1
Three questions that might serve as a compass:
- why do you suffer?
- why does everyone else suffer?
- where do these intersect?
- how will you act, in light of this?
- how will that action create or relieve suffering, and for whom?
- this inquiry might start eating itself… i.e., creating a mission around helping people, raising a new question..
- Helping them *what?*
- And does that “what” perpetuate any of the suffering we began with?
Thought Experiment 2
Life cannot simply be a matter of satisfying personal desires. Unless one of the following is true:
- we truly believe that doing so indirectly increases wellbeing of all others (whether true or not)
- we truly believe we do no harm (whether true or not)
- we don’t care about the wellbeing of others
Thought Experiment 3
Is being unselfish a roundabout way of being selfish?
I.e. – I am uncomfortable seeing others in pain, therefore I will be unselfish to alleviate this pain, versus all other fathomable desires and payoffs, this feels maximally comfortable, for me.
It is possible to perceive all desire, for that matter, all sensation, from a place of relative neutrality, where time, boundaries, and everything, melts into unified existence. Hence forward, notion of self, including self desires, is altered. In a sense, selfish desire has lost it’s fuel.
(In any case – the positive consequences of empathy are not diminished – unless of course – ironically – one creates suffering by imposing charity too forcefully, and/or, does not anticipate negative consequences.)
Seems sensible for a person to consider consequences of their actions, gently help others, and find contentment in actions that do no harm. Further, to hold peace in a world where suffering exists, taking care not to flare it.
Of course this is trite, but the implications can only really be appreciated with extensive and continuous curiosity about cause and effect. Here is the rabbit hole that mostly goes unnoticed.
In other words, what is the shadow effect of desire?