Com-passion is the contagion

This earth is anything but a sharing of humanity. It is a world that does not even manage to constitute a world; it is a world lacking in world, and lacking in the meaning of world. It is an enumeration that brings to light the sheer number and proliferation of these various poles of attraction and repulsion. It is an endless list and everything happens in such a way that one is reduced to keeping account but never taking the final toll. It is a litany, a prayer of pure sorrow and pure loss, the plea that falls from the lips of the millions of refugees every day; whether they be deportees, people besieged, those who are mutilated, people who starve, who are raped, ostracized, excluded, exiled, expelled.

What I am talking about here is compassion, but not compassion as a pity that feels for itself and feeds on itself. Com-passion is the contagion, the contact of being with one another in this turmoil. Compassion is not altruism, nor is it identification; it is the disturbance of violent relatedness.

-Jean-Luc Nancy,
"Being Singular Plural"

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